November 27 2015

Woman Electric Rickshaw Drivers Help Reduce Air Pollution

Like so many other Indian towns, Bodhgaya is plagued by pollution from cars, trucks and motor rickshaws. To reduce air pollution, Karuna-Shechen launched an innovative project that aims to create a network of electric taxi-rickshaws driven by women.

RICKSHAW_DSCN9939Through our Female Electric Rickshaw Driver program, we train disadvantaged women to become green rickshaw drivers. We provide them with an electric rickshaw and subsidize 50% of its cost. They reimburse the remaining half progressively once they start working and earning an income.

In less than two years, sixteen women have studied in our 40-day training sessions.The project was recently expanded to the neighboring state of Jharkhand. This initiative is a resounding success. It has transformed the lives of our participants, largely under-privileged mothers. They now earn up to 600 rupies a day and can provide a better life for their children.

By subsidizing electric rickshaws we are also promoting an environmentally friendly alternative to motor-rickshaws. Bodhgaya has expanded rapidly as a major Buddhist sacred site with hundreds of thousands of visitors yearly. It is experiencing growing noise and air pollution that needs to be addressed as it creates serious health and environmental hazards. Through this program we hope to raise awareness about the dangers of pollution and the ways to prevent it.

Irshad Hussain (trainer), Ajanti Devi (trainee), Rubi Devi (trainee)

Ajanti Devi is one of our current trainees. A previous participant told her about our program. News travels fast in Bodhgaya ! She immediately applied to join the program. This 26 year single mother of two is a motivated and enthusiastic trainee. With this new job she hopes to escape poverty and provide a better future for her 6 and 10 year old sons.

Here is what Ajanti Devi has to say about being a woman doing a “man’s” job in India:

Initially, my family was not happy with my decision to join the program. We, Indian women, still face many social taboos in our daily life. It is rare to see women driving rickshaws so it is not accepted very well. But, after a couple of weeks my family changed their attitude, inquiring about my progress and even asking if I needed help.

I like this training because it shows that I can perform any man’s job. I am very grateful to Karuna-Shechen for this opportunity. I also hope to set an example for other women to follow so that many more will join the program.”