Blackheath’s Eva Trcka is the Mountains first “Shebah” driver – a ride share program exclusively for women and children.
“We’re not a general taxi service, there was a particular need,” she said of the female-only ride sharing service, which launched in the Upper Mountains this month.
Shebah drives women and primary school-aged children. Children under 12, can be taken to after school commitments without a parent; and boys aged 12 to 18 can be driven if accompanied by a female guardian.
“I can take kids to their appointments if a parent needs to work. When we talk to women about the idea, they love it,” Ms Trcka said.
The mother of two had her first customers last week and is now hoping to spread the word to encourage women, young and old, to “get the app and enjoy safe travel or become a driver yourself”.
Passenger, Carolyn Van Langenberg, said she “just wanted to try it out … I thought friends that come up from Sydney might prefer to use Eva’s service”.
The service was founded this year in Melbourne on International Women’s Day by former journalist Georgina McEncroe and operates in all capital cities around Australia. It promises women safe transportation without harassment. The app became the most popular download in the app store within 24 hours.
Ms Trcka, an ex business analyst from Sydney, said it was a good work option for women who had a car and wanted flexible hours; women, like herself, who had relocated to the Mountains but didn’t have enough full-time work.
Each Shebah driver has pamphlets on board for those who may reveal they had been assaulted and need access to a 24-hour support service.
And for those who say it discriminates, Ms McEncroe told media after the launch, that “it does” but added “no man will be less safe and no man’s day will be disturbed ... if you can tell me how Shebah makes men less safe I will shut down the app tomorrow”.
Ms McEncroe confirmed to the Gazette she had been given special exemption from the Attorney General's department to only transport women.
The founder created the app because her daughter had started going out at night and she and her friends preferred walking to getting into a car with a man they didn’t know.
“If we accept that one in five women have been assaulted, their experience matters, it [this service] might affect the way she interacts with the world,” Ms McEncroe said.
The Guardian reports that female-only taxi and ride sharing services have launched in the UK, the US, New Zealand, Canada, Egypt, Pakistan and Oman and the Shebah app has been downloaded more than 12,000 times with 1,400 women starting the process to register as drivers.
The name comes from the Queen of Shebah who travelled to challenge the wisdom of King Solomon. Some texts say she had his child and ruled Shebah as a single mother, Ms McEncroe added.
Only four per cent of Australian taxi drivers and ten per cent of Uber drivers are women.
Ms Trcka is looking for more Mountains drivers. Go to firstname.lastname@example.org to find out more.