KAMPALA, Uganda — The ladies grappled with one another contained in the car. The motive force jerked to ease the grip round her neck, then turned to elbow her attacker within the again seat. She flung the door open to make her escape, ending the simulated assault.

“This one is just too robust for me,” the attacker stated, smiling and shaking her head. Then it was one other girl’s flip within the train to arrange drivers for Uganda’s new all-female ride-hailing service, Diva Taxi.

The taxi service, dreamed up by a neighborhood girl who misplaced her logistics job at the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak, was launched in June and has recruited over 70 drivers. They vary from faculty college students to moms hoping to make good use of their secondhand Toyotas.

“It began off as a joke, supported by shut family and friends, however finally the thought picked up,” stated firm spokeswoman Rebecca Makyeli. “They stated, ‘Why not? As girls, you recognize we are able to now not slay on Instagram on the surface, so why don’t we slay as divas with a trigger.’ So we referred to as it Diva Taxi.”

It is unusual to search out girls taxi drivers in Uganda, a socially conservative East African nation the place most girls labor on farms or pursue work within the casual sector.

Diva Taxi believes numerous girls are in search of job alternatives at a time of extreme financial misery. The Worldwide Labor Group has stated women’s employment in developing countries is likely to be hit harder than men’s within the pandemic.

“I ought to say I used to be personally affected by COVID,” Diva Taxi founder Gillian Kobusingye stated.

An everyday traveler, she discovered herself grounded indefinitely as authorities imposed restrictions on motion to sluggish the unfold of the virus. For a number of weeks, even taxis weren’t licensed to function in Uganda.

Nonetheless, Kobusingye felt optimistic. “Regardless of no matter circumstance on the earth, there will likely be want of one thing to succeed in any individual … And the way does that occur? By way of transport,” she stated.

She believed {that a} girl in search of to grow to be a driver was more likely to need the chance greater than any man. And he or she backed girls to be extra dependable.

“Our girls are extraordinarily hardworking, very motivated, and I like their sense of pleasure after they do that work,” she stated. “They do it with one coronary heart in comparison with different individuals, and that’s the distinction we now have with our rivals.”

Some purchasers, who embody males, agree.

“The divas are at all times on time,” stated Kampala-based auditor Jemimah Bamwebaze, an everyday consumer. She additionally feels safer “being pushed by a fellow girl.”

A potential driver will need to have a automobile in good situation and a smartphone geared up with the cellular app that purchasers use, together with a legitimate driver’s license and a certificates of fine conduct issued by Interpol.

With Diva Taxi, 85% of proceeds from a visit go to the driving force, strikingly low in Uganda however a part of a plan to measurement up the market, Makyeli stated.

Driver Donna Ochen, a FedEx accountant furloughed in March who takes care of three youngsters, stated she had been “doing nothing” at residence when she noticed a Diva Taxi worker on tv discussing alternatives for ladies. With the consent of her skeptical husband, she contacted the corporate and was recruited.

“I made a decision to take it up as a result of it might be a chance for me to serve and earn and assist my household,” Ochen stated. And “it might empower me to do one thing for myself quite than sitting.”

One other driver, faculty scholar Tracy Abola, stated her mom, a instructor, had been out of labor since faculties have been shut down in March. Abola had been driving a 1998 Toyota “to maintain up appearances with associates” till she discovered she might generate income with Diva Taxi.

“So I made a decision to do one thing in order that I may assist a bit at residence,” she stated.

The Diva Taxi app has been downloaded not less than 500 instances, and every of the corporate’s 72 drivers makes a median of 30 rides every week, Makyeli stated. The corporate expects to have 2,000 energetic customers by the top of this yr, a modest goal in a metropolis of over three million individuals the place taxis and passenger motorcycles are the primary technique of transport for the working class.

Regardless of the safety coaching — every driver additionally receives a canister of pepper spray — security stays a priority.

Ochen stated she drives solely throughout the day “to keep away from being caught up in any difficult conditions,” together with with drunken teams.

Whilst she hopes to return to her job as an accountant, she plans to stay a Diva Taxi driver for so long as potential.

“We love what we’re doing and it is actually enjoyable,” stated founder Kobusingye, an occasional driver herself. “I am unable to wait to associate with each girl on the market that is keen to be a part of Diva Taxi.”