In a bid to make the commute more convenient for female passengers in the province, the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Information Technology Board (KPITB) has recently launched an upgraded version of the ‘Safe Women’ app. The widely-hailed mobile phone application is an initiative of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government’s flagship Sakura Bus Project, also known as the pink bus service in Pakistan.
The Sakura Bus Project, which has so far been launched in the populous cities of Mardan and Abbottabad, was launched to facilitate female commuters in the province. The women-only buses aim to provide women in these cities easy access to education and employment opportunities. The project was initiated with financial support from the Government of Japan. Meanwhile, the UN Women Pakistan and UN Office for Project Services (UNOPS) provided technical support for procuring the pink Sakura buses along releasing the updated version of the Safe Women mobile phone application, according to the official websites of KPITB and UNOPS.
Here is all that you need to know about the Sakura Bus Project as well as the Safe Women initiative in Pakistan.
Let’s further discuss the project and how it aims to make the commute easier for women.
Sakura Bus Project
The Sakura Bus Project was essentially launched to eradicate the major issues women face when accessing the public transportation system. To make the commute easier and safer for the female residents of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the UN Women Pakistan and UNOPS partnered up with the provincial government to evaluate the existing situation of the public commute system and develop strategies to address the issues faced by women. Several research studies were conducted to pinpoint the problems and brainstorm their potential solution before the Sakura Bus Project was proposed. The Transport and Mass Transit Department of the Government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa was also involved in developing the design and specifications of the women-only buses under the project.
The 1.69 million USD Pink Sakura Project also received financial aid from the Government of Japan. Moreover, it was inaugurated by Speaker of the Provincial Assembly of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Mushtaq Ghani
“This is the first project of its kind in Pakistan and will become a basis for more such projects in the rest of the country. Such projects will play a very important role in the economic empowerment of women,” he had said at the time.
Meanwhile, UN Women Head of Sub Office Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Zainab Qaiser Khan had also lauded the government for its effort to empower women by launching such initiatives.
“UN Women has been actively involved along with UNOPS to make Sakura Bus project a landmark of women empowerment by enhancing their mobility and access to education and employment,” she remarked. “Our main role is to take care of issues faced by women in public transport by designing gender-friendly operationalization systems and capacity development of relevant stakeholders on gender concerns in providing women with safer public transport.”
As per the press release by UN Women Pakistan and UNOPS, similar initiatives will soon be launched in other cities across Pakistan as well.
Main Features of the Sakura Bus Project
Some of the most noteworthy features of the Sakura Bus Project in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa include:
- Procurement of 14 pink buses meant exclusively for female commuters of all ages and boys under the age of 12.
- These buses are to be operated by female conductors, while efforts to recruit female drivers are currently underway.
- The female-only public transport will serve an 18-kilometre route in Abbottabad and a 10-kilometre route in Mardan, covering main educational institutions and activity centres. These routes were developed with the help from Transport and Planning Engineering Unit (TPU).
- A total of 31 pre-fabricated bus stops have been built along these routes to facilitate women travelling through these exclusive buses.
- Each bus stop offers proper seats, shade and solar panels to provide uninterrupted power supply to the light fixtures inside the stand. This will ensure the bus stops are well-lit at night.
- Cheaper tickets, compared to rickshaws and other private forms of transportation.
- It’s a self-sustainable project that is expected to cover the cost for long term operation and maintenance of the pink buses.
Safe Women App
The Safe Women mobile phone application is an initiative of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Information Technology Board. An upgraded version of the app, which aims to ensure the safety of female commuters, was launched recently.
This app allows women travelling through pink Sakura buses in Mardan and Abbottabad to use the GPS tracking systems in their smartphones to alert their family members, friends and rescue authorities in case of an emergency.
“Through this safety app, women and girls can share their live location with trusted contacts, give distress signals to family and friends, call police emergency numbers, rate the safety level of the location and check the live location of the buses,” KPITB Managing Director Dr Shahbaz Khan told the media during the demo of the app.
Main Features of the Safe Women App
Let’s take a look at the in-built features of the Safe Women app:
- This application allows women travelling through pink bus service to share their live location with their trusted contacts, such as family members and friends.
- It also lets the user track the location of another person if they have shared their tracking link
- If the commuter feels unsafe, they can alert their contacts as well as the local authorities to ask for help regardless of time and location
- The app provides a schedule of pink buses
- You can search for the nearest bus stop using the app and check when the next bus would be arriving
- The Safe Women application also shows the time it would take for a person to reach their selected bus stop
- You can also use the app to rate the safety level of a certain location. It will help others who are planning to visit the area.
It is important to add that the Safe Women app is not the only mobile phone application that’s been launched by the government. You can take a look at our guide on top government apps every Pakistani must have on their phone for further clarification.
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