Event Details

Parallel Event: NGO CSW 61 Forum

This panel will explore how socially and economically marginalized women in India and other developing nations are challenging gender division of labour in markets and homes by engaging in non-traditional livelihoods such as driving. Riding the wheels of change in their lives and livelihoods, these women are the harbingers of a new society based on equity and dignity.

Your presence, feedback and inputs will be critical to strengthening livelihoods with dignity for thousands of resource poor women in India and other developing nations!

Challenging gender stereotyping at work

The historic sexual division of labour continues to this day, manifesting itself not only at home but also in paid labour markets where women are forced into so called feminine professions such as care and domestic work and denied access to skills, decent wages and dignity. Women from poor and socially marginalized backgrounds face double marginalization in labour markets owing first to their gender and second to their social and economic location. Non Traditional Livelihoods for women (NTL) such as professional driving challenges this in multiple ways enabling women access to technology, mobility, remunerative incomes and the public space.

Feminist Approach to Skills and Livelihoods

Empowerment of resource poor women through NTL requires much more than skills. It requires a holistic capacity building programme focusing on self development, rights awareness and feminist friendships that help women to unlearn the rules of patriarchy, challenge violence in their lives and assume control over their incomes, decisions and choices. There is a current buzz around entrepreneurship as the ideal vehicle for economic empowerment. While entrepreneurship enables asset formation and leadership, there is evidence across the world to show that it becomes hugely risky for poor women with limited resources, market linkages and social capital. It may also create dependencies on men for marketing and other issues, taking the control over business and incomes out of women’s hands. The majority of poor women from marginal communities aspire as a first step, for stable jobs with social security that help them to cope with intergenerational poverty and ensure minimum levels of nutrition, education and health for themselves and their families. This is especially true for NTL where women experience huge gender biases in the market for their services and goods. Thus if empowerment of women is a core concern, the skill plus plus approach to training along with income stability must become guiding principles of programmes involving women and work.

Experience of Azad Foundation, India

Azad Foundation mobilizes resource poor women in urban communities and takes them through a rigorous and holistic training programme before they graduate into full time professional chauffeurs or commercial drivers. These women often become principal breadwinners of the family, contest subordination and violence at home and the public space and also create safe transport options for other women in the city. Steering the car with confidence has enabled many to steer their lives with freedom, self sufficiency and dignity.

The NTL Panel

Our panel at CSW will deliberate upon the role of NTL in empowering women and leveling the playing ground of labour, livelihoods and incomes. It will highlight the importance of collective advocacy, analysis and partnerhips within feminist organizing to stand firm on our feminist practices and generate support for all these amazing women who are fighting to make a difference in their lives!

The Panel will also host a book launch of Lady Driver a recently published (Publisher: Zubaan, India) book by Azad Foundation. It is a compilation of stories of 12 extraordinary women who took training at Azad and went on to become successful drivers, despite the stiffest odds in their lives. These are riveting narratives of dreams, courage, struggle and change.

The Panelists

Meenu Vadera, Executive Director, Azad Foundation, India
Bipasha Baruah, Canada Research Chair in Global Women’s Issues and Professor of Women’s Studies and Feminist Research, Western University, Canada.
Joanne Sandler, Senior Associate for Gender at Work , Ex-Deputy Executive Director of UNIFEM (2001- 2010)
Moderated by Marilia Bezerra, Managing Partner of CARE Enterprises Inc

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