The Women on Wheels programme empowers resource poor women to become professional drivers to enable them to gain remunerative ‘livelihoods with dignity’. The programme also enhances their awareness on rights and enables them to become independent and confident individuals in charge of their lives.
The Women on Wheels programme started in 2008 in Delhi. Since then it has expanded to Jaipur, Kolkata, Ahmadabad, Bangalore and Indore.
In 2015 436 women enrolled in Women on Wheels programmes across Kolkata, Indore, Jaipur and Delhi. Of these, 318 women acquired their learners licence with 229 achieving their permanent licences.
In 2016-17, 582 women enrolled in Women on Wheels programmes across India, with 322 women achieving their permanent license, which was a 41% increase on the previous year.
By preparing and placing women drivers as professional drivers, the Women on Wheels programme enables socially excluded female members of the society to move from the margins to mainstream economy. Through this process, we alter public perceptions about women’s participation in the booming public transportation sector and the role and status of women in society.
The Women on Wheels training and support
Women on Wheels works with young women, mostly aged 18-35, living in slums and resettlement colonies in cities, with meagre economic capital. Most of them are either out of work, or work in low paid professions traditionally assigned to women. Many trainees have dropped out of formal education prior to completing class 12, hence their employment choices are limited. Many have not been outside their neighbourhood and several live in abusive relationships.
Women on Wheels programme provides technical, self-empowerment and self-development training to fully equip women to become self-sustaining professional drivers. Once qualified, the women drivers are transferred over to our partner organisation Sakha Consulting Wings Pvt Ltd that provides employment opportunities in private chauffeur placements and Sakha Cabs for Women by Women.
“WHEN I WAS TRAINING, I WOULD FEEL LIKE I COULD STAND ON MY OWN FEET, I COULD DO ANYTHING. BECAUSE OF THAT I FEEL LIKE I’M LIVING MY LIFE FREELY TODAY – RESHMA, DELHI”
How are we doing it?
Upon a successful registration for the programme, women commence our learner-centred training programme, which takes between six to eight months depending on the individual pace of a trainee. Azad works with a range of government, business and non-governmental partners to offer the highest quality training.
In addition, the programme team assist the trainees to acquire citizenship document and accident insurance, open a bank account and obtain a uniform and mobile phone. If needed, we also engage family members to ensure women receive on-going support throughout their learning journey to complete the training. Women with very little means are also offered financial and other support.
“I LIKED SELF-DEFENSE THE BEST. WE WERE TAUGHT HOW NOT TO TOLERATE ANY NONSENSE ON THE ROAD. THOUGH I HAVE NOT HAD A NEED TO USE IT, I AM SURE I WILL BE ABLE TO PUNCH IF REQUIRED!” – MADHU PAWAR, JAIPUR
Fostering change agents
We work with Azad trainees to facilitate improvements in the lives of their families and communities. Our team works with women’ rights organisations and networks to ensure the trained women drivers are empowered to protect their lives and dignity and that of other vulnerable members of their family and communities.
“IF SOMEONE SAYS ANYTHING NASTY TO ME NOW, I KNOW HOW TO GIVE IT BACK TO THEM. EVEN IF ANOTHER WOMAN IS GETTING HARASSED… EVEN IF SOMETHING HAPPENS AT 12 O’ CLOCK AT NIGHT IN THESE LANES, I WILL JUMP OUT TO GO SEE” – ANJU, JAIPUR
The training modules on women’ rights, protection from sexual harassment and violence, sexual and reproductive health and others are the building blocks of this process. In addition, we facilitate a network of women drivers so they can support and learn from each other. We also provide access to counsellors to ensure women are accompanied throughout their journey and have somewhere to turn to if facing domestic violence.
We engage with awareness campaigns that can make an impact on the lives of women drivers and their communities. Azad women drivers and trainees are part of the women’s movement advocating for gender equality in India. Through their engagement, Azad has been able to take the One Billion Rising Campaign and ‘16 days of activism against violence on women’ to the slums, bastis and many ‘middle and upper class’ localities in the Indian cities we work in. Our women drivers and trainees have also participated in and learnt from several campaigns such as the ‘Safe Delhi Campaign’, ‘Say No to corruption campaign’, ‘Say no to violence against women’, ‘I WILL go out’, and others.