India boasts several titles: it serves as the world’s largest democracy, holds the second largest population, and produces more mangoes than any other nation. Unfortunately, India has a less-than-stellar reputation concerning women’s rights.
Sexual violence and misogyny appear to be normalized, as evidenced by the horrific reports of rape and other crimes against women that have recently made waves in the international community. Despite this, women are fighting back using different tactics. For instance, Indian women are asserting themselves through employment to attain financial independence.
Susieben Shah, a social worker, lawyer, author, and humanitarian, recognized the urgent need for more job opportunities for females. Shah’s dream was to empower young women from impoverished backgrounds to achieve economic success. As a result, Priyadarshini Taxi Service was born in 2008.
Based in Mumbai, Priyadarshini taxis are a strange sight to behold–women are behind the wheel! In a country where the taxi service has historically been a male-dominated occupation, female taxi drivers are a rarity.
Coming from families who earn less than 10,000 Indian Rupees (~US$150) per month, employees of the organization receive free training before they begin transporting customers. Instruction on how to be safe, capable drivers is just one of the skills they learn during the rigorous three-month preparatory course. Drivers are additionally trained in self-defense and are taught communication skills, the basics of accounting, and general first aid to help them in any situation they may encounter while on the road.
Employees of Priyadarshini Taxi Service speak freely about the ways this innovative company has changed their lives. Salma, a single mother of three, says that she is happy to be able to financially support herself and her family. She believes that the money she earns will provide her children with a good education.
Salma, along with the other Priyadarshini taxi drivers, earn a salary of approximately $270 per month. Compared to the average salary of an urban Indian woman ($19 per month), these relatively high wages offer women a better quality of life due to their new found economic stability.
Not only has the taxi service proved beneficial for its employees, but for female patrons as well. According to a poll conducted by the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the world’s fourth most dangerous transportation system for women is found in India. Given this alarming fact, an all-women taxi service gives many female travelers peace of mind. One client of Priyadarshini Taxi Service says, “I feel so relaxed […] there is no man checking me out in the mirror every two minutes.” According to Shah, “the more women on the roads of Mumbai, the safer the city is for women.”
One taxi service will not change the way an entire society treats its female citizens. As more women assume typically male-dominated roles in the workforce, however, the gender gap continues to lessen and equality becomes a more attainable goal for the women of India.