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There’s A Reason Delhi Doesn’t Have As Many Women Drivers As It Should

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By Simin Akhter Naqvi:

I don’t see the number of women driving on the roads of Delhi that I would like to see. There are few of them on the roads in general, too many in the side and back-seats, too few out late and hardly any on the highways and expressways. The reasons are many, and common sense tells me I shouldn’t be too surprised about it. Given the 25% participation rate of women (for the year 2011 according to the International Labour organisation as per a report in the Hindustan Times), the fact that a lot of women, even when they work, don’t have a control over how they use their earnings, and that Delhi’s roads are not really a safe place for women in general.


Reports on participation of women in the workforce tells us that a large number of our women don’t work outside the homes. Even amongst the ones who earn, a large number across different layers of the socio-economic spectrum don’t have control over their earnings. Many can’t spend the money they earn without the permission of their husbands or in-laws. According to the United Nations Development Programme, 80% of Indian women do not have a bank account. We have seen a large number of young women students take to scooties of late. It is rather encouraging but a casual look around reveals that a very large number of women from households with cars, use other means of transportation to go for work. While male members of the family use the car. Moving higher up the social ladder, even though  the number of women who travel around in cars is high, most prefer to sit at the back.

Needless to say, patriarchal social attitudes and internalisation of the same by women determines how this unequal control over household resources works and why women don’t resist it as actively as one would expect them to.


The sun apparently never sets in cosmopolitan cities but sundown is actually still a word in the mental vocabulary of women drivers in Delhi. Anybody who drives around Delhi knows there are too many dark stretches as not all roads are properly lit in the city. General attitudes toward women drivers are chauvinistic and impolite, if not lewd. Gender stereotypes about women not being as good as men at reversing and parking are too rampant, to even expect these roads to be a comfortable space for women. Sadly, we also have too few roads named after women. Not that it will make it any safer to drive on these roads, but yes encouragement does matter. In most of the main roads, many men drive very fast and do not follow road rules in general. If it’s a highway, you can’t go too slow; if the traffic is unruly, you can’t stick to the rule, making it an established and accepted majoritarian space in a very aggressive way. Many drivers have a gleeful, vulgar and happy look when they overtake you, just for the heck of it.

Also, size does matter! With women riders and drivers mostly on scooties or in small cars, the sight of inter-state buses, trucks or DTC low-floor buses moving around like boomerangs is particularly intimidating.


There are too few roadside toilets. The ones which do exist are not user-friendly and hardly safe for women. It gives even the women traffic constables posted on the road a tough time. Even though some taxi agencies such as Ola Pink and Meru Eve have launched initiatives to encourage women to become professional drivers, actual number of women drivers on the roads continue to be abysmal. There are too few women constables posted on the roads and too few PCR vans around in case of emergency.

The streets in general are not safe for women. How many roadside shops can be considered safe for us to get down and buy a pack of cigarettes? How many intersections are there, where a woman can casually light a cigarette? How many streets exist where we can park aside for a quick puff or to attend an urgent phone call? Not too many, for there is judgement and then there are also real safety threats. We often sneer at women driving carefully, but we seldom acknowledge that they may be doing so because our roads have become sexist and patriarchal spaces which are unsafe. How irrational or wrong is it then, for them to go slow, watch out for themselves, avoid confrontations and do just what society tells them to? “Be safe rather than sorry”.


Finally, while driving on Delhi’s roads may still be a risky adventure for women, I’d personally like to see much more women drivers. More women cabbies, more women car and bike rallies, more women taking to the steering wheel, women driving more confidently and with a sense of due entitlement. Most importantly, women simply walking around and occupying the streets and roads, in defiance of the fear of moral policing, societal judgement and sexist stereotypes; while the state can prepare the police force to be more gender sensitive and ensure that the streets and roads are well lit. Families and educational institutions can get busy with the more important job of encouraging and preparing women to start driving!


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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

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A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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