Friday May 20, 2022

Women, brothers and fathers on wheels

May 14, 2018

LAHORE: The project Women on Wheel (WoW) eventually turned out to be “Women, their brothers and fathers on Wheels”, as the majority of those who were given wheels (motorbikes) didn’t know how to even start a motorbike, let alone ride it.

The chief minister’s Strategic Reforms Unit (SRU) in collaboration with Transport Department, Bank of Punjab and a motorbike company launched Women on Wheels rally at Alhamra Arts Council, Mall Road Lahore.

Excise Minister Mian Mujtaba Shuja-ur-Rehman, SRU Director General Salman Sufi, Secretary Excise Dr Ahmed Bilal, UN Women Country Head Jamshed Kazi, representative of Bank of Punjab Ms Urooj and human rights activist Hina Jillani attended the event among other prominent bureaucrats, politicians, celebrities, civil activists as well as the general public.

The campaign aims to provide women in Punjab with more than 3,000 customised motorbikes at subsidised rates through a 100 percent transparent balloting process. A sum of Rs9 million was allocated for this project. In first phase, 700 applications have been received and 60 girls (30 from Lahore and Faisalabad each) have been given the bikes.

Apparently, those who conceived this project did not think it through. At the rally many girls faced problem with starting the bike and then handling it. They were escorted with their trainers who helped them in starting the bike. It clearly showed the lack of training prior to handing over the motorbikes. Ideally these females should have been trained to ride these bikes proficiently as this lack of training can jeopardise their safety when they use these vehicles in everyday life without proper riding proficiency.

Talking to The News, Wajiha, a rider said, “Instead of motorbike, a scooty is much better option for girls. They are more female friendly for those who wear abayas, and they are self start and more affordable. The Punjab government has provided subsidy of Rs24,975 and 100 percent mark-up on a motorbike. The applicant made down payment of Rs27,000 and payment in 12 easy installments of Rs1,856 monthly. The motorbikes have customised colour pink with additional features, including leg guards, gloves and a carrier bag.

Strategic Reforms Unit, Chief Minister’s Office, Director General Salman Sufi said, “It is imperative to provide safe and self-reliant means of transportation to 49 percent of Pakistan’s population. The Women on Wheels rally showcased the Chief Minister’s vision of allowing women to realise their full potential, reclaim public spaces and empower themselves in the province.”

“We have taken care of this problem. If the wardens see any men riding this bike, the bike will be in repossession and then they have to submit an affidavit that this bike will be only used by the girl.” He said while talking to The News.

Before the rally, there was a formal event where Mujtaba Shuja-ur-Rehman, Excise Minister handed over the keys of bikes to Salman Sufi on behalf of the chief minister. He said the main aim of the Women-on-Wheels Rally is to award successful Women-on-Wheels (WoW) candidates’ subsidised motorbikes which have been specially customised for this very campaign.

He said the motorbikes were given to the women hailing from all the five districts, including Lahore, Faisalabad, Sargodha, Multan and Rawalpindi where the first phase of the WoW campaign was launched. He told that the ultimate aim of the campaign is to empower women to reclaim public spaces in the country as well as inspire them to become agents of change in the country especially as a counter-narrative to existing soaring headlines pertaining to Violence Against Women in the country.

Hina Jillani, social activist and lawyer said, “I was expecting all the people of Lahore to participate in this rally but looking at the crowd it seems we still have to work. If any woman faces harassment at any level I promise to be there for her always.”

Punjab Commission on the Status of Women Chairperson Fauzia Viqar said, “Mobility of women is the key challenge. Once they are able to control their mobility they can grow and take decision for themselves.” Meesha Shafi, Nighat Daad, Mumtaz Mughal and Juggun Kazim also participated in the rally.