By Lievanta Millar
Joint efforts by private organisation, ride share aggregator will help the women from the lower economic strata become economically independent.
A programme to bring 180 women from the other side of the economic fault line into the mainstream and make them financially independent is underway. The joint efforts by an organisation and a ride share aggregator aim at helping these women become cab driver as well as starting their own taxi business in the long run.
Under the project, the batch, which comprises mostly single mothers, widowed or divorcees, with unemployed or low-wage working husbands, and also victims of domestic violence, is receiving a three-month training at a Wadala centre.
Between April and May, volunteers from iCare Life, which has collaborated with transport network Uber for the empowerment project, visited slum pockets in Kurla, Kajupada, Dharavi, Ghatkopar and Malwani to raise awareness of the programme.
“As we visited various localities, we asked scores of women to visit our Wadala centre. We promised to teach them driving and help them find jobs at the end of the course. The focus was to dispel the notion that driving is a man’s job,” said Srinivas Kurdurkar, assistant vice-president of iCare Life.
Driving skills and traffic sense apart, the training module also includes lessons on self-defence, operating a tablet computer and communication skills. In case some participants fail to attend some part of the course due to problems at home or they fail to grasp, the trainers said they take extra classes to help them catch up. They are taught in English as well as regional languages.
Nandita Chauhan, a member of the training team, said, “The women are taught about the entire city so as to understand route mapping. Through videos and workshops, we impart lessons on vehicle maintenance including changing a flat tyre.”
At the Wadala centre, Ghatkopar resident Satvashila Sonavane says she likes learning on the tablet. The 42-year-old said she plans to encourage her daughter and widowed sister to join the programme.
“I teach them whatever I learn here. In our self-defence module, we are taught to be defensive and to avoid attack. I teach my daughter the same. It is my dream to see her drive a car. My husband does odd jobs and doesn’t have a steady income. I hope to uplift my family.”
When asked about how the course has changed her life so far, Sonavane says, “Initially I used to do all the work at home and no one appreciated it. My husband and children nowadays show more consideration and respect for me now. When I go home, they make me a cup of tea and ask me to take rest. It feels good.”
Hilima Mhaske, 32, who has separated from her husband, said she was scared of stepping out. “The course has made me confident. Now, I travel all the way from my Kurla home to here. I like the self-defence module the most,” said Mhaske, who lives with her brother and grandmother.
Asked if women will be able to manage this male-dominant profession, Mhaske said, “The change has to start somewhere. I believe, we 180 women, will be the leaders of the same. We will initiate it.”
Throwing light on the future of these women after the course, which is expected to get over in a few weeks, Prashant Tambe, COO of iCare Life, said, “We do not charge these women anything as we want them to be skilled in a way that will help them in future. We have a tie-up with Uber which will also help these women acquire driving jobs. Through our tie-ups, we will arrange to finance their cars for their businesses.”