In the driver's seat

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NEW LIFE Women auto drivers will soon be seen on the streets of Hyderabad
NEW LIFE Women auto drivers will soon be seen on the streets of Hyderabad

Women auto drivers will soon ferry children from school and back, all thanks to a woman entrepreneur. RENUKA VIJAY KUMAR finds out more

Helping economically weak women by encouraging them to learn to drive an auto and eventually helping them buy one of their own takes the definition of women's empowerment to a new level. Entrepreneur Dipali Mehta has launched the `DM Woman Power Project,' a programme by which women can supplement their income by riding an auto for a few hours a day. "These autos will only be used to pick up and drop school children and will ply during school hours only for two hours in the morning and two hours in the evening." The idea germinated when Dipali's maid lost her husband and was left to support two children. "She insisted that I increase her wages, but I realised that this wouldn't really solve the problem. I also realised that there were other women like her who either had drunkard husbands or were widowed and left to fend for themselves. That's when I began thinking of the feasibility of having them drive autos for a few hours a day." So, women who need to earn an additional income can do so respectably. So far widows, divorcees, orphans and those who need financial assistance have enrolled in the programme.

Plan of action

Dipali has printed pamphlets of the "Help a Woman' project, and has handed them out in schools and to parents. "Theresponse has been very encouraging. Some parents have come forward saying they will send their children by these autos the moment we begin, while others have asked if they can enrol women they know in this programme." So far 30 parents have given the go-ahead and have agreed to enrol their children in the auto programme. Silona Patnaik, a housewife and mother of two children has no apprehensions about her children being driven by women auto drivers. "They because they will give better attention to my children. Moreover, Hyderabad is a safe city and the timings are during the day, so we are not worried."This endeavour has also received support from many prominent schools in the city like Vidyaranya, Geetanjali Public School, St Ann's High School, Neeraj Public School and St Francis Girls High School.Initially she plans to have 50 autos and begin the project by the coming academic year, but is waiting for the Government Order to be passed that will allow these additional autos on the road for those few hours a day. Younger children will be put in an auto with an older child for safety reasons and the cost per month will be between Rs. 500 and Rs. 1000. "Schools will be given a CD with the names of the children and the driver's details," says Dipali. To tackle unforeseen events, women will be taught self-defence, as well as the basics of mechanics like changing a tyre. "There are a couple of women who drive auto-trailers and they will teach these women how to drive an auto safely. The women will also be made to carry cell-phones," says Dipali. She has also spoken with police officials who have offered her their support in case there is a problem on the streets with fellow auto drivers. Volunteers to teach driving, self-defence skills and even financial aid for the project are welcome. You can contact Dipali at the DM WPP office on 9348777407.




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