12 October 2018

Edwina helps drive a safer journey for women 

| John Thistleton
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Caption: Canberra shebah driver and mum-to-be Edwina Wright. Photo: supplied.

When she fell pregnant and found working in a busy production company was becoming too much, Edwina Wright decided to become an Uber driver, before her partner had a better idea.

Why not work for the all-female ride share shebah?

A couple of weeks ago, Edwina did just that and has been working four-hour and five-hour shifts ever since. Canberra has 20 shebah drivers and is looking for more. Shebah launched in March last year in Melbourne and is in all the eastern state capitals and regional Victoria. It started in February in Canberra this year.

Its website says the number of drivers is growing every day and women across Australia are turning to shebah for safe and convenient transportation.

“Catching a shebah means sitting in the front seat of the car without feeling vulnerable, no longer feeling limited by the time of day, knowing that your little one is in safe hands when you can’t drop them off and so much more,” the website says. Passengers no longer have to dread the end of the night and figuring out how to get home safely.

Edwina says because of the low number of drivers at this early stage in Canberra many passengers are pre-booking, although they have an option of using an app.

“By pre-booking passengers are able to connect with their driver and move the time or location of pick up if it needs to change,” Edwina says.

“We take female passengers with children, and most drivers have children’s seats and baby seats,” she says. The special seating is a strong drawcard for mothers.

“Another service which is quite popular is having a shebah driver pick children up after school,” Edwina says. “Going to and from school, to and from doctor’s appointments and to and from the Canberra Airport.”

Shebah does not have a designated lounge at the airport, and meets fares at the 10-minute parking area. Once the service gets bigger in Canberra, Edwina hopes a designated area will be established at the airport.

The new ride-share driver estimates that she spent about $500 to join shebah. She obtained a special licence from Access Canberra and a medical certificate. Cars must be under 10 years old and are inspected for road worthiness.

Edwina begins her shift about 11 am and likes having control of the number of hours she works. Her baby is due in January. She says her female passengers are more accommodating than others might be, because even though it is an unspoken belief, they all share a desire for women to succeed in new ventures, and want the safety of women drivers.

“This is largely about safety, being safe and feeling safe. In most big cities women don’t feel as comfortable going with a male passenger. Everything in the media about women being harassed, drivers trying to get their phone numbers, this stops that behaviour. Women feel more comfortable,” she says.

Having grown up mostly on the south side of Canberra, she has found her way around the city easily and sometimes overrides her Google Maps app.

“One of the nice things is driving through suburbs you would not ordinarily go through. For me, I kept getting drives through Red Hill which I enjoyed because of the gardens and trees.”

Founder George (Georgina) McEnroe was originally going to call the service Mum’s Taxi, then changed it, deciding the Queen of Sheba was a woman of great beauty and power. George added a h to the name of her ride share.

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I have used Pink Taxis in UAE. The female drivers only take female passengers and families. I sort of wondered if their neighbour Saudi Arabia might now introduce such a scheme, now they allow women to drive.

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