With my boys maturing, I know they are proud to see their mum driving on the road as a professional chauffeur. There aren’t many mums doing that!’
When Gulnaj was only 14 years old, her father died suddenly. Her mum’s income from working in a factory was not sufficient, and Gulnaj was forced to start working to help provide for her six siblings and mother. She had to drop out of school, straight after class 7.
When she was 17 she decided to marry the man she fell in love with, but her family did not accept this marriage. Gulnaj was forced to move away from her home town of Ahmedabad to Bhopal. She had always longed to come back to her hometown and eventually done so, together with her husband and three sons, 14 years later. Her family was still refusing her and her family. Gulnaj and her husband tried to set up a business together, but struggled to succeed. Eventually, they bought an auto rickshaw, but the income from it was not enough to provide for the family.
So when Gulnaj learnt from her sister who works with our partner NGO Jan Vikas about an opportunity to train as a driver at our residential Women on Wheels Academy in Jaipur, she decided to join. She always wanted to learn driving and was overjoyed at the thought of getting a job at the end of the course.
At the beginning she struggled a bit. Being nervous she failed her first driving test. But support of her husband and the programme team gave her the confidence to continue.
After successfully completing the residential course, with the help from our partner Jan Vikas, Gulnaz got a job as private chauffeur. She earns Rs. 9,500 per months, doubling what her husband is earning as auto-rickshaw driver.
‘My dream was to drive in Ahmedabad to contribute to our family income. I had some of the best moments in my life while doing the course at Azad Foundation. I could not stop crying when I got my license. It was the happiest day of my life.’
Seeing, transformation in Gulnaz, Jan Vikas decided to start Women on Wheels Programme in partnership with Azad in Ahmedabad from April 2016, under the name DriverBen. Gulnaz, as the first professional female chauffeur from the Muslim community in Ahmedabad, has already inspired many other Muslim women to join DriverBen.