September 13, 2015: Pakistan Innovation Foundation (PIF), in collaboration with partners UN WOMEN and Indus Motor Company (Toyota Pakistan), recently launched an Innovation Challenge and a 3-day Hackathon to encourage creative and innovative people to help address the challenge of women’s transport.
Adopting an innovative approach to kick-off the exercise, the PIF organized an hour long ‘chat’ on Twitter with innovators, thinkers, and gender activists from around the world discussing their perspectives in the cyberspace.
Tens of enthusiasts and activists participated with people like acclaimed author Bina Shah, Guardian journalist Shaista Aziz, BBC journalist Nausheen Abbas, academic Adil Najam, activist Afia Salam, and Young Global Leader Mosharraf Zaidi, and UNDP Head and former Dutch Prime Minister Helen Clarke joining the chorus to resolve this thorny and long-standing issue. The Challenge’s Hashtag (#TakeBackTheWheel) trended at #2 in Pakistan.
Over the weekend, of the 75 teams registered 11 were selected and came up with creative solutions to women’s transport problem. They worked with industry mentors, women’s rights activists, and other inspirational figures to implement ideas in behavioral change, design of new modes of transport suited to women, use of technology to enhance the effectiveness of existing transport options, and sustainable business models for women only transports. A special team of students and faculty from the School of Art, Design, and Architecture (SADA) from the University of Gujrat also participated.
There was great energy, enthusiasm, and a sense of purpose among the participants and mentors alike. They understood the gravity of the challenge and the need to find a solution.
According to the International Labour Organization (ILO), barely one-fifth of Pakistan’s women work in paid jobs primarily because of the lack of safe and secure public transportation. These indicators signal a dire need to facilitate women’s access to resources.
Barely one-fifth of Pakistan’s women work in paid jobs primarily because of the lack of safe and secure public transportation.
“Pakistan Innovation Foundation believes that convenient, affordable, respectable transport system is almost a basic right and a critical first step towards women’s empowerment and participation in the workforce,” explains Dr. Athar Osama, Founder and CEO of the Foundation. “It is also a very complex challenge with deep social, cultural, and economic roots and can only be addressed by the society through creativity and innovation,” he added.
The PIF and its partners offered PKR 175,000 in total prize money for teams participating in the weekend hackathon. The Foundation along-with its partners is also offering continued mentoring and advice through an innovation accelerator to teams seeking to take their ideas forward to fruition.
Key sponsor of the hackathon, Indus Motor’s Yasir Niazi reiterated Toyota’s commitment to innovation and socio-economic uplift of the country.
Several teams spent the weekend building new and innovative technology apps to enhance women’s security and provide car-pooling options. Others designed women-friendly businesses and mini-cars.
Speaking on the occasion, Mr. Jamshed Kazi of UN WOMEN which is also running their worldwide #HeforShe campaign said, “No city can be smart and sustainable if half its population is not safe and lives in fear of violence. In today’s increasingly urban world, providing safe living environments, productive economies and equitable social benefits are challenges facing towns and cities across Pakistan and throughout the world.” He congratulated the PIF for spearheading this unique initiative as well as the energetic and talented teams for their concepts and proposals.
According to Monis Rahman, the founder and CEO of Rozee.pk – Pakistan’s largest jobsite: “Men spend, on average, 5% of their income on transport to go to work while Women spend, on average, 50% of their monthly income on transport.” This creates a formidable economic barrier for women empowerment in the society.
“Pakistan Innovation Foundation believes that convenient, affordable, respectable transport system is almost a basic right and a critical first step towards women’s empowerment and participation in the workforce,” explains Dr. Athar Osama, Founder and CEO of the Foundation.
MNA Marvi Memon addressed the audience via Skype and appreciated the efforts of both women and men participating at the hackathon that challenged the status quo.
The MNA remarked: “The government has taken many steps to address issues of mobility particularly through the metro bus, but we still need to emphasize the need for using creativity and innovation to address gender stereotypes and the transportation challenge. This is why projects such as the one Pakistan Innovation Foundation has initiated with #TakeBackTheWheel need all the support they can get from the government, non-government as well as private sector, just the way we see here today.” She hoped that Pakistan Innovation Foundation would continue to work with the winners to advance their ideas forward.