By Yolanda Salazar
El Alto, Bolivia, September 30 (EFE) .- A group of Bolivian women responded to public safety concerns in the mountainous town of El Alto by launching the “Lilac Line”, a transport service aimed at ensuring that women , children and the elderly can reach their destination safely.
Led by Cemupe, an organization of women entrepreneurs in Bolivia’s second city, this service brings together 45 experienced female drivers behind the wheel while providing training to other women interested in joining this initiative, Cemupe executive Julia Quispe told Efe. .
Single mothers, entrepreneurs and the former unemployed are among those offering this service “independently”, driving taxis and buses to earn income for their families in difficult circumstances resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic, she declared.
The Lilac Line will be officially opened in October, initially as a taxi service, Quispe said, adding that their attempts to join a public transport union had so far been rejected due to “a bit of machismo “.
âAll women have the right to work. We have the same rights and we hope that there will be no problems or complications. We are not competing for them, âsaid Quispe of the team of drivers, who are currently wearing lilac-colored scarves to identify themselves in the project.
Soledad Sanchez, who has been driving a taxi for more than six years, told Efe that the color lilac was chosen because of its association with campaigns to end violence against women.
She noted that public transport in El Alto has become dangerous in recent years and that female passengers in particular are the targets of theft and have even been raped and murdered.
The service is therefore specifically aimed at women, children and the elderly, although it will also provide transport for entire families, Quispe said.
âWe want people who use the Lilac Line with women behind the wheel to see public transport differently,â said Sanchez.
To help ensure the safety of passengers and drivers, efforts are being made to equip each vehicle with cameras and GPS devices, she added.
Several of the women already have experience in the public transport industry, including Mery Yujra, who for at least a decade made a living driving everything from trucks to small cars.
She told Efe that some male drivers in recent years resented her for doing this job and on different occasions cut her off on the road or made rude comments.
“There are some who insult you. Some are discriminatory. Not everyone is like that, âYujra said.
She noted that other male drivers have expressed their support, adding that the fact that women come together in the Lilac Line initiative gives her more strength and confidence.
Sanchez said she has also had negative experiences for the past six plus years and has even heard men say her place is in the kitchen and not behind the wheel.
But she observed that more and more women are now working as drivers, and said the strength in numbers allows them to do their jobs without fear.
âThis organization provides an opportunity, support and collaboration so that we women can move forward and leave the machismo behind,â Sanchez said.
El Alto follows in the footsteps of other Bolivian cities such as La Paz and Cochabamba, where similar female-led public transport initiatives exist to provide a greater sense of security for female passengers. EFE
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