If you are a woman who is fed up of depending on men for transport, perhaps you could consider the Women on Wheels motorcycle training starting in Karachi November 25, Monday, at the University of Karachi.
The programme launched on Sunday, November 24 at Frere Hall where women got themselves registered and learnt about the sessions.
“Almost 49% of our population is dependent on someone else for doing whatever they want to do,” said the programme’s founder Salman Sufi. “Wherever a woman goes she has to take help from her brother or husband or has to rely on cab services.”
If a woman who does not own her own car wants to get from point A to point B, she will have to either ask a male relative or friend to take her on his bike, or in his car. Her other option is a ride-hailing service. Not all women can afford them. The other choice is public transport, which also ends up putting a dent in your pocket by the end of the month.
“I have been riding a motorbike for the last four years,” said Shumaila Qureshi, a former member of the Pakistan Women’s cricket team and a current coach. “I don’t just commute on it to and from work easily, but it is also an economical option for me.”
Qureshi said that previously she had to rely on her brother to take her to her practices at the stadium which irritated him a lot. “Ever since I started riding the bike, my dependency on him has ended.
In fact, there are a lot of times when I’m taking other women of my family to run errands on my bike.”
WoW teaches women how to ride a motorcycle free of cost. It has already trained more than 5,000 women from five districts of Punjab since it launched there last year with the help of the government’s Strategic Reform Unit.
“If you know how to ride a bicycle, you can easily get trained within four to five days including safety training,” said Sufi. “Otherwise, you will be ready within 10 days.”
WoW does not have any age restrictions. If you are 18 years you can sign up. The programme not only teaches you to ride a bike but also gives you anti-harassment and road safety training.
The men who ride motorcycles are not always professionally trained, Sufi said. “So the women we train are not just better drivers than men but are also aware of the rules and regulations of riding motorbikes.”
“Nobody from my family knows that I registered for the training,” said Maham Ayesha, an engineering student at NED University of Engineering and Technology. “Had I told them, they wouldn’t have had let me come.”
“But, I have always been passionate about riding bikes and this is the perfect opportunity for me to learn.” She said that once she has learned how to ride a motorbike, she plans on buying one.
“It will be difficult convincing my parents, but it’s worth a shot,” she added. “It’s time I get my freedom back.”
Women who complete the training will get a WoW certificate. A special desk will be set up at the city’s traffic police department where women with certificates will be able to easily get their licenses.
Fifty-year-olds have even signed up and bought their own bikes afterwards. “Motorcycles are an economical option,” Sufi explained. “They are not only affordable but can also be easily maintained.”
The programme also places women in jobs after training and will help them with microfinance loans to buy motorbikes. “We have a separate plan for women who want to purchase bikes,” said a representative of Finca Microfinance Bank, which has collaborated with WoW. “Through the plan we will waive off of nearly 20% to 25% of the amount of the bike for women with limited resources,” he said. “The rest of the amount can be paid through installments in a time span of three years,” he added.
“We have signed an MoU with Careem,” Sufi explained. “In a week an option of Women on Wheels will be available on the app through which you will be able to take a ride with a woman motorcyclist.” A similar option will also be available on Bykea.
WoW’s goal is to train more than 10,000 women from Sindh by March 8, 2020, International Women’s Day.
Afia Salam, a journalist and social activist, believes that the programme will bring about a transformation in society and will empower women. “WoW is not just a programme, but is a transition for society,” she said. “Something that has been so common in other countries is getting launched here. The slogan of independence for women that this programme has brought will fill a huge gap in our society.”
To enroll, register by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
“By the end of 2020, Women on Wheels will be a national programme and become an incubator for women’s mobility needs that we can provide them support with,” Sufi added.