I can take care of myself and I feel no fear
Coming from a poor family, Jyotsna and her widowed mother used to subsist on meager Rs 6000 per month which her mother earned as a maid. Jyotsna enrolled with Women on Wheels training programme in Kolkata in 2015 and is currently employed as a valet in Medica Super-Speciality Hospital, one of the premier hospitals of the city. Earning Rs 7000, she has doubled her family income. During her training, Jyotsna faced a major crisis when people realized that she had a problem with hearing, which could have prevented her from getting a job as driver. However, with financial assistance from Azad, Jyotsna was able toundertake a surgery, and straight after she got a job.
Jyotsna, now 27, delights in being able to conquer her fear of roads. Earlier, she would not leave her house or immediate neighborhood. Now she is confident to go anywhere and everywhere at all times, day or night. Sometimes she does not reach home from workuntil 10.30pm. Aware of laws, roads and trained in self-defence by Azad, she is not afraid. ‘I can take care of myself and I feel no fear’, she says.
One of her biggest gains by becoming a driver, according to Jyotsna, is the respect she has been able to acquire in the eyes of her neighbors. Earlier many people in the community would not speak to her or her mother because they were from a tribal community. Jyotsna says that now: ‘Even the influential and rich people in the neighborhood, the political leaders too come and speak to me and my mother. Whenever I walk along the street in my neighborhood, people point at me saying that ‘this is the girl who has become a driver’!”
Jytosna was interviewed by a leading newspaper and her photo and story were published. ‘After my photo was published, I became even more famous! Now even strangers come up and congratulate me!” Jyotsna further says that this new respectability gives her other kinds of freedom too – such as the freedom to wear shirts and pants. “I wear a shirt and pant to work—but nobody says anything because they know this is my uniform and they respect my job”. At the workplace, important guests also speak to her because she is a lady driver.
Being recognized by so many, being respected and treated with dignity is a new sensation for the tribal girl from a poor family. She dreams now of building a house and caring for her mother. Jyotsna says that she will not marry unless the man respects her and her mother and is willing to take care of her mother. Could she think like this before? ‘No’, says Jyotsna, ‘Azad and my job as a driver has given me clarity of thought, courage to speak, right to dignity and ability to set my own terms of existence’.
Every day we meet many underprivileged women like Jyotsna, who dream of liberating themselves from poverty, violence and the world of restrictions. Women who want to build a brighter future for themselves and their loved ones. They want to be able to do this themselves, but need your help. Donate now to liberate women.