HerStory April 2020: Zahida Kazmi

Our April colorway, Paxi, is inspired by the story of the first female taxi driver in Pakistan and the legacy that her courage has left. 

In 1992, as a newly-widowed mother of 6, Zahida Kazmi took advantage of a government assistance program to purchase a yellow cab, and began ferrying people from the airport to their homes all over Islamabad. Although Pakistan was more moderate then than it is now, jobs like driving taxis were reserved for men and men alone. She fought against not only the societal misogyny that surely followed her throughout her career, but the ingrained misogyny carried by her family members. At first, she covered up as much as possible, wearing first burkas and then hijabs, but as her business and her presence became more established, she stopped covering her head. Over the years, Kazmi gained the respect of her fellow taxi drivers, as well as her customers, and eventually became the chairperson of Pakistan’s Yellow Cab Association. 

In 2017, as a response to a study published by the International Labor Organization which identified a lack of safe transportation as a major contributor to the low number of Pakistani women participating in the workforce, Paxi was formed. Paxi is a fleet of pink taxis whose purpose is to provide a safe route to work for women. Public transportation in Pakistan can be unsafe for women, many of whom face sexual harassment or worse while just trying to get to work. Paxi offers transportation specifically for women, aiming to create a safe environment and remove the transportation barrier to women’s ability to work. It’s not perfect (it’s much more expensive than even regular taxi service, which means many lower-income women are totally priced out of it), but it’s a definite step forward in safety and an attempt to support women who want to/need to work. So, as you cast on your Paxi socks, spend some time and send some good energy to those women who break barriers out of necessity and pave the way for more equity in our world. Thank you, Zahida Kazmi, for doing what you needed to do for your family, and thus helping other women to have a bit more autonomy and safety.