E-hailing platform Bolt has launched a women-only service that enables women passengers to request rides from women drivers only.
Women passengers who request the service will only connect with women drivers on the Bolt platform, with their request for a ride not visible to male drivers.
Rides on Bolt Women Only cost the same as the main Bolt category, with no surcharge for this service.
Drivers and passengers using Bolt’s Women Only service are protected by an app-integrated SOS emergency button, made possible through Bolt’s partnership with national safety platform Namola.
This SOS button enables passengers and drivers to connect to private armed response teams, private emergency medical services, and roadside assistance if they are involved in any medical or security emergency while on a Bolt ride.
“Gender-based violence is a reality that women across South Africa contend with every day,” says Bolt South Africa country manager Gareth Taylor.
“Women Only – a service that is exclusively for and driven by women – shouldn't be needed, but unfortunately it is.”
Bolt has also allowed women drivers to have protection security screens installed in their vehicles to further boost safety, at no charge to them.
These thick Perspex screens are installed between the front and back seats, and create a safe and effective barrier between the driver and passengers.
Despite the fact that more than half of passengers that use Bolt in South Africa are women, and research shows that women own 38% of South Africa’s micro, small and medium-sized enterprises, less than 5% of drivers using Bolt are women.
“In the same way that women have embraced e-hailing as passengers, women want to participate in the e-hailing sector as driver entrepreneurs,” says Taylor.
“It offers them flexibility and empowers them to balance other interests and responsibilities such as child and family care, studying, and other income-generating activities”.
However, women’s enthusiasm to enter the e-hailing sector is balanced by personal safety and security concerns.
World Bank research shows that 64% of women cited security as a reason more women do not sign up to become e-hailing drivers.
Bolt Women Only was introduced in a pilot phase in East London and Rustenburg in November.
Following a positive response from drivers and passengers, Bolt’s Women Only is now available in Johannesburg, Cape Town, Durban, Pietermaritzburg, Port Elizabeth, Mthatha, Polokwane, Thohoyandou, Mbombela and Emalahleni.
Bolt’s registration process for drivers includes verifying their identity, including whether they are male or female, making it possible to confirm that only women drivers can access the Bolt Women Only category.
Women drivers using this Bolt service are not penalised if they cancel a trip if they are expecting to collect a female passenger, and a male passenger is waiting for them at the agreed collection point.