Born to a poor family in Bagli, Dewas, Prabhavati Yadav moved to Indore after marriage. After meeting financial difficulties, she decided to take up a job. Now she drives a Tata Indica and the Rs 7,000 that she earns goes towards easing the family’s monetary burden.
Prabhavati is one of 45 women from Indore’s slums who has learnt how to drive under the ‘Women on Wheels’ programme. An initiative of Rajendra Bandhu, a social activist, five women from the programme have already found employment. The women also learn judo to help them face untoward situations.
“I conceived this idea and later, when I watched an episode of Satyamev Jayate, I learnt that a similar initiative was taken by Azaad Foundation, Delhi. I contacted them and they decided to help us by providing a part of the resources,” Bandhu, who has been working in Indore’s slums for the past 2O years, said.
Bandhu then started meeting people, encouraging them to send their daughters and wives to learn how to drive. “It took five months to motivate them. I covered 65 slums of the city and now we have 45 drivers,” he said.
“I was fascinated to lean judo, English and the Motor Vehicle Act. I feel that I can do anything by learning these skills,” said Ritu Nawale, who is waiting for a job. “In the last six months, my communication skills have drastically increased. I can now talk to anyone on any issue,” she said.
The families of these women are also very happy. “It proves that women can do anything in this world and help their families in any situation. I am very happy that my daughter is doing something which has given her confidence,” said Ram Sevak, whose daughter Rama is a driver with Women on Wheels.
The programme has faced its own hurdles. “People were hesitant to send women to learn professional driving as they were worried about their security. Another hurdle was that some of the girls did not even know how to drive a two-wheeler, and therefore it took them a long time to learn driving. The third problem which we are still facing is the fact that since the society is patriarchal, people don’t want women driver and hence we have less clients,” said Bandhu.
However, the programme has instilled the women with a lot of confidence. “Yes, it’s true that some people think that women cannot be a professional driver, but I believe that women can do anything which men can do,” said Pramila Jonore, who is working as a driver.