Oct 222012
 

Voice 1

Welcome to Spotlight. I’m Robin Basselin.
Voice 2

And I’m Ryan Geertsma. Spotlight uses a special English method of broadcasting. It is easier for people to understand, no matter where in the world they live.

[audio:http://spotlightradio.net/media/audio/lo/se-5324m.mp3|titles=Spotlight – Women Taxi Drivers]

Voice 1

The city of New Delhi, India is known for traffic. The sounds of engines and car horns fill the streets. It is common to see New Delhi streets crowded with buses, small cars, and other kinds of small vehicles. And many of the street’s vehicles are taxis. These taxis are cars driven by trained drivers. They drive paying riders all over the city. Taxis are a major business in New Delhi.
Voice 2

While taxis are common in New Delhi, women taxi drivers are not. Almost all paid and trained drivers in New Delhi are men. However, an organization called the Azad Foundation is trying to change that. Today’s Spotlight is on this new program. It is giving women power through driving.
Voice 1

New Delhi is a very large city – more than 12 million people live in it. And like many big cities, parts of New Delhi suffer from poverty and violence. New Delhi is an especially dangerous place for women. It has the highest rate of violence against women of all India’s cities.
Voice 2

This violence and poverty negatively affects many women in New Delhi. Wealthy women in New Delhi can safely travel around the city. They can buy their own cars and pay private drivers. However, poorer women can only travel using taxis and other lower cost forms of transportation. Often, the fear of danger keeps these women from travelling around the city. This limits the kind of jobs a woman can have. And it can also keep her from completing her education.
Voice 1

Meenu Vadera recognized these problems. She decided to find a solution. Now Meenu is the leader of the Azad Foundation. This non-governmental organization “seeks to provide ‘good jobs’ for young women from poor communities.” When the foundation began, the leaders decided that taxi driver training would be a good way to do this. So, in 2008, the Azad Foundation began seeking women for their program. The program had three purposes. One, to help answer the need for more taxi drivers in New Delhi. Two, to provide a safe way for women and visitors to travel around the city. And three, to support disadvantaged women through job training and education.
Voice 2

Meenu explained more about the foundations’ goals when she talked with Panos London’s writer Diya Chaundhri. Meenu said,
Voice 3

“Our goal is to work with disadvantaged women to help them move from thinking ‘I cannot’ to ‘I can.'”
Voice 1

The foundation helps the women make the move from ‘I cannot’ to ‘I can’ through both job training and education. The women receive training at a drivers’ school run by India’s largest car manufacturer, Maruti Suzuki India. This training takes four months. During this time, the women also receive English training and self-defense classes. Most importantly, the foundation teaches the women about their legal rights. Many of the women who seek training with the Azad foundation do not have any legal papers. Without such papers, they are unable to identify themselves or prove that they even exist.
Voice 2

Meenu told Panos London news,
Voice 3

“When the women arrive at Azad, most of them have no real documents – no card or paper to identify them, no education papers. One of the women from our first training said to me, ‘If I had died on the road in an accident no one would have known who I was’. With a driving license the women are becoming recognized citizens of their country.”
Voice 1

The Azad program is giving new hope and recognition to many kinds of women. Some women in the program are uneducated mothers. They are trying to earn more money for their husbands and families. Other women at Azad come from bad marriages and families. Some women were abused. They were continually hurt by their husbands or families. And Azad is providing all these women with a new way to support themselves in a safe environment.
Voice 2

Shanno Begum is one of these women. At age 32, she is a widow. In 2009, Shanno spoke with the French Press Agency or AFP about her situation. She said,
Voice 4

“My husband died three years ago. I had to support three children and my husband’s parents. As a private medical care worker, I used to earn ninety dollars a month. I worked all day every day. Now, I will earn the same amount working eight hours and I can devote more time to my children.”
Voice 1

The Azad program provides hope for the women. But the process it is not always easy. Many of the women say that male drivers try to make their driving more difficult. They say that men honk at them. Sometimes men pull their cars quickly in front of the women just to be mean.
Voice 2

Azad has also found that fewer people will choose a female driver. So it can be more difficult for female drivers to find work. Many people still think women drivers are not as good as men drivers. Meenu tries to explain that this is not true. She told AFP,
Voice 3

“Even though I explain, they decide against women drivers. They do this even after I explain the fact that records show women are more careful than male drivers — women obey traffic rules, they do not drink and drive, and they do not get into fights on the road.”
Voice 1

It may be difficult at times, but Azad is succeeding. The program is changing women’s lives for the better. It is also changing the way society sees and treats women. And Meenu has yet another goal for the future. Her goal is to not only train the women, but help them start their own business – a company owned and managed by the women. And Meenu is sure Azad will succeed. In fact, she hopes to have a fully trained and well managed female taxi service by October 2010. This will be in time for the Commonwealth Athletic Games competition in New Delhi.
Voice 2

Change is not always easy. But change for the better is worth the struggle. The women of the Azad Foundation taxi program know this well. And Meenu has seen this change happen again and again. She recently told Panos London news,
Voice 3

“The change in the women during the training is so huge. You can see it in their body language, in their speech, in the way they negotiate. I think it is a small step into a very different world. Learning to drive is like learning to swim: once you are over the early fear, it makes you feel powerful…”
Voice 2

The writer of this program was Robin Basselin. The producer was Mark Drenth. The voices you heard were from the United States and the United Kingdom. All quotes were adapted and voiced by Spotlight. You can find this program and others on our website at http://www.Radio.English.net You c.an also find Spotlight on Facebook at facebook.com/spotlightradio. This program is called “Women Taxi Drivers.” We hope you can join us again for the next Spotlight program. Goodbye!

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