RACS aims to empower, enable, and transform. This is especially important in an informal, conflict-laden industry such as the taxi industry. Through our transformative work, we recognize that women play a significant role in this process, and RACS seeks to empower women and create a safe transport environment through different interventions such as driver safety training and expert advice.
There is an opportunity to empower, train, upskill and coach women in the transport sector, as female drivers and taxi owners are of the minority found in a male-dominated industry. SA Taxi (2022) states that female taxi owners own 2.8% of the taxis that operate on the road each day. Despite being the least represented in the taxi industry, there are women who are making room for themselves and others.
Sharon Petrus, the Public Relations Officer for the National Executive Committee of SANTACO Women, the secretary of the Northern Region Transport Solutions, and a taxi owner, has made a significant impact for women within a male-dominated industry.
Her role is to promote and create awareness of the role women play in public transport. She represents all women in the industry and ensures that they are well-informed of their rights, especially regarding the transfer of permits. She also seeks opportunities for new projects, training, and business.
Sharon says that the biggest challenge she faces in the industry is that there is no room for women, and women are excluded from participating in leadership positions. Currently, there are no women represented in the National and Provincial SANTACO leadership structure. The National Taxi Lekgotla resolved that at least 30% of the leadership roles should be filled by women. Women need to be empowered to fulfil these roles as it is not easy to navigate certain power dynamics within the taxi industry as a woman.
Sharon says that men dictate the issues women face and make it their own. She believes that men need to be made aware of how gender-based violence affects women and that “women’s safety and security needs to be monitored and improved as women should be protected in all spheres of transport, the workplace, and within home situations.”
Sharon has grown in the taxi business. She started as a taxi guard (door operator), then became a taxi driver and eventually obtained a permit to own her own taxi. She later became the secretary at one of the taxi regions, which was established as a company in 2021. Her advice to women in the transport industry is, “Equip yourselves with all the necessary training, skills, and opportunities and empower your girl children to ensure that they are being recognised. Be the next leader for women and promote gender equality issues for the next generation. This will not be an easy task, but we as women have the strength to endure and make this transport industry a more safe and violence-free sector. We as women can lead and make decisions. “
There are many women who are business owners in the transport industry, such as Sharon, who are leading the way for women in the transport industry. SA Taxi has invested in 4,382 female taxi owners who collectively operate 5,656 taxis. This, however, does not only benefit female business owners but also their families and the people they employ. One taxi business can create 1.8 direct jobs. In total, this equates to 10,180 direct jobs that are sustained by female transport entrepreneurs (SA Taxi, 2022).
Working as a woman to create an enabling environment and transform a male-dominated industry, has made me aware of certain gender power dynamics and how women need to navigate them differently to men. Often women need to change their approach, particularly in a workspace, to be heard or taken seriously.
To create more opportunities for women, Sharon says we will need to engage the regional structures that give recognition to women’s needs and who support women’s empowerment as well as all those structures affiliated to them. SA Taxi also confirms that there is significant room for growth and many opportunities for women that exist in the transport sector. In addition, women have unique energy, perspective, and ideas to contribute to the transport sector. There are more required to transform the transportation sector and women have a large role to play, especially in advocating for safe and family-friendly transport.
To develop the leadership capacity of women, Sharon says we need to give women the opportunity and platform to show their experience in the transport industry and to provide them with the skills to equip themselves to become stronger. She adds that we need to develop policy documents that speak to women and then create platforms for women to give guidelines to girl children for the future generation.
Women are important role-players in the transport industry and our voice needs to be heard in shaping transport for the future. There are lots of challenges South African women face as transport business owners and users of public transport, however, with our collective voice, we can move South Africa forward.
Maduma, Maroba., 2022. SA Taxi empowers female entrepreneurs in the minibus taxi industry. Available at: https://sataxi.co.za/sa-taxi-empowers-female-entrepreneurs-minibus-taxi-industry/ [Accessed on 24 August 2022].
Department of Transport., 2020. National Taxi Lekgotla Consolidated Closing Report.