PUBLIC Transport owners and drivers have agreed to take initial steps to address Women and Girls’ safety on public transport in Honiara in a forum organized by Safer Cities for Girls, a project under Plan International Solomon Islands funded by the ANCP of the Department of Foreign Affairs of the Australian Government.
The forum was held following findings in a 2017 Baseline Survey which showed that 95 percent of girls and women do not feel safe using public transports, such as buses and taxis in Honiara.
The main perceived safety risks for girls on public transport were drunk and intoxicated bus drivers and conductors, drunkard passengers, verbal harassment, rape and undesirable touching.
At the forum, it was agreed that each taxi of the taxi fleets, display, in front of the passenger’s seat, their fares and charges and taxi base phone contact numbers for reporting in the event of sexual harassment or abuse is committed by any of the drivers.
Other initiatives will be implemented later to educate women and girls of actions to take as precautionary measures before boarding any taxi and for quick response and actions if their safety is at risk.
This may include the identification of the driver, the vehicles plate number, the taxi fleets base telephone number before boarding any taxi in Honiara.
Other recommendation includes the provision of uniform to each taxi fleet for quick identification.
During the forum, public transport owners and drivers raised challenges they face each day in terms of fares, freights, waiting times and distances.
“We charge our fares according to distances, hours engaged, freights and waiting times, of which many people accused us of overcharging,” one taxi driver said.
They have also suggested that all taxis operating in Honiara must affiliate to established fleets for quick identification and reporting when it comes to women and girls’ safety.
They said, in some instances, women and girls engage our vehicles for many hours only to say that they don’t have money to pay the fares, giving rise to selling themselves to the drivers instead.
The only female taxi driver working amongst all the male drivers said that at no time had she been treated indifferently by men or failed to pay up their taxi fares although she had her own challenges because of the poor road conditions in Honiara.
The forum had brought to light some of the challenges public transport owners and drivers face each day and said they are trying their best to provide the safest taxi services to the public as far as possible.
A taxi driver at the forum said that although concerns raised and anecdote in the survey are true, only a few people are involved in such activities, the rest are trying their best to properly serve the public and earn a living.
He said these safety concerns were raised because few drivers who don’t have the respect for others and have cultured bad attitudes towards women and girls.
Twelve taxi fleet owners and drivers and nearly thirty members of the YWCA Safer Cities for Girls project attended the forum.
Safer Cities for Girls Project is supported by funding from Australia Non-Government Cooperation Program and implemented by Plan International Solomon Islands in Partnership with Honiara City Council and YWCA