WOW Behind the Scenes : Pinki

These are the stories of WOW Mobilisers from Youth Resource Cells. Mobilisers are youth leaders who are specially trained to help community women join the Women on Wheels programme. The stories are meant to capture both the challenges and strategies involved in working behind the scenes. Some names have been changed to protect the identities of people involved.

Pinki, founder member:YRC Alor Sandhan
WOW Mobiliser [mobilised 6 of the 9 women
in the 1st WOW batch]
Read her earlier post
I've known Sandhya since i was very little. She was rarely home because she worked in Delhi all those years. I later found that she was engaged as a domestic care-giver since she was 11 years old. She's 22 now.

When I approached Sandhya with this news about women chauffeurs, she was really excited to join the training programme at first. But then she got very upset and worried when I told her that passing Class VIII was a minimum requirement. I found out more about this and assured her that if she was confident, then that rule could be relaxed for her as a special case.

Her family however was completely against her training, and created a lot of pressure for her to stop. Her father, an alcoholic, was keen to send her back to her earlier workplace in Delhi, because for him that was assured steady money for the family. Even though my team and I repeatedly tried to counsel and explain to him, Sandhya's father frequently beat her up. He would say “She has no basic education, does not ever know the roads properly... how will she drive? Driving is not a good profession for her”. One day, my parents and I had to rush to Sandhya's place because her father had picked up an heavy sickle and was threatening to attack her. We stopped this and had to file a police complaint against him too.

But we never lost hope. The first few days, I accompanied Sandhya to the training centre because she had never traveled alone before. I kept on pushing her to complete the training, following up with her at least thrice a week, and supporting her whenever required. I helped her to get a loan from Azad Foundation since their financial condition was quite poor. Sometimes I helped her with basics of English at home, or counselled her to resolve small misunderstandings that upset her at the Training.

Sometimes, when I heard Sandhya pronouncing new English words, I'd notice and ask "where did you learn those from?". "Here and there" she'd say. I would encourage her by saying “We don’t learn everything from a book... you too will learn to communicate in English on the job.” I like to think that these things encouraged her and helped her build self-confidence.

After several months of training, an exam was held in the Training centre, where I helped Sandhya by reading out the questions. She answered them in her own words and scored the highest! We shared the happy news with her father. Then when Sandhya drove a car for the first time, we happily described that to her father.

Sandhya finished her training successfully and was felicitated along with her batchmates at a big event in the city. Her father has become calmer and the frequent fights at her home have reduced.
I know Jyotsna since we were children; in fact we are distant cousins. She’s 26, and lives with her old mother who somehow manages to run the household with very little money that she earns as a domestic help. Her father had passed away several years ago.

I had first approached her sister Archana with the news on women chauffeurs, and persuaded her to encourage Jyotsna as well. In between, my team & I lost contact with her a few times, but managed to follow up with her till she completed her training.

Some of her neighbours are a bit educated and taking training on Nursing. They continuously deterred her by saying “What will you do with this training on driving? Why don’t you too enroll yourself for Nursing classes like us? If you stop working for these 6 months of training, how will your old mother run the family with her small income?” Jyotsna hadn’t completed her school, and was puzzled for a while with these discouragements. She once told me “I’m not sure about driving. What if I cause an accident?”. But she also said learning to drive was once her dream, if not as a profession!

Her mother never discouraged her in anything. My team & I constantly encouraged her & tried to show her the advantages of driving as a profession. We also explained to her about the safety measures & principles those will be practiced for them by their employer [Sakha] on the job. Because of these regular encouragements from us, Jyotsna started to believe in herself. “I will show them that I can do what they can’t” she said.

Recently Jyotsna almost got a job as a chauffeur but her joining had to be postponed for a while due to a recent detection of her having an ear disease. The doctor had suggested an operation which could be done free of cost from a well known Government hospital, if only they can wait for a while. In case of hurry, the operation can be done at a private Nursing home at some cost. Dolondi [of Azad Foundation, Kolkata] helped Jyotsna with all the financial support needed for the medical treatments. The doctor has assured that Jyotsna will be completely cured after the operation and will be able to drive and work normally.

All of us are immensely hopeful for her to be an excellent chauffeur!
Jyotsn'a older sister is in her 30s. When I approached her with the news about women chauffeurs, she was very excited to join the WOW program. Later when the TF team organized a WOW workshop in our community she was totally convinced.

Archana lives with her husband, two children and her mother-in-law. Both her husband and mother-in-law go out to work; other than her, there is no one at home to take care of the small children. Her husband was initially against her leaving the children alone to attend the training program, but after my team & I explained to him, he stopped worrying any further.

Archana cleared the driving test smoothly. I keep in constant touch with her, keep on motivating her. She, her family and I are all hopeful about her career as an efficient chauffeur.
Soniya is around 20 years old and stays in our locality. I had first told her elder sister to talk to her about the WOW Program, she had laughed at it, saying “I don’t think Soniya can do.” I insisted that she talk to Soniya, saying “That is your judgment about her. Let her decide for herself.” Later we called Soniya to our attend the workshop where we explained the program.

Initially Soniya had many doubts about problems that could arise during after the training. I motivated her by showing the brighter side. A major problem with her was her tardiness. In the early days she would wake up late and could not reach in time. Her mother would say “My daughter has never had worked so much, she is not used to wake up so early.” So we used to wake her up in the morning, and requested her family to cooperate with us. We had to push her up a lot and motivate her regularly so that she does not leave the training half way. We knew that her financial condition was poor, and that the training could actually benefit their whole family in the long run.

She completed the training program and was felicitated at a big event which was attended by her mother. We are all hoping her to get a job very soon.
I've known Sunita as a neighbour for over a decade. When I had first approached her mother she was quite apprehensive and did not agree. Her point was “Neither does Sunita know roads well nor is she smart enough to be a chauffeur.” I explained her about the safety and self defense classes within the program to gave her confidence.

Sunita was very interested in joining the program. Archana, her neighbour and co-trainee, also encouraged her a lot. Sunita’s father is a rickshaw puller, and her mother a daily labourer. Sunita herself worked as a housekeeper to support her family, and was always keen to improve their financial condition. At first though Sunita was a bit hesitant but after attending 2/3 training classes she gathered enthusiasm.

We followed up with her regularly to give encouragement. After successfully completing the training, she was placed in a vehicle company where she gives test drive to potential buyers of the vehicles. Her family is very happy. Her mother exclaims with joy “I had never imagined that she will get such a good job!”
Mamata is 31, a mother of two daughters and a son. She and her husband always struggled to pay the rent and their children’s school fees. One day when she visited our home, I spoke to her about the WOW training program; she immediately found it interesting and was eager to join the course. She already had some basic idea on driving and riding bike, and seemed to be quite confident from the beginning. The only thing that bothered her was taking a break from her work during the months of the training. Mamata often said “If I don’t earn, how will I run our family, how will I send the kids to school?”

I told her about the facility of taking loan provided by Azad Foundation, and also assured her that if she could acquire the skills of efficient driving in six months, she would be able to bag a job early. Looking at her confidence in road, I was pretty sure that she would learn it fast. Once Mamata enrolled her name in the training program, she did not look back.

Mamata was not reachable by phone most of the time, so we'd have to depend on local sources to get updates on her training. We occasionally met her husband on road, and he happily said “Mamata is driving well. We now want our daughter to also take up the driving training course once she becomes eligible.”