In Kolkata, we are yet to see a woman driving a yellow taxi but we have seen how the number of women drivers are on the rise in this city. In fact, a report suggests nearly 30 lakh women had valid driving licenses in Mumbai in 2020. In 2019, over 10.5 million new driving licenses were issued out of which 14.9 percent were for women. Today, we find women as delivery agents for e-commerce platforms and food delivery apps.
There is no restriction on women drivers in India, but the perception and social pressure of driving being an ‘unsafe’ profession for women still prevail. Jai Bharathi wanted to create awareness about women driving in India. She knew she had to encourage her tribe to come forward, which will also create a number of job opportunities. As the founder of Moving Women (MOWO), Bharathi started touring India on her motorbike from October 11 for a period of over 40 days. She covered almost 20 cities to raise awareness and encourage women to learn driving to increase job options.
She had started her journey from Hyderabad and has covered Bangalore, Chennai, Kochi, Goa, Pune, Mumbai, Surat, Ahmedabad, Udaipur, Jaipur, Amritsar, Srinagar, Chandigarh, New Delhi, Lucknow, Varanasi, Patna, Guwahati, Ranchi and Bhubaneswar, among others. During her journey, Bharathi also made a stop at Kolkata.
In fact, Shell Foundation, a UK-based charity and the UK government in association with Moving Women Social Initiatives Foundation (MOWO) had initiated ‘Moving Boundaries’, a campaign to encourage women to pick up driving skills and remove roadblocks within the ecosystem to increase their job prospects in transportation businesses such as taxi and e-rickshaw drivers or as delivery agents for e-commerce firms.
The campaign promoted awareness of the importance of women acquiring the power of driving and travelling safely to expand their horizons in all aspects of their lives. The focus was on enabling women to not only learn driving but also own electric vehicles to generate income which in turn can also reduce carbon emissions from transport.
‘Even Cargo’, a social enterprise providing training, employment, and electric vehicle ownership to women drivers was also supporting ‘Moving Boundaries’. As India’s first women-only logistics delivery company, Even Cargo also trains women on mobility and logistics and employs them as delivery agents to enable them to reclaim public spaces.
Commenting on ‘Moving Boundaries’, Bharathi, founder of MOWO, said: “Women all over the world face restrictions on their mobility. They are unable to travel long distances to acquire decent education or take up jobs that involve complex or unsafe commutes which results in a restricted pool of job opportunities. I was very excited to take on this 40-day journey on my motorbike across the country to meet women from all strata and hold workshops to make driving an aspirational and achievable employment choice for them. It is important to create a safe environment where women have access to reliable transportation and they can drive their own vehicles to earn a living — thus, increasing employment opportunities for women in a sector that has predominantly been male-centric.”
Based in Hyderabad, so far, MOWO has reached out to 10,000+ women and trained 1,500+ in riding two-wheelers, with required driving licenses, and placed a few of them in logistic delivery jobs.
Speaking of the partnership, Shipra Nayyar of Shell Foundation said: “We launched ‘Moving Boundaries’ to promote safe, affordable, and clean transportation for women for better access to basic amenities like healthcare, education, and jobs. The focus was also to create an environment whereby more women can enter the workforce by learning how to drive and become owner-entrepreneurs of their vehicles in the transportation linked sectors such as e-rickshaws and as delivery agents. Our ambition is to enable equal access to opportunities for women by helping them become more mobile. We hope that in the next five years, by supporting and helping build the capacity of more such enterprises that train and employ women from low-income households, we will see a sizable number of women drivers owning and driving electric vehicles in over 100 cities and villages across India increasing safe transportation and connectivity for other women.”