According to the UN, 99.3% of women in Egypt fall victim to sexual harassment.
Last month, there were 447 incidents of sexual harassment in downtown Cairo during the four days of the Muslim holiday Eid al-Adha, according to a pressure group gathering evidence of assault.
Maram Hany, a college student, speaks fondly of the three months she’s spent learning how to drive and change tyres at Pink Taxi, but admits there are still some problems with the service.
“We get harassed more [by other male drivers] driving the taxi than we do in normal cars,” she says. “But we are trained on how to deal with it.” The training, she explains, comprises of one instruction: keep driving.
Mervat al-Badry, a former flight attendant who has also joined up, said driving on Cairo’s streets is a challenge: “Men make fun of us [saying] ‘you can barely drive’ and ‘God save us’.”
“But we took it as a challenge… women fly planes, why not drive a taxi?”
The service has drawn criticism from women’s rights activists, who accuse Fawzi of infantilising her customers with the choice of vehicle colour and design, dismissing the service as the latest in a continuing trend toward segregation.
“Pink Taxi and segregation in general says [to women]: ‘Harassment is inevitable. Here is how you can adapt [to it]’,” says Dalia Abdel-Hameed, head of the gender program at the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights.
Egypt’s public schools have long been segregated along gender lines but in recent years women-only metro cars, cafes, gyms, pools and beaches have also emerged. Some argue this reinforces the notion that women can’t be in public without needing special protection.
“[Fawzi] is fear-mongering to profit. I am in cabs all day, it is fine,” says Basma Mohamed, one of the many women’s rights activists to note that harassment mostly occurs on the street, which Pink Taxi customers have to brave anyway.
“If she really wanted to help the women of Egypt, [Pink] Taxi would go everywhere and these would not be their prices,” says Mohamed.
The cheapest ride on offer by Fawzi’s service is for 35 Egyptian pounds (£2.90) with the prices going up to 210 pounds (£17), a significant cost when minimum wage across the country – not always applied – is 1,200 pounds a month. But for some, money is not the main concern.
“Clothing is the determinant factor,” says college student Maha Mohamed. “If I am going to a party wearing revealing clothes then I would definitely pay double [for the Pink Taxi] price.”