Forced to marry a flower decorator when she was 18, Yellamma is now a single mother of a two-year-old. She is also preparing to appear for the Indian Administrative Services (IAS) exam. To make ends meet, this gritty woman decided to drive a rickshaw for a living. Yellamma rented an autorickshaw and learnt to drive it with the help of her brother-in-law. “Autorickshaw owners refused to rent a vehicle because they won’t give one to a woman. A mechanic finally agreed to rent me an auto for Rs 130 per day,” Yellamma told The Economic Times.
For this woman, traffic jams of Bengaluru are not the only thing she battles. Yellamma faces hostility from her male colleagues every day.”They say I’m snatching their customers away,” said Yellamma. However, her will to succeed and the support of her customers gives this 22-year-old the additional grit to keep going. Passengers have been good to her. “They are curious and ask me to narrate my story. They encourage me to study on and even pay Rs 10-20 over and above the meter,” she added.
“Earning approximately Rs 700-800 every day (half of which goes into her vehicle’s rent and fuel expenses), Yellamma works from 6 am to 8 pm, and in her spare time, studies for the IAS exam. Her ultimate goal is not only passing the IAS exam, but also helping other women achieve their goals.
Since March 2014, women in Chennai have started driving rickshaws. They too have had to face problems. Kanchana Bhaskar, an auto rickshaw driver in Chennai said, “The men drivers say, if more and more of you start driving the rickshaws, what will happen to our incomes?” The jibes from men, even assaults, have not deterred Bhaskar from driving, as many women prefer her over male riders.
Women rickshaw drivers are getting popular with several auto rickshaw companies stating that an increasing number of women are signing up for the job, reports The Huffington Post.