New taxi service aims to keep women safe

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Bashed, bloodied and bruised, but not defeated, Praveet Singh has taken a traumatic experience and turned it around to help others.

Ms Singh was attacked in broad daylight while walking down a south Auckland street in 2014.

“After about 10 minutes there was a huge crowd, they all surrounded the incident. Everyone was standing and watching while this person was actually still hitting me,” the 45-year-old says.

It’s that horrific experience that has made her want to protect other vulnerable people. By being a taxi driver for new service DriveHer she could do that, as well as help herself heal.

"This is something for me to show everyone that despite everything that's happened, I'm still willing to go and drive."

The app-based taxi service is the invention of 23-year-old law student Joel Rushton, who has a good reason to feel protective towards women.

"Throughout my life growing up my family was affected by male violence towards women. My mum and sister are the most important women in my life."

Mr Rushton's taxis are driven solely by women, and are there especially for women to hire. Men can use the service too as long as they sit in the back seat and they have female passenger in the car.

But executive director of the Taxi Federation John Hart warns it won't be easy.

"The challenge for them will be getting women prepared to drive at night."

However, Kathryn McPhillips from HELP Auckland is hopeful.

"We'd all prefer women would be safe all the time with men but that's not the world we live in," she says.

"You can't stop feeling like a victim for the rest of your life. You do need to get out and start doing normal things and living a normal life."

DriveHer starts in Auckland next week and is expected to be available in other centres next year.