Shell Foundation, a UK-based charity and the UK government in association with Moving Women Social Initiatives Foundation (MOWO) launched a campaign called ‘Moving Boundaries’, to encourage women to pick up driving skills and remove roadblocks within the ecosystem to increase their job prospects in transportation businesses.

Under this campaign, Jai Bharathi, founder of MOWO is touring India on her motorbike from October 11 for a period of over 40 days and covering over 20 cities to create awareness and encourage women to learn driving to increase their job opportunities.

On November 16, Jai Bharathi reached Guwahati taking forward her campaign message. Addressing journalists in Guwahati, Bharathi said that the ‘Moving Boundaries’ campaign aims to let women know the importance of learning to drive, which in turn will provide them with various employment opportunities.

“Women all over the world face restrictions on their mobility. They are unable to travel long distance to acquire decent education or take up jobs which involve complex or unsafe commute which results in a restricted pool of job opportunities. Besides, jobs that require driving are often ‘reserved’ for men. Most women live behind this barrier and do not try to learn driving. Through this campaign we want to encourage women to come forward and learn driving so that they open a new area of opportunities for themselves,” said Jai Bharathi who rode a bike across more than 30 cities to reach Guwahati on November 16.

Starting from Hyderabad, Bharathi has covered Bangalore, Chennai, Kochi, Goa, Pune, Mumbai, Surat, Ahmedabad, Udaipur, Jaipur, New Delhi, Lucknow, Varanasi, Patna before reaching Guwahati. Further, she will travel to Kolkata and then to Ranchi and Bhubaneshwar before reaching Hyderabad.

The campaign seeks to promote awareness on the importance of women acquiring the power of driving and travelling safely to expand their horizons in all aspects of their lives. The focus is on enabling women to not only learn driving but also own electric vehicles to generate income which in turn can also reduce carbon emissions from transport.

‘Even Cargo’, a social enterprise providing training, employment, and electric vehicle ownership to women drivers is also supporting this campaign.

As part of the campaign, a WhatsApp based chatbot has been rolled out for women who would like to learn driving a two or three-wheeler vehicle or apply for a job as taxi, auto or delivery rider. Any interested person can express their interest by dropping “Hi” on the WhatsApp number +91 8885916606 and the chatbot will connect them to nearby partner organisations like Even Cargo which offer training and employment opportunities to women. The chat support is available in multiple languages.

“I am very excited to take on this 40-day journey on my motorbike across the country to meet women from all strata and hold workshops to make driving an aspirational and achievable employment choice for them. Creating a safe environment where women have access to reliable transportation and they can drive their own vehicles to earn a living is a great way to increase employment opportunities for women in a sector which has predominantly been male-centric,” she added.

Speaking on the partnership, Shipra Nayyar of Shell Foundation said: “We launched ‘Moving Boundaries’ to promote safe, affordable, and clean transportation for women for better access to basic amenities like healthcare, education, and jobs. The focus is also to create an environment whereby more women can enter the workforce by learning how to drive and becoming owner-entrepreneurs of their vehicles in the transportation linked sectors such as e-rickshaws and as delivery agents. Our ambition is to enable equal access to opportunities for women by helping them become more mobile. We hope that in the next 5 years, by supporting and helping build capacity of more such enterprises that train and employ women from low-income households, we will see a sizable number of women drivers owning and driving electric vehicles in over 100 cities and villages across India increasing safe transportation and connectivity for other women”

Promoting employment and entrepreneurship opportunities for women is an important goal for Shell Foundation. Together with the Government of UK, Shell Foundation launched POWERED (Promotion of Women in Energy Related Enterprises for Development) in 2017, a women-focused programme to increase participation of women across the clean energy and mobility value chain in India. POWERED programme supports enterprises that promote inclusion of women in jobs in the transportation and logistics sector as well as enable them to own electric vehicles to earn an income.

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