The streets of Delhi, India can be dangerous for women. The recent gang rape and murder of a 23-year-old medical student has made that reality terribly clear.
But a special cab service is working to offer some women a safer way to travel the streets of Delhi.
It's called Cabs for Women by Women, and it was created by two non-profits.
Sakha Consulting Wing and Azad Foundation are both non-profit groups that help urban women from poor and marginalized communities. They collaborated to create the women-only cab service, which currently features seven cabs and eight drivers.
According to Public Radio International, most passengers in the cabs are fairly well-off: "these are middle-class women and relatively affluent, especially those who travel alone a lot. And some are new to the city, or just passing through."
But while the service is useful for the relatively wealthy women who ride in the cabs, it also means a valuable work opportunity for the women who drive. Check out this video of Sunita, one of the drivers, talking about her job:
"Azad Foundation wanted to provide non-gender typical livelihood options to be able to allow these women to earn at par with the men," says Nayantara Janardhan, who works for Sakha Consulting.
"They wanted to put women in charge of technologies," Janardhan says. "They wanted to open up boundaries for women. And they wanted to ensure these women end up as well-rounded professionals and people who are aware of their rights."
According to Sharma, who is one of the Cabs for Women by Women drivers, the job lets her earn enough to support her family for the first time in her life, and she likes the independence of driving a cab.
But she also says it's a lonely industry, where she and the other women who drive are overwhelmingly outnumbered by male cabbies.
"When I park somewhere, there're always men there and inevitably five or six of them get together and hang out," she told PRI. "But I'm usually the only woman in the parking lot, so I just stay inside the car."
Sharma has also experienced some harassment from male drivers.
"As soon as they see a girl at the wheel they start honking for no reason, they'll try to overtake you. I'm always worrying about how to avoid getting hit by someone," she said.
Cabs for Women by Women is not the world's only females-only cab company. In fact, various other countries have similar services.
Dubai has pink-topped "Women's Taxis," Kuala Lumpur has a fleet of women-only taxis, Cabs for Women operates a "driven by women" service in South Africa, and in the UK, companies like London Lady Chauffeurs and Pink Ladies offer transportation for women only.
And about a year ago, the CBC reported that a St. John, New Brunswick entrepreneur was considering setting up a women-only cab company in that city.
But not everyone believes that offering women-only transportation - whether via cabs or public transport - is a good idea.
Aleksandar Deejay, writing on Policymic, suggests that the "women's only" sections of metros and buses in fifteen countries have not only failed to protect women: they may have made the situation worse by forcing women to choose segregated transportation for fear of being targets if they use unisex transport options.
For Muna Khan, writing for Al Arabiya News, women-only transport has been met in many countries with the reaction "this only addresses the problem on a surface level." She believes that "women who use public transport anywhere in the world are subjected to sexual harassment with the difference being that some countries take the offense seriously (punitive action) while others address the issue by introducing women-only sections."
She goes on to say that "pink buses or pink sections on trains are a stopgap arrangement. They do not address the social problem of men feeling entitled to women's bodies be it on transport, at the workplace or in social situations."
Echoing Khan's sentiments, Sophia Jones wrote on the Foreign Policy site that "women-only transportation is not the debate -- the need for such transportation is the real issue. Merely placing a band-aid on a deep wound does not foster a long-term healing process."
For an interesting breakdown of how various countries treat questions of gender and safety in transport, check out this list from JourneyWoman.com.
Poll: Women-Only Cab Services