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Published: March 20th 2014
"Why do you think it’s important to empower women and young girls?
Their self-confidence and drive just blossoms. These young girls get married before they’ve ever left their village — half of them get married at age thirteen. We’re getting them to realize their potential and to realize they can do something big with their lives.
Ummeed is a really small step — it’s practically nothing if you look at it from the country’s perspective or from the world’s perspective. But I think something small like this can help inspire a young generation to make a difference.
In New Delhi, slums are zones of poverty that stretch for miles and miles. When Avani was younger, they seemed just a part of the city, always there, unchanging. When she got older, she learned in the news about a new kind of bicycle rickshaw, which was bright green and super futuristic. In addition, thanks to a solar panel on the roof, it was electric-powered. Therefore, it was easier to pedal. Avani, then only 16 years old, had a dream: rickshaw driving could become a job that women could do. She founded Ummeed, a training program in which women from the slums of Delhi are taught to become taxi and rickshaw drivers. Through the initiative, she’s giving women a way to earn both a living and a level of physical and social mobility that was previously nearly impossible. She started Ummeed with a single electric rickshaw, donated by the local manufacturer, Green Wheels. However, she still needed to find a driver, so in collaboration with Delhi-based NGO CEQUIN, she put out a call for volunteers in Jamia. She doesn't plan on stopping their. Now knowing that women
can drive a rickshaw, she became determined to train women to drive something bigger, a taxi. Along with Ummeed, five women were selected and trained to receive their driver’s licenses. Four of them are now licensed to drive on Delhi’s streets and Ummeed is in the process of setting them up as taxi drivers.
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