Woman power fuels the new Penn Taxi project

B. Jayalakshmi’s dream was to learn how to drive a car. At 32, she got her driver’s license, and a job as a valet at Hotel Savera. A year later, she is one of three women who will be driving Penn Taxi, Chennai’s first taxi service driven by women for women passengers. “I was previously a tailor, but I’ve always loved driving and wanted to drive all sorts of vehicles. This is a new opportunity for me and I hope to get a route where I can take college students and working women safely and comfortably,” she says.

For 28-year-old Nagomi, driving is a passion. While she has been at Savera only for a month, she too is excited at the prospect of driving women around the city. “We too travel by public transport and we know the trouble that comes with it. Women entrust their lives and safekeeping to male drivers all the time; we are glad to take that place and ensure their safety,” she says, buckling up as she gets ready to take some of the guests for a drive.

In pink shirts, black pants and a printed scarf around their collars, the women are the picture of confidence. All of them have been trained by the Association for Non-Traditional Employment for Women (ANEW) and the taxi service is an initiative of the Duchess Club Helping Hands.

Actress Ramya Krishnan, who was present to show her support to the cause, said, “It’s a male-dominated profession, but with the tenacious attitude these women have, I’m sure they will succeed.” Nina Reddy, executive director of Savera Hotels added that these taxis would be safer as women are more careful drivers. Joint Commissioner of Police (Traffic) R. Dhinakaran and racer Alisha Abdullah were also present at the event.

The taxis will begin functioning shortly, as soon as the required permissions and routes are fixed, said one of the organisers.

A concert by German musician Prem Joshua was held in the evening to raise funds for the Penn Taxi project. Speaking at the launch, he said, “This is a great initiative, but what we should look forward to is a time when women do not need separate taxis. We should work towards a world where men and women respect each other and can travel together.”