'Taxi sisters' hit streets

Dakar - Senegal, a predominantly conservative Muslim west African country, has launched a scheme to encourage women taxi-drivers, local dailies said on Wednesday.

Ten women were handed their brand new cars on Tuesday by the country's First Lady Vivian Wade, to become the first of a planned 2 000 female taxi drivers to be plying Senegal's roads by next year.

Dubbed "Taxi Sister," the project is the brainchild of the country's President Abdoulaye Wade.

To ensure their safety, the women will only work during daytime between 7am (0700 GMT) and 7pm (1900 GMT).

According to the pro-government daily Le Soleil, the women drivers underwent martial arts training to prepare them for handling difficult clients.

The project, which according to local media is the first of its kind in a country whose population is 95 percent Muslim, was born out of a deal between government, through a fund to help would-be female entrepreneurs, and a local car retailer.

"The task will be difficult in the sense that we are young women. But we will give it our best to rise to the challenges," said Sophie Diouck, one of the first of the "taxi sisters", who will stand out in the crowd in their yellow shirts and red pants.

"(Male-female) parity should not be just a slogan, it must be applied in the economic sphere. Women must go on to attack male-dominated professions," said Serigne Mboup, managing director of car dealer Espace-Auto, which will supply the vehicles. - Sapa-AFP