“I learned to respect women.” Tuk drivers join efforts to make the streets of Cairo safe for women
Until recently, Mohamed Nemr, 24, a Tuk driver from Cairo, didn’t think that women had a right to access public spaces without the fear of sexual harassment.
Until recently, Mohamed Nemr, a twenty-four-year-old tuk [three wheeled taxi] driver from Mansheyet Nasser of Cairo, Egypt, didn’t think that women and girls had a right to access public spaces without the fear of sexual harassment.
Nemr is the eldest of five children. Following his parents’ divorce, he became the main breadwinner when he was barely seventeen. The role came with expectations of providing for his family, as well as certain privileges and entitlements. For example, he exercised complete authority over his sisters. “I insisted that my demands were met instantly, and if they did not respond, I shouted, which eventually ruined my relationship with them,” he recalls.
“I realized I was the cause of the problem..It was me who didn’t know how to treat others. The sessions taught me how to express my feelings and now I can manage my frustrations and violent tendencies in more positive ways.”
After attending various training sessions on self-expression, including acting, singing, painting and sculpting, Nemr’s views on women changed and his relationship with his family improved. “I realized I was the cause of the problem,” he says. “It was me who didn’t know how to treat others. The sessions taught me how to express my feelings and now I can manage my frustrations and violent tendencies in more positive ways.”
The Cairo Safe City and Safe Public Spaces programme was launched in 2011 and is one of the flagship programmes of the Global Safe Cities and Safe Public Spaces initiative. Participating cities commit to ensuring that women and girls are socially, economically, and politically empowered in public spaces that are free from sexual harassment and other forms of sexual violence. In Cairo, the programme targets the low-income neighborhoods of Imbaba, Mansheyet Nasser, and El-Haganna.
The programme piloted a unique model of targeting men; the interventions with tuk-tuk drivers contributed to changing their perceptions about gender equality and women's rights and fostered a public debate about the issue of sexual harassment in public spaces while improving the safety of women and girls utilizing this popular mode of public transport in informal areas.
Today, Nemr is proud of his new role as an advocate for women’s rights. He says, “I volunteer in an anti-harassment campaign that talks to tuk-tuk drivers and other community members about how every woman has the right to walk on the street without being harassed. Our messages include women’s rights to choose how to dress, without having anyone invading their personal space.”
According to Ahmed Nakabassi, UN Women Programme Assistant in Egypt, Nemr’s personality changed as he went through the programme. He now has better relationships with, and greater respect for, women. “Some women even take his phone number and call him for their tuk-tuk rides because they have had a safe journey and he has treated them with respect,” said Nakabassi.
Nemr is one of 230 participants in Cairo Safe City programme. This programme is coordinated by UN Women alongside CARE International, The National Council for Women, the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation (AECID), United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the Government of the Netherlands and the European Union.