Women and girls driving change

Road trip. That’s what did last summer. We decided we needed to meet and see every one of the young entrepreneurs we’ve supported. We knew they were role models for kids, we just now, needed to know how.

Ruchi and Nitin set out on a 40 day trip.

One day, they went to Yavatmal and discovered something that everything was a little bit upside down (in a good way). There seemed to be women driving everywhere.

Kalpana, drives a red tractor, while just around the corner, Savita drives a school bus to take girls to school.

Why? Because men didn’t get around to doing it. Kalpana realized her farmer friends were in trouble because there was only one tractor. During harvest season, this meant crops could not be harvested fast enough to make it to market. So Kalpana decided she’d learn how to drive a tractor. She made a plan for getting a tractor. And now she’s helping all the farmers where she lives.

Meanwhile, Savita was looking after her children, her brothers children, and she was worried about the girls. They all went to school 5 km away but the bus service was erratic, sometimes when it was overloaded the bus would leave kids to walk home alone, through the forest. Savita would not put up with it. She too learned how to drive. She made a plan for a school bus service. And today she takes 12 girls to school, back and forth, two school trips a day. 

 

We were so excited by meeting two new women drivers that we thought about it a little more deeply.

Why do hundreds of thousands of girls bicycle to school and then once they finish school, they stop cycling?

 

“Women can do anything and everything. Of course, they can drive vehicles too. The men would generally not let the women take up the responsibilities that men had because they are scared that they will lose out on their worth. Men have their ego to maintain their powers over social systems.” Sriram, who drives a school bus in Maharashtra.

Kalpana’s Tractor

Before, farmers were tilling their fields manually, spending four days for work that can now be finished in one hour. Kalpana’s services are on time, cheaper than the competitor’s from the other village and have a special offer of allowing paying in installments. The farmers are happy with her services. And the women think that Kalpana is a superwoman, “I had thought that she would not be able to drive the tractor. It is such a big vehicle and how can a woman drive wearing a saree. I am amazed that she did it”, Renukabai observed, she’s Kalpana’s neighbour.

Kalpana

Savita’s School Bus

Savita, the sole earning member in her family works hard to sustain a family of eight – and those eight are her mother-in-law and seven children! Savita is not new to stirring things up, she’s well known for working for the empowerment of women, before we met her, she’s already organised a group rally to shut down the wine shop and worked with the women to save money in a self help group. She wanted to do something which would help everyone and most importantly girls. Everyone was taking the bus from her village in the forest to reach to the school five kilometers away. Children would walk one kilometer to the bus stop and then wait or miss the bus which was never on time. Parents would not allow the girls to go to school because it was not safe.

 

Now 12 girls from her village go to school in Bittergaon and dream of going to college too. “I am so satisfied now, my daughter is with Savita and I know she is safe”, says Kavita Bhimte whose daughter travels in Savita’s school bus.

Women drivers can change the world

We know Kalpana’s and Savita’s story will inspire more girls and women to take the challenge and start driving their own vehicles to bridge the gap of accessibility for women. This is a key indicator for the changing values in our society by learning the skills of taking initiative and breaking the rules.

Here’s the preview of their graphic novel going to print, to be released in our 2015 Design-thinking skills@school program.

Sneak peek to the graphic novel

Sneak peek to the graphic novel

Chapters from the graphic novel

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