Exhausted by the Uber drivers canceling my booking, I finally found my ride back home. I randomly asked the Uber driver — “bhaiya (brother), are there any female drivers? After riding Uber for six years in two Indian metropolitan cities, I never encountered one.” In the next moment, I knew the answer.
According to the latest road transport yearbook (2016–2017) by the Ministry Of Road Transport and Highways (MORTH), the estimated female licensed drivers account for 7% of total drivers on the road. So, if there is a fuel station, only three female drivers are present in the queue of fifty.
This ratio is alarming when we consider our proximity to Saudi Arabia (0.03% female drivers) where women have been legally allowed to drive for the last two years than a country like the USA (49.5% female drivers) where there have not been such roadblocks over the years. In the six years, the issuance of the female driver’s license has been incremental but still accounts for less than 10% of the driver’s population.
To answer the question, I shared a google survey with some women around, asking two questions:
1. Why are you not driving?
2. Why do you think there are only 6–7% female drivers in India?
Whereas the personal reason for not driving varied (as shown above), five out of ten responses (shown below) to the second question suggested — women drivers are stigmatized and/or are not supported by the family.
I learned driving last year. Unfortunately, a male driver slammed me as a typical ‘female driver’ during a fender bender on 18th October 2020, while returning from a winery visit in Bangalore. His strong stereotypical mindset surprised me. It followed another encounter on 29th December 2020. In my head, I knew I should not get affected, but somehow their presence was intimidating at the moment, it got to my nerves. During both incidences, I didn’t drive for the rest of the day. It demotivated me and installed an unnecessary fear. But that was it!
My dear fellow and prospective women drivers, we, as women of India, have an innate capability to pass by the presence of such stereotypical humans. We need to start driving, for ourselves, to feel independence when we open the driver’s door. We don’t need to prove to anybody how capable we are, we just need to keep changing the gear and move further. And believe the improvement in the mindset will follow.
Many women’s cab initiatives are implemented on the roads of Delhi/NCR such as Sakha cabs, Pink Taxi, Priyadarshini taxi, Bikxie pink, and more. A special highlight is the Azad Foundation which empowers resource-poor women through its ‘Women with Wheels’ program. Such initiatives are ideal steps for motivating women drivers.
However, significant groundwork is required to establish an ideal scenario where learning self-defense, carrying pepper spray, and installing panic buttons remains a choice, not a prerequisite for women drivers in our modern nation. Such groundwork starts from the new generation, by educating them about gender equality, the existence of stereotypes, their impact on the society and nation’s growth. The current generation can always encourage female drivers by expressing their appreciation and discouraging stereotype through active involvement.
So, my dear female Uber driver, see you soon!