When the world gets closer.

We help you see farther.

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter.

Already a subscriber? Log in .

You've reached your limit of one free article.

Get unlimited access to Worldcrunch

You can cancel anytime .


Exclusive International news coverage

Ad-free experience NEW

Weekly digital Magazine NEW

9 daily & weekly Newsletters

Access to Worldcrunch archives

Free trial

30-days free access, then $2.90
per month.

Annual Access BEST VALUE

$19.90 per year, save $14.90 compared to monthly billing.save $14.90.

Subscribe to Worldcrunch

Female Motorcycle Taxi Drivers Crank Up Business In Jakarta

Ride hailing apps are revving up motorcycle taxi use in Indonesia's congested capital, and a handful of enterprising women are challenging an otherwise male-dominated domain.

Many women drive ojeks in Jakarta
Many women drive ojeks in Jakarta
Nicole Curby

JAKARTA — Indonesia's sprawling capital, Jakarta, often looks like one massive bumper-to-bumper traffic jam. Commuters spend hours negotiating the city's congested streets, inching forward at a snail's pace, every morning and every night.

Little wonder that so many Jakartans opt for motorbikes, by far the fastest and least expensive option. And while some people own their own, others get around the city on ojeks, or motorcycle taxis. Ojeks are an institution here, and a very male dominated one at that. Of the hundreds of ojek drivers I've encountered, every single one of them was a man — until recently, that is.

It's not that women don't drive motorbikes in Jakarta. There's plenty of that. But when I see gangs of motorcycle drivers hanging around on street corners waiting for customers, they're entirely male. That, at least, was my impression. For confirmation, I decided to ask around.

Josta, a regular commuter, has been in Jakarta for five years. And in all that time, she's only been driven by men. "I've never had a woman taxi driver. Ever! Not since I've been in Jakarta," she told me.

But others I spoke to said they have, occasionally, been driven by a woman. "I have a vivid memory once of a driver apologizing for being female," said Fajar, who takes an ojek several times a day. "She said, "You don't mind taking a female driver do you?" And I was like, "Of course not, why would it be a problem?"" he recalled. Fajar told me that in two years of using ojeks, he's had maybe five women drivers.

They're out there, in other words. But not easy to find.

After searching for some time, I finally crossed paths with Rifka Kurniawan, who has been making her living as a motorcycle taxi driver for over a year. "There are many customers who don't want a female driver," she told me. "They want to cancel. I have to say, "No, don't cancel""

Rifka loves the job, but admitts that it's a daily struggle to be accepted on equal terms. And the biggest problem doesn't come from other drivers, but from customers. "Just this morning I took an order," she told me. "I hadn't yet met the customer, and they telephoned me. I was already at the place to pick them up, and then they asked to cancel."

Rifka asked the customer why they wanted to cancel, suspecting it was simply because she is a woman. Clearly, well-worn stereotypes about female drivers are hard to break. "There are people who think women drivers are still learning to drive," she said.

Wilhelmina, also a driver, agrees. "Sometimes if it's a man they say they;re embarrassed to drive with a woman, that they don't want to sit at the back," she told me.

A frequent ojek user I met named Rizal said he was so used to having male drivers that the first time he got a woman driver he was uncomfortable, and so asked her to sit at the back while he drove. The woman refused. But other female drivers have let him drive.

Wilhelmina and Rifka admit that they too sometimes let male passengers drive while they sit at the back, just so the passengers won't cancel and find a male driver instead. But when I asked female ojek passengers, they told me that, given the choice, they'd prefer a woman driver.

"I think it's better to have a female driver than a male driver, because I don't feel as afraid with women" Saiwan, a 17-year-old Jakarta resident, told me. "Sometimes male drivers will ask where I'm from, how old I am. I feel scared. So yeah, I'd chose female driver."

Saiwan isn't the only woman I spoke with who has had to deal with that kind of sexual harassment. Josta said the last time she took a motorcycle taxi, the driver asked: "Where's your husband? Are are you single or not?"

Female ojek drivers may be few and far between. But their numbers are growing. Rifka told me that she organized a group for women drivers, with 100 members already. Even male passengers are, in cases, starting to warm to the idea. Wilhelmina told me about one male passenger who recently took a nap on the back of her bike as she zipped through the city.

You've reached your limit of free articles.

To read the full story, start your free trial today.

Get unlimited access. Cancel anytime.

Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.

Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries.

food / travel

Legalizing Moonshine, A Winning Political Stand In Poland

Moonshine, typically known as “bimber” in Poland, may soon be legalized by the incoming government. There is a mix of tradition, politics and economics that makes homemade booze a popular issue to campaign on.

Photo of an empty vodka bottle on the ground in Poland

Bottle of vodka laying on the ground in Poland

Leszek Kostrzewski

WARSAWIt's a question of freedom — and quality. Poland's incoming coalition government is busy negotiating a platform for the coming years. Though there is much that still divides the Left, the liberal-centrist Civic Koalition, and the centrist Third Way partners, there is one area where Poland’s new ruling coalition is nearly unanimous: moonshine.

The slogan for the legalization of moonshine (known in Poland as "bimber") was initially presented by Michał Kołodziejczak, the leader of Agrounia, a left-wing socialist political movement in Poland that has qualified to be part of the incoming Parliament.

✉️ You can receive our Bon Vivant selection of fresh reads on international culture, food & travel directly in your inbox. Subscribe here.

”Formerly so-called moonshine was an important element of our cultural landscape, associated with mystery, breaking norms, and freedom from the state," Kołodziejczak said. "It was a reason to be proud, just like the liqueurs that Poles were famous for in the past.”

The president of Agrounia considered the right to make moonshine as a symbol of "subjectivity" that farmers could enjoy, and admitted with regret that in recent years it had been taken away from citizens. “It's also about a certain kind of freedom, to do whatever you want on your farm," Kołodziejczak adds. "This is subjectivity for the farmer. Therefore, I am in favor of providing farmers with the freedom to consume this alcohol for their own use.”

A similar viewpoint was aired by another Parliament member. “We will stop pretending that Polish farmers do not produce moonshine for their own use, such as for weddings,” the representative said, pointing out the benefits of controlling the quality. “Just like they produce slivovitz, which Poland is famous for. It's high time they did it legally.”

Keep reading...Show less

The latest