Today's news, tomorrow's lesson - Women drivers on the road in Bangladesh in bid to cut death rate

A landmark, female-only driving school in Bangladesh aims to cut the high fatality rate on the country’s male-dominated roads.

Today's news, tomorrow's lesson - 15 November

Women drivers on the road in Bangladesh in bid to cut death rate

A landmark, female-only driving school in Bangladesh aims to cut the high fatality rate on the country’s male-dominated roads.

The government supported initiative, operated by the NGO Brac, is part of a novel approach to improving the poor safety record on Bangaldeshi roads where reckless driving is the 11th biggest cause of death. Many drivers are untrained and illiterate.

The World Health Organisation estimates that 20,000 Bangladeshis die annually on the roads with 70 per cent of registered vehicles involved in accidents, compared with 2-3 per cent in most Western countries.

Brac's director of road safety, Ahmed Nazmul Hossain, said there was a need to “de-testosterone” the roads.

“Road deaths in Bangladeshi are a constant dripping away of life, a hemorrhaging of […] mostly productive working people from our society.”

The National Institute of Traumatology, Orthopaedics and Rehabilitation reports that around 20 per cent of injury related admissions in hospitals are caused by traffic accidents, with a significant number of these leading to disability.

Brac launched the country’s first female driving school in the capital city, Dhaka, in the hope that trained, female drivers could be the perfect antidote.

Women, Mr Hossain has observed, tend to be safer drivers. "Generally, women drivers don't drink, they don't do drugs, they take the rules of the roads and others' lives more into consideration.

"Once we have trained these women, there are no better drivers on the roads."

Crucially, in a traditionally conservative Islamic society that is dominated mostly by men, the government thinks so, too. Some women may also become professional drivers – with a chance to boost their projected earnings and gain financial independence.

Obaidul Kader, from the Ministry of Communication and Railways, said: “I believe that females can be better than men in the driving profession. We should encourage girls to join the driving profession.”

21 women have already graduated from the Brac driving school which includes training in parking, lane discipline, vehicle maintenance and practicing on a stimulator.

Not everyone is happy about the break in driving taboos, but 23-year-old graduate Rina Khatum is determined that attitudes to women on the road will not deter her from driving. "I am prepared to face whatever problems there will be. [Men] will have to get used to seeing women behind the wheel. It will be difficult for us because we are the first, but other women will come behind us and it will get easier in time."

Related resources

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  • Find out how students in Bangladesh see their UK counterparts with this short video.

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Tales of the Road: A Highway Code for Young Users

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Growth of equal rights for women

  • Explore the role of women’s rights in Islam and Christianity with this lesson activity.

Further news resources

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