Virginia Tech Helps Mobilize Female-Led Driving Schools and Taxi Services to Reduce Gender-Based Violence in South Africa | VTx


When Joanie Fredericks founded Ladies Own Transport in South Africa, her mission was simple: to serve and protect women.

South Africa has one of the highest rates of violence against women and girls, and this violence occurs frequently on public transport. In 2018, Fredericks launched Ladies Own Transport to offer driving lessons for women so they don’t need to depend on public transport. Now, Fredericks also offers a carpooling service that offers rides for women by women.

That’s when Jessica Agnew from Virginia Tech got involved.

“As a specialist in small and medium-sized businesses and a personal supporter of women-led businesses, I immediately became interested in Ladies Own Transport,” said Agnew, deputy director of research, operations and program management at the Center for International Research, Education and Development. “Given the range of specific skills at Virginia Tech, our motto of Ut Prosim (May I Serve) and our public engagement mission as a global land grant university, I was confident that I could find groups on campus interested in helping this business grow and exploit its strengths. already valuable.

One of these groups was led by Dirk Buengel, assistant professor of practice at the Pamplin Business College. He incorporated Ladies Own Transport into his undergraduate management consulting course, and a group of four female students began working with Fredericks to develop a business plan and growth strategy for his company.

“I was first drawn to the Ladies Own Transport project because it was a business owned and operated by women with a powerful mission,” said Marley Blycher, one of the co-workers at the project. “I am passionate about women’s rights and wanted to work with Joanie on her mission to create social change for women in South Africa. Our team has learned invaluable lessons about doing business internationally and the challenges it can bring. We hope the work we have done with this business and the tools we have provided will help it thrive so that it can become a resource that all women in South Africa have access to. ”

Blycher was joined by his classmates Lauren Miller, Maddie O’Reilly and Julianne Anderson to develop the business plan.

Buengel said the management consulting program is designed to develop the next generation of great business leaders and management consultants. The Fredericks company provided the perfect setup.

“We strive to provide practical skills and experiential learning opportunities that students can apply right after graduation,” he said. “Ladies Own Transport helped students develop a global business perspective and provided a concrete example of Pamplin’s approach to improving the human condition. It shows the importance of educating professional and ethical business leaders.

Agnew also connected College Women in Business (CWIB), a professional development and social engagement organization from Pamplin, to Ladies Own Transport. With women’s empowerment being a key goal of the organization, CWIB hosted two fundraising nights for the Fredericks-based company and invited her to attend a monthly membership meeting.

“When we heard Joanie’s story that women in her community are not safe taking other ridesharing services, and it influenced Joanie’s entrepreneurial dream of starting a business that encompassed l ’empowering women, we knew that the partnership between Ladies Own Transport and CWIB would be beneficial for both of us, ”said Caroline Macri, Co-CEO of CWIB.

In 2020, more than 53,000 sexual assaults were reported in South Africa, although given the barriers to reporting, the number is likely much higher. Fredericks aims not only to protect women from such experiences, but also to provide them with stable income opportunities that could pave the way for them.

On the first day of Fredericks Driving School, 500 women signed up. In South Africa, a driver’s license can open the door to employment. With such a demand, Fredericks is leading a campaign to provide scholarships for women to attend for free. Ladies Own Transport has also started a mechanical workshop for women in South Africa to learn how to solve mechanical problems in cars.

“Working with Virginia Tech has proven to me that it doesn’t matter where women are physically to support and empower themselves,” Fredericks said. “This collaboration is living proof that it is enough for women to believe in each other. That Virginia Tech believed in me so firmly gave me the strength and determination to be more, better, bigger and to strive for the best for women’s empowerment and safety.

The Center for International Research, Education and Development, which is part of Awareness and international affairs, continue to collaborate with Fredericks to grow Ladies Clean Transport as well as helping catalyze the strengths of other small businesses and women-owned businesses around the world. Anyone interested in participating in this collaboration can send an email to Agnew.


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