Nigerian ride-hailing app aims to put women at ease

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ABUJA, Sept 20 (Reuters) - Hauwa Shakir puts the finishing touches to an elegant lilac and grey dress, grabs her handbag and steps into a grey Toyota Corolla in front of her home in the outskirts of central Abuja.

Shakir, 31, is among thousands of Nigerians hailing rides using mobile apps, but her car has something unusual: a female driver. She said the trip on HerRyde, a ride-hailing app with exclusively women drivers that launched in August, set her mind at ease.

"I've had scary experiences from the other rides," the fashion designer and lawyer told Reuters.

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On the way to a nearby mall, she taps happily on her phone. Some male drivers, she said, would chat inappropriately or even made her feel as though they might attack her.

HerRyde launched with 10 drivers and logged roughly 500 rides in its first month in Abuja, Nigeria's capital city. Its founders plan to expand elsewhere in Nigeria.

Nigeria does not have official statistics on sexual assaults on ride-hailing apps, but stories abound in local media of sexual assault, robbery or harassment of female passengers and drivers.

Uber and Lyft say they have received thousands of sexual assault reports related to billions of rides in the United States. Uber said riders accounted for roughly half of those accused, but Lyft did not disclose what share of incidents resulted in drivers being harmed. read more

HerRyde co-founder Monsurah Alli-Oluwafuyi, 30, said these stories prompted the company's launch.

"We don't want cases where women have to be on their toes or on the edge when they are using ride-hailing services," she said. HerRyde will also expand opportunities for female drivers, she said.

Adetutu Patricia Oni, a mother of two who has driven for ride-hailing apps for three years, said HerRyde improved her work because riders are screened and know what to expect.

"We get discriminated on a lot," she said. "Like when you have a request that is from a male client, the male tends to cancel the ride because they don’t want to ride with you being a female."

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Reporting by Abraham Achirga Writing by Libby George Editing by Mark Potter

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