Whether it is commuting to work, running errands, or going for a cup of coffee with a friend, women do not have it easy when it comes to mobility in Pakistan.
A motorcycle training programme, called Women On Wheels (WoW), is all set to launch in Karachi on November 25.
WoW is being launched by former director-general of the Punjab chief minister’s Strategic Reforms Unit and activist Salman Sufi, who has earlier worked for rights of women, minorities and sanitation workers.
Speaking to SAMAA Digital, Sufi said under the project, six to eight trainers will train women on how to ride a motorcycle and get a driving licence.
“Forty-nine percent of Pakistan’s population consists of women, but most of them are dependent on men for their day-to-day activities,” Sufi said, adding that women who do commute through public transport face many problems such as harassment and groping.
“WoW is an initiative to help women reclaim public spaces by taking charge of their mobility,” the activist remarked.
The training will start from two areas of Karachi, Clifton and one inner-city area which has yet to finalised. It will then expand to other areas. Along with motorcycle training, road safety workshops will be conducted.
We asked Sufi about who can apply to the programme.
“Women of any age are welcome to apply. However, if participants have previous knowledge of riding a cycle, the training gets easier. But if they don’t know how to ride a cycle, we will teach that first.”
For women who cannot afford, it will be free. For those who want to help the campaign and can afford, there will be a minimum fee that will be used to expand the project to all over Pakistan.
“A helmet and a good vision are also necessary,” Sufi added.
The programme first launched in 2016 with the help of then Punjab chief minister Shehbaz Sharif. More than 5,000 women in Lahore, Multan, Faisalabad, Rawalpindi and Sargodha were trained. Over 700 subsidized motorcycles were provided.
Participants can register by sending an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. The organisers will contact them about the programme details a week before the training starts.
You can also register by clicking here: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSdO-uB7qgECMbwMtZWuBo4TCq5zyRb4q0jBlmxqrCjoXgw8Mw/viewform
WoW is not being funded by the government, Sufi revealed. “The project wasn’t the priority of the existing government.”
He is waiting for a meeting with the Sindh government but said that regardless of their support, WoW will continue on its own. “It’s a self-sustainable model and the civil society is strong enough to run it independently.”
The programme is expected to launch in Lahore and Islamabad in early 2020.