LAHORE: The Environment Protection Foundation (TEPF) arranged a rally of Pink Rickshaws on The Mall on Saturday to raise awareness about women entrepreneurs.
“A rickshaw can be a means for earning a livelihood for a woman,” said Zar Aslam, the TEPF CEO.
She said that women were harassed on roads and at workplaces. “To counter this, we have to empower women. We want everyone’s support for the initiative so we can buy more rickshaws to provide to women,” she said.
She said that currently, they had three electric and two petrol rickshaws. “We have trained 20 women to use them so far. Anyone can come and learn to drive a rickshaw. This is one way for women to take charge of their lives,” she said.
Amir Anwar, a rickshaw driver who trained the women, said the participants had learned quickly. “Most of them can now drive safely. Electric rickshaws are easier to drive. It took them sometime to get used to petrol rickshaws. For the first few times, we ask them to drive in low-traffic streets. Eventually, they are allowed to drive on main roads as well,” he said.
Rida Mahmood, a Punjab University graphic design student, is one of the people who have learnt how to drive a rickshaw. “When I was young, I dreamt of becoming an aircraft pilot because I wanted to do something unusual. Unfortunately, this did not happen. When I drove a rickshaw for the first time, it was an amazing experience. It was exciting and exhilarating,” she said.
Nausheen Ahmad, another driver, said she planned to rediscover the city in the rickshaw. “I felt as if I was flying an F-16 after driving the rickshaw from Jahangir Khan Road to the library in Lawrence Gardens. I had trained for about two weeks for this. The electronic rickshaws are smooth rides,” she said.
Nadia Jamil, brand ambassador for the Pink Rickshaw scheme, said that it was an amazing experience. “I have been driving since I was 16 years old. If you already know how to drive a car, it becomes easier to learn how to drive a rickshaw,” she said.“This is an amazing option for women who want to earn their livelihoods. Women are excelling in every field. However, you see few women drivers on the roads. This is one way of showing that women can work in the public transport sector as well,” she said.
“While I was driving, another rickshaw driver came alongside and started talking to me. He told me to keep my foot on the brake at all times as you never know when and where a car might cross you by,” she said.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 11th, 2015.