It was the day the first nor'wester of the season hit the city. Jhuma was in Farmgate, desperately looking for any kind of transport to return home after work. Waiting for over half an hour, a bus pulled up in front of her. She boarded the bus, amazed to find that it was a women-only bus.
Dolonchapa women-only bus service was launched in June last year by Rangs Group and Volvo Eicher Commercial Vehicles.
The service is providing a sense of relief to women on two routes -- from ECB Chattar to Azimpur and from Mirpur 12 to Motijheel.
Four Dolonchapa buses are carrying passengers on the routes at Tk 5-25.
A regular passenger of Dolonchapa, Roni, on her way back home last week, said it was comfortable travelling in all-women buses. “I don't have to constantly be on my guard, worrying about unwanted grabbing and harassment that women often face in crowded local buses.”
A recent Brac study reveals that 94 percent of sexual harassment happens in public transports.
Roni was seemingly relaxed and listening to music during her commute. Other passengers seemed at ease as well -- some were talking on the phone, some browsing Facebook, while others trying to take a nap.
More than reaffirming testimonials, their attitude and actions were validating that this kind of service should be increased so that more women can safely travel in the capital.
The helper, Shanta Begum, was collecting bus fare while also having casual chitchats with passengers.
Shanta Begum, who started assisting the driver four months ago, said she liked the work because she did not feel intimidated -- dealing with women.
There is a rush of passengers during peak hours in the morning and evening. “But there is no fear of harassment by men,” she said.
Each Dolonchapa bus has 36 seats with nine reserved for physically challenged and pregnant women. It is also equipped with four CCTV cameras, a fire extinguisher and a first-aid box.
“Women are responding to this service very positively and they demand more buses on different routes,” said Sohana Rouf Chowdhury, managing director of Rangs Motors.
Moreover, this is the first public bus service with a mobile app that can help commuters avail emergency security, fire and ambulance services. They can also find out real-time location of a bus with the help of a vehicle tracking system.
When 54 percent of Dhaka's population are women and increasingly more of them are joining the workforce, it is imperative that the government take some measures to facilitate their safe journey.
Sohana, however, said, “Women-only bus is not the solution to rampant sexual harassment of women in public transports.”
The writer in an intern at The Daily Star.