Putting Women in the Driver’s Seat

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BANGLADESH — The organization BRAC has implemented an innovative new initiative that aims to empower Bangladeshi women by teaching them how to drive. In Bangladesh’s capital Dhaka, one of the fastest growing cities in the world, BRAC is teaching young women this new skill, so that they may work as professional chauffeurs or carriers, and earn a far better wage than they would in a garment factory.

Bangladesh is home to some of the worst road statistics in the world: over 20,000 people die on the roads every year, and there are often gridlocks for upwards of seven hours a day. Yet being a chauffeur or a carrier is a well-paid job, and these jobs are held exclusively by men with women mostly left to work in the low-paying textile industry. And, as we have seen with recent Bangladeshi factory disasters and fires, this industry can be extremely dangerous.

In Bangladesh, where many women still rely on their husbands for financial security, the women taking part in the driving program are mostly single or divorced, and many of them are escaping violent marriages. By teaching women to drive, the charity is enabling them to be independent, and also teaching them that they can do anything men can do. For many of these women, the program is their second chance, and despite the fact that there is a social stigma attached to the idea of women driving in Bangladesh, they are defying the odds and learning a valuable life skill.

And that’s not all. BRAC hopes to expand the project based on the level of its success. Executive Director, Dr. Mahbub Hossain said “BRAC always starts new initiatives as a project, and later based on the outcome we scale up the project at a national level. We can start this project as a private-public partnership project and later on, jointly expand functions with the government.” A recent Channel 4 documentary highlights the highs and lows of these women’s quest to learn how to drive, and shows just how important it is for them to be able to step up and be put, literally, in the driver’s seat.

– Chloe Isacke

Source: BRAC, Channel 4 News
Photo: MSN

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