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Uber To Mandate Sexual Harassment Training For Cairo Drivers

The Huffington Post The Huffington Post 4/11/2015 Alexandra Ma
ATHENA IMAGE © Mosa'ab Elshamy/Associated Press ATHENA IMAGE

Uber is pulling out all the stops to make sure its drivers and passengers in Cairo ride as safely as possible -- by educating its drivers about sexual harassment.

The popular ride-sharing app and the Cairo-based, anti-sexual harassment nonprofit HarassMap have partnered up to offer Uber drivers mandatory training to recognize and react to sexual assault, the company wrote in an Oct. 29 blog post.

In a one-time training session starting Nov. 8, HarassMap will give lessons on the causes and types of sexual harassment, laws against sexual harassment, and how to react as a witness or victim of sexual harassment, said Shaden Abdellatif, a spokeswoman for Uber's Middle East and North African offices, in an email to The WorldPost on Wednesday.

Both male and female drivers will have to take the course before they can work for Uber, according to the company's blog post.

"We hope to provide more women with work via our platform, we want to make sure they too know what constitutes as sexual harassment so that they can take necessary action, and continue to feel safe in their job as an Uber partner driver," Abdellatif said.

Uber officially launched operations in Cairo in February, and the number of Uber drivers in Cairo had already grown sixfold since May, Bloomberg reported on Tuesday. Uber is investing $250 million to expand in Middle Eastern and North African cities, the outlet added.

The collaboration is part of HarassMap's Safe Corporates Program, an initiative that enables the nonprofit to provide training and consultations that educate businesses about sexual harassment and how they can create safe working environments.

Sexual harassment is still prevalent in Egyptian society. Over 99.3 percent of Egyptian women and girls surveyed by the United Nations said they had experienced some form of sexual harassment, and some 78.7 percent said they did not feel safe even in taxis, per a 2013 U.N. Women report.

In June 2014, the Egyptian government criminalized sexual harassment and assault for the first time and decreed that offenders would face up to five years in prison, as well as fines of between 2,000 and 5,000 Egyptian pounds ($249 to $623).

But human rights groups say the new laws are insufficient. They have called on the government to better educate Egyptian citizens about sexual harassment and establish procedures to protect victims of sexual violence.  Many Egyptians don't understand what qualifies as sexual harassment, Abdellatif noted in her email.

HarassMap says it cannot completely stop sexual harassment, but the nonprofit is hopeful that its partnership with Uber will inspire more businesses and individuals across Egypt to become aware of the issue.

"Although we can't guarantee that sexual harassment does not happen, this partnership should ensure that all cases of sexual harassment are effectively and professionally dealt with," Alia Soliman, HarassMap's communications manager, told The WorldPost in an email. "This is of value for people (women in particular) who use Uber's service."

"The ultimate goal is, of course, to engage everyone in the society, including everyone from individuals to schools and universities, and big and small businesses, to create an environment in Egypt that does not tolerate sexual harassment," Soliman added.

"Education on sexual harassment extends beyond just when using the Uber platform and we hope it encourages more people to take positive action against it," Abdellatif said. 

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