A new female-only taxi company in India is helping women stay safe while providing valuable employment and training opportunities
In the wake of several high profile cases of misogyny-driven violence in India, Indian women are taking action. With a rape allegation against a cab driver in New Delhi last year, the urgency for safer streets intensified. Not content to sit in fear, entrepreneur and activist Preeti Sharma Menon founded an organisation that empowers women and helps keep them safe. Her tool? Taxis.
The female-led Viira Cabs hires only women, and trains their taxi drivers in self-defence skills, such as karate and using pepper spray. This allows women in India a safer alternative to the public buses or male-driven taxis where violence is a danger. What’s more, Viira Cabs also gives its employees a chance to earn a decent living and gain independence.
“The female-led Viira Cabs hires only women, and trains their taxi drivers in self-defence skills”
It’s the women behind the wheel of Viira Cabs who ultimately gain the most from the venture. Being a Viira taxi driver means earning a much higher wage than most locals make. One woman says that before she became a driver for Viira Cabs, she earned between 2,000 and 3,000 rupees (approximately £20-£30) a month. She now earns between 20,000 and 25,000 rupees (around £200-£300) per month, which allows her to be fully independent and support her family.
She can feel the freedom Viira Cabs has brought to her life: “I am independent. I am not under anyone’s dominance,” she said. “I am the master of my own will and I can take care of my household.” Another Viira driver explains that she also feels much safer after being trained in self-defence: “Before I used to feel insecure, but Viira has taught us safety measures.”
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Menon says that Viira Cabs began because she “was looking for something new to do, something that would make a difference”. The demand for Viira Cabs has grown so much that she’s not able to keep up with it all. Still, her vision remains clear: she treats the venture as more of a social project than a business, making sure that profit never outweighs what’s best for Viira Cabs’ employees and customers.
First published by Ignite Channel