Millennium Post

Nexus of Good: Moving up a gear

MoWo is enabling independent and equitable mobility for women and providing them with employment opportunities, adding to the national progress

Nexus of Good: Moving up a gear

While conceptualising and leading a group of four women on a 17,000-km cross-country motorcycle expedition across Southeast Asia in February 2018, Jai Bharathi found inspiration that eventually led to the inception of Moving Women (MoWo) — a ground-breaking initiative aimed at empowering women to make them independent by offering them two- and three-wheeler training and related livelihood opportunities.

Road and transport have been catalysts that have led us to the globalised world we live in. However, through the historical lens, women have been deprived of and discouraged from taking up driving opportunities. Reasons being the deep-rooted patriarchy that has entitled men to take the drivers' seat. The infrastructure created in the country has exacerbated gender inequality. Despite making immense progress, India has been unable to harness the true potential of its female population. For effective participation of women in political, public and social spheres, it is important to deconstruct socially defined gender roles and enable them to access transport infrastructure.

MoWo aims to work towards making our roads an equal space for women. It is an effort towards creating a sense of safety for women in India. With more trained female drivers, more women will be seen occupying public spaces. Moreover, women will gain better access to employment opportunities, enabling them to break the barriers that limit their potential. MoWo and those behind this effort were convinced that it was time that women, from all walks of life, from all backgrounds, are empowered in the truest sense of the word.

For enabling more women to access public spaces, MoWo offers 2-4 weeks of intensive training programmes to equip them in two/three-wheeler driving skills using the organisation's fleet of vehicles. These carefully curated training sessions are conducted in a controlled environment to build trainees' confidence, along with providing lessons on 'road safety'. Additionally, MoWo also provides the basics of self-defence training to improve individual confidence and instil self-assurance in women. Keeping in mind the comfort of the amateurs, the training team exclusively comprises women, which removes further barriers to learning. Further assistance is provided to all successful trainees in procuring a driving license.

Equipping women with the skill of driving opens up a whole new world of employment opportunities. Apart from the skill of driving a vehicle, MoWo also provides soft skills and employment training, based on individual interests. The dedicated team at MoWo liaises with delivery and logistic service companies to assist in placing its training graduates in jobs that suit their requirements. Thus, as an extension, MoWo works as an employment bureau for women.

MoWo has collaborated with various public and private sector organisations to build an ecosystem for enabling a million women in mobility by 2030. Collaborations with local government bodies, SHG's, government colleges and NGOs working in the field of women empowerment help them reach out to the girls and women, especially from lower economic groups.

Through its outreach activities, Jai Bharathi and her team have reached out to several groups of women — young and old — and organised motivational talks and workshops to create solidarity and confidence among them. They are introduced to the idea that they could access public spaces differently if they are independently mobile. Through all its activities, MoWo has been able to make a difference in the lives of 1,200 women. A beginning has been made, but there is still a very long way to go. There has been a large demand from various organisations working in the last-mile taxi and delivery services for women driver-partners.

MoWo was invited to train women in the newly formed Narayanpet district in Telangana, where many women lacked mobility skills. By training the local women, it helped them in maximising their potential to run their own micro-enterprises. Many of them were even encouraged and trained to become training instructors which will further help them in setting up motor training institutes for women in that district. 250 women have been trained from lower-income groups with two-wheeler driving skills. Seeing the direct impact on the lives of these women, the neighbouring villages approached the MoWo team to implement the same in their villages as well. MoWo is looking at scaling this model to other neighbouring districts. Four women have been trained in the first village. These, in turn, are now training the next batch of women in their neighbouring villages. This approach will lead to a cascading effect and enhance the pool of women instructors. The aim is to scale up this model in each village and encourage some of them to start their own motor training institutes for women which is a rarity in many Indian villages.

"I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples", said Mother Teresa

These words very aptly convey MoWo's aim. It wants to create small ripples which will one day become a huge wave of transformation. The team has dedicated its voice and its tireless efforts to empower and liberate women. It is optimistic that its efforts will go a long way in making women able and equal contributors in the process of national progress.

MoWo, under the inspired and visionary leadership of Jai Bharathi, provides a great example of Nexus of Good. It started small, established the proof of a concept for a model that addresses some critical issues that beset our society; and now it is scaling by partnering with other stakeholders including government organisations. It is an effort that needs to be lauded, replicated and scaled.

Views expressed are personal

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