In driving, people salute you. You can interact and work with nice people like my client who always helps me learn more. You can change your life.
My name is Mamta Varma. I am 20 years old and live in Jhalana basti in Jaipur.
At the age of 10, I was married to a man who was almost 10 years older than me. He and his parents used to beat me badly. On many occasions I tried to run back to my parents, but they refused to take me back, saying I should stay with my new family, that they were the ones responsible for me then. One of my sisters was married to a brother of my husband, but even she did not support me. In fact, she used to lie to our parents, telling them that I was responsible for all the troubles as I was lazy and did not do anything.
Thankfully, my older sister and my sister-in-law saw what I was going through, and took me away from my in-laws’ house and helped me fill in a report at the police station.
Living back at my parents’ house, one day I heard about Women on Wheels from Azad’s mobiliser Meena who came into our community. Then another day, I saw one of Azad trainees driving a car and thought that I also wanted to become a professional driver. Driving is a different profession. I wanted to do something different, something new. I kept searching for the organization providing the training, until one day Meena came to my house to talk about Women on Wheels. So I enrolled for the training.
At first, I was very quiet, too quiet. My in-laws used to tell me that I wasn’t good for anything, that I did not have any good qualities, so it had taken some time until I started believing in myself. I also walked out of the programme twice due to family and community pressures. My family wanted me to earn and they pressurized me to leave as I had been already training for six months and didn’t have a job yet. Azad team kept calling me and asked me to come back, but my family stopped me from going back many times. Then, Meena came to my house and spoke to my parents, pleading them to give me a chance. She encouraged my parents to come to the training centre so they could see it was a good place for me to be a part of. My brother too has been giving me a lot of support. He is part of Azad’s men support group in our community and has helped me to convince my parents to allow me to continue in this non-traditional profession.
So eventually I completed the training and got a good job as private chauffeur. My client is really supportive and I really enjoy working for her. Before the training, I was too shy to speak to people, I would not say even one word. I had no confidence and not the right attitude. Now I can speak to anyone with confidence and I can explore places all over Jaipur – before I joined Women on Wheels I was afraid to leave the house. I also changed the way I dress.
I earn my own money, which I decide how to spend. My family now supports and appreciates me. They don’t mind even when I return home late from work. They tell my sister, who was always saying bad things about me, that I am free to do the work I chose to and live the life I want. They also say that if I want to, they would help me remarry, but I want to stay single for few more years first and see more good things.
I want to say to other girls – don’t do something traditional like sewing, don’t go to work in an export house. In those jobs there is not much dignity and earning. In driving, people salute you. You can interact and work with nice people like my client who always helps me learn more. You can change your life. People will taunt you but eventually they will realise it is a good activity and give you support.
Every day we meet many resource-poor women like Mamta, who dream of escaping 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 empower women to get on wheels.