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Woman rides 11,111 kms across India to help generate employment opportunities for women

Jai interacting with one of the girls she met on her trip down South   | Photo Credit: SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

A 100 women auto drivers, proudly dressed in khaki shirts, some teamed with their saris and the rest with salwar kameez, pottus and strings of jasmine. This scene, at the EA Hotel in Chennai, created a lasting impression on Jai Bharathi, who is riding around the country on a Jawa 42.

An architect and an avid biker, Jai set out on the Moving Boundaries campaign on October 11 with a simple aim: that of creating awareness and encouraging women to learn driving to increase their employability.

She started the MOWO Foundation (Moving Women Social Initiatives Foundation) in Hyderabad in 2019 with this goal and has since trained 1,500 women from her city’s self help groups and Government Degree College, in riding bikes and autos, some of whom have used it to earn their livelihood.

Woman rides 11,111 kms across India to help generate employment opportunities for women

The Moving Boundaries campaign is being executed by Jai along with Srishti Bakshi, who a couple of years ago, walked from Kanyakumari to Kashmir to raise awareness about violence on women. Srishti met Jai during her walk and the two shared similar ideas about empowering women.

In 2020, Srishti became a part of MOWO, where she leads fundraising and collaborations and is handling the back-end work while Jai is on the road.

The ride began in Hyderabad, from where Jai rode to Chennai, Kochi, Udupi, Goa. She is currently in Mumbai.

The 11,111 kilometres journey, spanning 40 days, will cover Surat, Ahmedabad, Udaipur, Jaipur, Amritsar, Srinagar, Chandigarh, New Delhi, Lucknow, Allahabad, Patna, Guwahati, Kolkata, Ranchi, and Bhubaneshwar.

Woman rides 11,111 kms across India to help generate employment opportunities for women

On her quick stop in Chennai, she was pleasantly surprised to see the large turnout of not just women auto drivers but also a few women forklift operators and a COVID-ambulance driver.

“Their stories are amazing. Their families are supportive,” says Jai. Some of the women mentioned that when they go for family functions, they wear their uniform and people look at them in awe. If this format is working out so well in Chennai, Jai believes it can and should be replicated in other cities as well. “Through MOWO we also showcase the works of organisations like ANEW in Chennai and Azad Foundation in Kolkata, that are working with women in mobility,” says Jai.

Moving ahead
  • As part of the Moving Boundaries campaign, the team has a WhatsApp number where one can send a message if they or anyone they know may be interested in learning to drive or wishing to make a career out of driving. All they need to do is type ‘Hi’ and send it to 8885016606.

“There have been women who have had to quit their jobs because they did not know how to get to work,” she adds. It is important to create awareness on why women need mobility and how it will help them, says Jai. It could be anything: driving to work, dropping their children to school, driving cabs or delivering packages. Having this skill opens them up to many more job opportunities.

Woman rides 11,111 kms across India to help generate employment opportunities for women

She recalls an incident from Erode in Tamil Nadu. Jai and her team were riding through the small town during Ayudha pooja when they came across a lady doing puja in a shop. “I noticed there were two TVS XL Champ bikes parked outside the shop. One belonging to the lady and the other to her husband. The lady, a tailor, said she wanted her own two wheeler so she could go out and buy raw materials as and when needed, instead of depending on her husband,” says Jai, pleased at the self-sufficiency of the woman. At the same time, another lady, in a nightie, walked up to Jai. She was so excited to see Jai and her motorbike that she mounted the bike and clicked pictures, while requesting Jai to take her along for the rest of the campaign.

“When you see a woman on a motorbike, it is inspiring,” says Jai. She adds, “When more women take to the roads and are self dependent, they tend to feel safe.”

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Printable version | Dec 2, 2021 8:43:45 AM |

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