After Punjab, Women on Wheels set to roar in Karachi

Published October 29, 2019
Women participants of Women on Wheels (WOW) wait on their motor-bikes prior to the start of a rally launching the Women on Wheels campaign in Lahore on January 10, 2016. — AFP/File
Women participants of Women on Wheels (WOW) wait on their motor-bikes prior to the start of a rally launching the Women on Wheels campaign in Lahore on January 10, 2016. — AFP/File

After Punjab, Women on Wheels, a programme focussed on resolving women’s mobility woes is set to launch in Karachi. An inaugural ceremony will be held on November 25, 2019, the first day of International 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence.

In 2016, the Punjab government’s Strategic Reforms Unit launched the initiative with just 40 women and by the end of the campaign had managed to train over 5,000 women in five districts of Punjab. Last year, over 700 women were also provided with subsidised motorbikes under this initiative.

Salman Sufi, who introduced the Punjab Protection of Women Against Violence Act 2016 and South Asia’s first Violence Against Women Centre, says he is launching the Karachi programme for WOW in a private capacity.

Sufi says Pakistani women and girls are routinely harassed and assaulted in public spaces and no longer feel safe when they have as much of a right to be in these spaces as men.

“This programme is far too important to be left to chance that someday a government will pick it up, hence I am personally funding and re-launching it with the help of civil society,” says Sufi.

“I am in initial talks with the Sindh government for their support and hope they will officially endorse the programme and its replication throughout Sindh,” he says, adding that he has the support of a local motorcycle manufacturer as part of their CSR activities for the training.

The WOW program aims to empower women with independent means of mobility so they can live their lives without seeking help.

At present, the bulk of Pakistan’s female population heavily relies on either a male family member or a poor public transport infrastructure to get from one place to another. This should not be the case, says Sufi.

He says motorbikes are a lot more economical than cars, and it makes perfect sense to arm women with these two wheelers as a start.

The WOW Karachi programme will include motorbike trainings along with road safety workshops, Sufi says, adding that it will prepare women for driving license testing post training and also will help them apply for jobs once they are independently mobile.

There will be no fee for the trainings, Sufi says, adding that “women should not be hampered by the fact that they cannot pay”.

Women can contact the WOW campaign to register. The information required to register for the programme are the participant’s name, CNIC #, a contact number, and an address.

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