September 7 2016

A Driving Force 

Karuna-Shechen’s first female e-rickshaw trainee offers a story of success—and enormous potential.

In September 2014, Shobha Devi’s life changed forever.

Shobha and her husband, a day laborer, did their best to support themselves and their two sons in Bodhgaya’s Parhanda Village. But it was difficult for the family to make ends meet: they could afford only the barest of health services, and sometimes had to skip their simple meals of rice and potato. Lacking a primary education, Shobha had limited options for contributing to her family’s income.

Rickshaw driver

Shobha Devi

This all changed when Shobha—a resourceful self-starter with a keen desire to learn—enrolled in Karuna-Shechen’s e-rickshaw training program. She and four other Bodhgaya women had expressed a strong interest in improving their families’ lives by learning a lucrative new profession, and in September 2014, they became Karuna-Shechen’s first class of female e-rickshaw trainees.

Shobha showed an immediate natural aptitude for driving. She grasped the skills and lessons quickly, and just three short months after her first day of training, she began to work as a driver.

shooba

Adjusting to the job wasn’t without its challenges: as the first female driver in Bodhgaya, she faced skepticism and mocking from many of the male drivers. But Shobha was not deterred. Determined to earn a better livelihood, and quickly becoming a favorite among local passengers, she soon won the respect of her male colleagues.

Eighteen months into her new career, Shobha has transformed her life.

Once unable to earn a significant income, she has become her family’s primary breadwinner. The family now easily affords twice their previous monthly supply of grains—and has added a nutritious array of fruits and vegetables to their diet. They can access better healthcare, and have the means to support their extended family during times of medical crisis. They are also able to invest in their sons’ educations as well as putting away funds to help their relatives with weddings and other life events. Shobha has diligently managed the payments on her e-rickshaw, obtained insurance, and begun regularly depositing money in a savings account.

Shobha’s story chronicles one woman’s hard work and triumph—
but her story is only the beginning.

The success of Bodhgaya’s first female e-rickshaw driver represents enormous potential for women in India’s towns and villages. A career as a driver is a now realistic option even for those who have not had access to education, and provides a dependable and sustainable source of income. The stability and economic advantages of the profession empower women and their families to achieve better nutrition, better health, better security, and a much-improved quality of life. And the children of steadily employed mothers will have a world of opportunity opened up to them thanks to their improved access to healthcare and education.

A new career, a new quality of life, and a new future for themselves and their children: the future is now brighter for Shobha and her family—and for Karuna-Shechen’s other e-rickshaw trainees.

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