Pakistan has adopted a number of key international commitments to gender equality and women’s human rights – the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Beijing Platform for Action, the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women, and the Sustainable Development Goals.
Despite these commitments, Pakistan’s ranking for gender equality remains one of the lowest in the world. Many women don’t have access to jobs and those who do are mostly found in low‐paid and low‐status jobs.
The Pink Rickshaw Initiative is a project envisioned and implemented in Lahore, Pakistan, by The Environment Protection Fund. It has two goals: to enable women to become economically independent and to provide a safe public transport option to the women of Lahore.
Women without a livelihood are trained to become rickshaw drivers and leased a pink rickshaw to work with during two years. During those two years, they are expected to contribute back to the scheme with an affordable part of their salary so that other women can join the project and become rickshaw drivers too. At the end of the two years, the women become owners of their pink rickshaw.
According to Stop Street Harassment, 92% of women surveyed in Islamabad said they would like to have access to women-only public transport, and a report published by the ILO Country Office for Pakistan in 2011 showed that the lack of safe transport for women in Pakistan “has exacerbated socioeconomic exclusion.” The Pink Rickshaw Initiative is also trying to address this issue by offering a women-only public transport service.
With support from The Circle, The Pink Rickshaw was able to turn five more women into rickshaw drivers with sustainable businesses.
Voices of the beneficiaries
Noreen, one of the beneficiaries, said ‘I am very excited and happy when I drive it. I will fulfil all my dreams, I will also encourage other women to be courageous and come forward like I have and take advantage of this scheme. Women who stay at home and worry about their livelihood – they should come forward.’
Noordin, another beneficiary, said ‘my brother and nephews are all very happy for me. They now admit a woman can be successful and liberated. The male family members now want all the girls to get rickshaws – the attitudes have changed.’ Noordin and Noreen are living proof that helping women earn a livelihood has a huge impact not only on the direct beneficiaries of a project, but also on their families and their communities, as it challenges gender roles and helps bring down stereotypes.