A new ride share service hits Adelaide this week. It is for female drivers and passengers only. Shebah is a privately owned Australian company founded by Melbourne-based George McEncroe. “People say, ‘Is this sexist?’” Georgia says. “Yes, it’s sexist. For a reason.”
“Sorry guys. This isn’t for you”
The app is designed for women and children. Since launching on 8 March 2017 (International Women’s Day), Georgia has received death threats.
“That’s always a great way to prove you’re not violent… threaten to kill someone. Honest to God. I get this one all the time… ‘When are you making Hebah?’”
She smiles. “You know what, I’m not in charge of all the apps. Knock yourself out bro. You want to do it: you want to work 120 hours a week, raise four kids on your own… I’ll show you all the directions. You want to take all the money you’ve had in the world and risk it in an app. Go nuts.”
The idea came about when Georgia, a single mother, was contemplating sources of extra income, including driving for Uber. “It just sat badly with me. Twice I registered with Uber and twice I thought, ‘This doesn’t feel safe.’”
It got her thinking. ‘Wouldn’t it be great if there was a way I could drive women and girls?’ She took the idea and ran with it, starting a GoFundMe campaign and landed an investor. “I went to work on the app in April 2016.”
“Shebah now operates in every Australian state and territory”
“Our youngest driver is 22 and our oldest driver is 72. It’s a cracking team. We’ve got transgender drivers, we’ve got drivers with disabilities, drivers who have stepped out of really high-ranking CEO worlds, we’ve got academics, writers, poets, actors, drivers who live in the burbs and raising a couple of kids. It’s a really mixed group.”
Previous to life as Shebah CEO, Georgia was a teacher, worked in the disability sector, for the International War Crimes Tribunal, I’ve worked as a comedian and broadcaster. “I had done quite a few things but primarily I’d raised four kids. When [my] marriage broke down and I lost the family home and had been the second earner as a lot of women are. You have to think about what happens when you don’t earn for that time when you’re raising a family. You can halve a house but that doesn’t compensate for so many years of not being the primary earner. It’s a big blow and it sees so many Australian women in a position where they’re scratching to stay afloat. Ride share should be something a lot of women are doing. For us it’s a no brainer. We let women drive with kids in their car. We’ve made it very female friendly. As long as the passenger knows and doesn’t mind.”
“We’ve got transgender drivers, we’ve got drivers with disabilities, drivers who have stepped out of really high-ranking CEO worlds…”
Rides can be booked two weeks in advance and rides can be booked for children. Rates vary based on the state you take your trip in, but the minimum fare, cancellation fee and baby seat charge are the same across Australia and 85 percent of every fare goes straight to the driver. “All our drivers have to have the working with children checks, police checks, roadworthy checks – which we’ve done from the get-go.”
There are 128 drivers nationwide and the search is on for more in Adelaide. “We’ve signed a few drivers and they’re keen beans. We’re working through the protocol with the South Australian government so it’s all happening. It’ll go like the clappers in Adelaide… they’re very keen.”
Drivers are equipped with cards detailing information on counseling and Lifeline services – for women who take a ride and talk about troubles in their life. One-percent of every fare goes to charities such as PANDA (Perinatal Anxiety and Depression Australia).
“Above all, it’s about safety and respect”
“We don’t take couples. We’re not trying to cut into the taxi industry, we’re not stealing Uber’s bread and butter. We’re just doing our thing for women and kids. It’s all on the ladies’ terms for once. We’ll also remove passengers who are rude to a driver. We don’t put up with that nonsense.”
There are three scenarios in which boys and men can use Shebah.
- Boys can travel unaccompanied through primary school.
- Boys under 18 can travel if accompanied by their mother or a female guardian.
- A man travelling with his female partner, and baby in need of a baby seat or child in need of a booster seat (4–8 years old), can ride in a Shebah. This is only applicable if the ride has been pre-booked on our Facebook Bookings page (see below) and the driver is aware and has agreed to the circumstances.