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#Trending : Female Cab Drivers In Odisha Struggle To Make Ends Meet. More Than A Job, This Was Their Way Of Breaking Stereotypes

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At the beginning of the year, when all of us got ready to embrace the new year, the new decade etc. little did we know that the gods had something entirely different planned for us. For all the times we pinned our hopes, dreams and aspirations on 2020, we were reminded that the worse was yet to come, be it in form of an out of control virus, several earthquakes, cyclones or as of recent bomb blasts in Beirut. There has absolutely been no respite. Although, while we may have able to pace ourselves during this pandemic, those who have had it real bad are dozens of drivers, especially the women, who only  recently started to drive change.

Standing up to the stereotypes that didn’t allow or see women in roles or professions like that of driving cabs, dozens of women in Odisha were challenging such norms to emerge as self sufficient cab drivers and only beginning to make a powerful stride  when the pandemic hit and with one fell swoop these women are back to struggling to make ends meet.

With the sudden hit of the virus and the nation going on a lockdown, as many as 38 women who worked hard into establishing themselves as women drivers to earn a living for themselves were put out of jobs, with all they had done previously gone to dust.

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Many of these women came from backward areas, from slums where they may not have a constant access to a car and without one, they might even be at a risk of losing their income, and potentially, whatever little savings they might have had.

Several organisations joined hands with cab aggregators and educational institutions to try and generate employment for these women. Swati, one of the project coordinator shared, “None of the organisations are hiring currently. These women would have been placed in March. But, the announcement of lockdown put everything on hold. Now, we are struggling to find them jobs.”

And meanwhile these women, who fought tooth and nail for their freedom to work, but now find themselves confined to their homes midst a family that is non-supportive, the situation has gotten worse for so many of them. One lady, Smrutirekha Behera of Patharbandha slum shared how, “Not a single day went by when my in-laws didn’t taunt me for learning driving. Neighbours cracked jokes as I stepped out of my hut. They felt I would kill people on the roads. Now that I am jobless, they tell I am incompetent.”

Despite knowing that the current stance of unemployment has nothing to do with a woman and her competency, they are still made the butt of jokes and hurtful taunts for even trying in the first place. We hope the situation of the virus in the country is soon contained, just so women  like Smrutirekha are able to get back to work and prove their worth.

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