CAIRO – Influenced by their lives abroad in London and the rights women in the United Kingdom enjoy, two young Egyptian men launched a female-only driver and passenger taxi application that aims to curb sexual harassment in Egypt.
Mostafa el-Kholy and Abdallah Hussein, who are both 26, founded Fyonka (“bow”), a platform similar to ride-hailing giant Uber, two months ago.
“We found a gap in the market,” El-Kholy said. “A lot of ex-Uber women drivers have left the industry due to family barriers. Their fathers, their brothers or whatever are scared of the industry itself,” he added.
According to the United Nations, 4 out of 5 women suffer daily a form of sexual harassment in taxis and public transportation in Egypt, a country in which an estimated 99.3% of women say they have been harassed or sexually assaulted at some point in their lives.
“We wanted to do something for Egyptian females,” el-Kholy explained.
To date, Fyonka – whose app has recently appeared in mobile stores – has employed some thirty drivers and is training 200 more while offering women a place to continue to make equal pay while serving an all-woman clientele.
Nermeen Nour, a Fyonka driver who has worked for other ride-hailing companies, said that although she has not personally suffered any serious form of sexual harassment, she decided to join Fyonka’s team to ensure her own safety as a woman driver and that of her female passengers.
Last year, controversy erupted in Egypt when a young girl from Cairo broadcast a video in which she slapped a taxi driver after he allegedly caressed her leg.
The Fyonka app incorporates a visual confirmation and an emergency button which protects both driver and passenger.
After the launching of the service, El-Kholy and Hussein said they were criticized by some because they are two men launching an all-women project.
Yet, El-Kholy found such critiques myopic.
“It is not about paternalism. It is our fight and we want to empower women. It is not just a business, it is an ultimate goal. The change has to come from men,” he said.