Women employment and the safety of children form the core areas of any society’s development. An innovative project in Bareilly helped in solving challenges related to both of these issues. From the planning stage itself, the ‘Mahila E-Rickshaw Project’ was centered around the welfare of the citizens!
Under the project, underprivileged women were inducted and trained to drive e-rickshaws, conventionally a male-dominated job. It was implemented under the guidance and leadership of Shri Satyendra Kumar, who was also a recipient of Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam Innovation in Governance Award 2019 in the Women & Child Welfare category. He is a 2013 batch IAS officer who is currently serving as the Chief Development Officer of Uttar Pradesh’s Bareilly district.
A number of women in the district are abandoned by their families and often struggle to find employment. Moreover, many women find themselves inhibited behind the Purdah or customs, unable to work even when needed by their family in difficult circumstances. At the same time, crimes against children are perpetrated by drivers or conductors of their school vehicles, adding to the parents’ worries.
The Mahila-E-Rickshaw Project sought to tackle both of these contemporary issues by identifying women in need of help like Teen-Talaq victims, widows, wives of incapacitated husbands and helped them join Self-Help Groups (SHGs) through the National Urban/Rural Livelihood Missions and trained them to drive an e-Rickshaw. The women were provided bank loans for purchasing the e-rickshaws, which were then attached with various schools to provide safe and caring “Driver Didi” for the children.
How did the project unfold?
Women applicants were called for the project through public notices, newspaper articles, and district probation officers and 50 women were identified. These women were given orientation training on basic financial skills, traffic rules and were encouraged to join or form SHGs as small support groups. Driving simulation training was conducted for the women in batches and thereafter, 25 women were shortlisted for E-rickshaw driving training. After the training, their driving licenses were applied for and they received required licenses.
Thereafter, bankers were approached for financing the e-rickshaw for the trained women. Based on the credit ratings and other criteria, Bank of Baroda finalized a list of final 10 Mahila-E-rickshaw beneficiaries. By then, many schools and beneficiaries had contacted each other and some started to drive for schools, some for themselves at major circles. To give them a distinct identity, the beneficiaries were given Pink-E-Rickshaw and a separate logo.’
The project’s impact
All 10 beneficiaries have hugely benefited from their employment as e-Rickshaw owners and drivers. It has given them the financial independence and the confidence to face the world. Most of them are earning more than Rs 20,000/month, regularly paying their loan installments and saving enough for their families. Moreover, they have become role models for many other women, who are now approaching the Mahila drivers for training and financing. It has also provided security to the girls and school children travelling in the rickshaws.
This initiative can be easily scaled up to cover more beneficiaries and in other districts with a similar socio-economic setup. For large-scale implementation, there is a need for greater consultation and greater effort at creation of positive social environment.