HYDERABAD: Green light? Better slam the brakes’, reads a meme on the Internet with a picture of a woman driving a car attached to it. World over, women have always been subject to ridicule about their driving skills (or lack of) and one of the biggest cliches surrounding women is about how they cannot drive.
To break such misconceptions and to provide a means of livelihood for women across the city, FICCI Ladies Organisation (FLO) Hyderabad have started a skill development initiative ‘Women in Transport’ in association with Government of Telangana and Maruti Suzuki Driving School.
While this initiative has been launched as a national programme to bring more women on to the roads and provide them with jobs, FLO’s Hyderabad chapter has made remarkable progress under the leadership of their chairman Rekha Lahoti.
Started in May 2015, the project titled ‘Unnathi’ has interviewed more than 150 women, out of which 70 were shortlisted, 20 completed the course and now 14 of them have moved to the last phase of employability training.
“The idea is to provide employment to women who are economically backward. We first interview them and then they enroll a 45-day course, where professional Maruti drivers will train them to be drivers. After months of struggle and hard work, the first batch of women will be ready for placement at the end of this month,” shares Sangeetha Kosuru, head of the skill development wing at FLO Hyderabad.
What makes this initiative a noble cause is that the course is completely free of cost. And yet, bringing more women to sign up for the initiative was an uphill task.
“We faced many challenges along the way. A lot of women dropped out midway, many of them who have joined this course are those who have never even held a driving wheel before. They were short on confidence, had a lack of self-esteem and did not receive support from family,” explains Sunitha Y, a member of Team Unnathi.
Despite all the challenges, the team managed to successfully train 14 women, who will officially be ready for employment by the end of this month.
“There is an urgent need for more female drivers in the city. The government’s ‘She Cab’ initiative never really took off and was later scrapped. So we decided to do something about it and try to make a difference. After the first batch complete the course this month, we have 26 women waiting to join the next batch,” informs Rekha Lahoti, chairperson, FLO Hyderabad.
For those who successfully complete their training, there are plenty of jobs waiting for them.
“Several IT companies have expressed an interest in the project. Actress Lakshmi Manchu has asked for female drivers. Maruti also require drivers. Women are more comfortable training under a female instructor, so there are atleast 10 vacancies in Maruti alone,” Sangeetha points out.
The advantages of completing the course are endless. After gaining an year of experience, the lady drivers will get their batch numbers and will also be eligible to buy their own vehicle at a subsidised rate.
“Finding employment for the women won’t be a problem but finding takers was a big challenge for us. APSA (The Association for Promoting Social Action) helped us find women. And now since we have laid the foundation, we expect the next year to be even more positive,” Sangeetha added.
So what about the stereotype about women being bad drivers? “I think women are safe drivers. I don’t think we can generalise. Also, it’s important for women to learn a new skill. Because if a man learns something, he would keep it to himself, but a woman shares,” Sums up Rekha.
Those interested in signing up for the initiative can contact Sangeetha Kosuru at 9885078811 or Sunitha Y at 9440697511. They may also contact the FLO office at 040-23395277.
Eligibility for Unnathi
Age: 18-40 years
Family Annual income: Maximum Rs 3 lakh
Documents: Aadhaar card or any other ID and address proof, education (SSC) and seven passport size photographs