Parveen Bibi, smoking a cigarette, sits behind the wheel of her auto-rickshaw asking men around her for directions – they stare on in amazement. In Pakistan, women are expected to avoid work and public spaces, and to stay home.
Bibi thinks otherwise.
Being a widow, she has to provide for her daughter and her three granddaughters, and the only way to do that is to gain financial independence. Thus she became one of Pakistan’s first women to drive an auto-rickshaw, courtesy the Pink Rickshaw Scheme started by Zar Aslam.
Aslam, who narrowly escaped kidnapping when she was a student, decided to come up with her own solution to the problem women face when commuting. The Pink Rickshaw Scheme, launched in Lahore in March 2015, aims to “empower women by providing them with a means of transportation and an opportunity to generate revenue.” Thus, the women-only rickshaw service was launched as both a means to provide the staff (of women) with a way of gaining financial independence, as well as to ensure the safety of women.
“Women passengers are happy that they can now travel with a female tri-auto driver and feel comfortable,” said Bibi to Reuters.