Women empowered through driving cabs

A few years ago, a woman taxi driver would have been unheard of. Today, as many as 50 professional drivers/ chauffeurs are cruising the roads of Delhi ferrying women passengers and their families. These women, handpicked from marginalised sections of the society, have been trained and 'developed' by Sakha Consulting Wings, a social enterprise launched to provide safe transport solutions for women and by women.

While a similar initiative might have not taken flight here in Chandigarh, Meenu Vadera, founder-director of Sakha Consulting Wings believes it pays to be patient and committed. "It's not just driving skills that are imparted to these women. It's a more holistic approach - be it counselling, grooming, self defence, et al," mentioned Vadera.

In Chandigarh to address a session on 'Women as key drivers of success' organised by TiE Punjab and Chandigarh as part of its women's entrepreneurship program, Vadera is keen to replicate the successful model in cities like Chandigarh, Jaipur and Kolkata. "The idea behind the initiative has been to help women stand up on their feet and work towards a dignified living," says Vadera whose commitment to women's rights and development has been an integral part of her professional and personal life. Having been involved with grassroot level initiatives both in India and Uganda, where she was the country director of Action Aid, Uganda from 1998 to 2003, Vadera, on her return, set up Azad Foundation, a non-profit sister organisation of Sakha Consulting Wings. The Azad Foundation, recently featured on Aamir Khan's television show Satyamev Jayate, funds the training of these women drivers. "While we run a small fleet of taxis in Delhi and NCR region, the rest of the ladies who train with us are working as women chauffeurs under our Chauffeur Placement and on-call service," informed Vadera. The feedback might have been positive, she admits but the journey this far has not been easy. "While the women earn better and fixed salary, there have been dropouts due to family pressures. We might have been able to break the gender barriers on the road, but still have a long way to go to change mindsets at home," says Vadera who continues to be resolved in her commitment towards enabling women to live a life of dignity and socio-economic freedom.

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