- Posted September 23, 2012 by
Women Driving Training: An Innovative Idea for Reducing Road Accidents
-By Bishnu Gautam
Chairman, Laxmi Pratisthan
The UN (1995) defines the status of women in the context of their access to knowledge, economic resources and political power as well as their personal autonomy in the process of decision making. When Nepalese women's status is analyzed in this light, they are found underprivileged, underrepresented and exploited in all spheres of society. Based on the Nepal Human Development Report (1998), it is estimated that 48% of women are living below the poverty line.Though Nepal has shown some improvement in the Human Development Index in 2011, the living condition of women has not been changed significantly in practice.
The eight goals of Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), adopted by the international community in 2000, set targets for 2015 on eradicating poverty and all of these goals touch essential aspects of women’s well-being. Based on MDGs, Nepal Government's Poverty Alleviation Program at grass root level has focused on women in the later part. However, the women poverty is deeply widening further.
Women in Nepal have lower access in Employment and job profile of the women too is very low. The underlined causes for not having access to better employment opportunities are mentioned as follows:
a) Lack of employment focused skills, knowledge and opportunities: In Nepal, skill development opportunities are very limited and women are basically trained on traditional skills. Furthermore, trainings are provided as per the priority of the donor or funding agency. Even government trainings are not impact oriented. Lack of authorized skill development centre for women causes lack of useful skill for employment that the market demands.
b) Least access of women over the economic resources despite heavy work load in either low paid or non-paid works: Women work hard and the working hour is longer but yet, their works are either non-paid or low paid. They are basically engaged in domestic or agricultural works. Though they toil a lot from starting to end, seven days a week, their works are not recognized.
(c) Women are vulnerable to sexual and other types of exploitation, being exploited in the name of employment or income generation opportunity: Since, women status is very low in family and they are marginalized in the society, there are more chances to be exploited. Since women have lower income and least access over the resources, they are easily exploited in the name of employment or income generation opportunity.
d) Nominal or no presence of women in the most challenging works like driving which are predominantly accepted as Men's profession: There are differences and discriminations based on gender. There are works or professions separated by the traditional society for men and women. These discrimination and specifications hinder women to march out into the society and accept challenges in the new and courageous professions. It needs a great courage to march out into the arena of challenges and only a few could do so due to the social structure, norms, set beliefs and many other socio-cultural factors. Challenging works are called men's profession and thus, women have nominal or no presence in such jobs. Driving training for the women is a positive effort for dismantling the negative attitude towards women in the society.
When we talk about driving job, we should consider the fact about road accidents too. Actually it should be taken together with road safety but the situation in Nepal is so worst that driving and road accidents usually move in pararell. Road accidents are increasing in Nepal due to increased vehicle fleet and speed. This has become a serious problem which killed more than 1734 people’s life and injury of more than 11000 people in year 2009/10.
There are multiple factors behind the growing number of road accidents in Nepal including: negligence of driver, inappropriate overtaking, consumption of alcohol, over speeding, mechanical factor, overload, negligence and mistakes by pedestrians, and cattle roaming freely on the streets. Other reasons include narrow roads and sharp bends on the highways.
Developing better and safer attitudes, safer vehicles and so safer roads and preventing road fatalities may be difficult but not impossible. The government needs to make changes, but we also need to change our habits and take on our own responsibilities to act and drive safely. Personal effort counts and group effort can be even better. If drivers are trained well in thousands and if they sit behind the wheel with proper knowledge and confidence along with social attitude, positive change is obvious. And if they are the team of women, the impact would be even powerful for the statistics has shown lesser number of accidents caused by women in comparison to men.
Realizing the need, Laxmi Pratisthan has developed a three-year project of developing 1000 women drivers through three months package programme. Women from rural communitites and those who are vulnerable to the exploitation are the target group. The package includes driving along with automobile and traffic system instructions, basic English language and Martial Arts for ensuring professional and personal safety at roads. The main objectives of the project are as follows:
• To develop responsible and competent women drivers
• To create employment opportunities for women
• To raise traffic awareness
• To reduce women trafficking and prostitution activities
Driving training not only opens a new arena of employment for the women but also increases the safety in traffic.The uplifted economic status of the women will help them enjoy the dignified life in family and society, reducing the poverty. These competent women drivers will be safe at road and will be recognized in the field of safe driving. Thus this is a multifacet project with multiple benefits. But it is not very easy to accomplish. There might arise various problems in our effort of training women in the challenging field because there are still some stigmas in our society that don't allow females to cross the yard of their home. The goodwill of Laxmi Pratisthan and our sensitization efforts will be helpful to fight with those stigmas. There might be challenges in their job placement once they are trained perfectly. Laxmi Pratisthan will do lobbying and advocacy for it. On top of that, budget constraint is the main challenge infront of us. To mitigate with this challenge, we need allround support and thus we are appealing everyone to help this pious purpose. We are very hopeful that we will meet our target of enhancing safety on the roads.