On Tuesday evening, Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed the nation in one of his classic ‘lockdown speeches’ that consequently took social media by storm. Used more than a couple of times, Modiji introduced the new term ‘Aatmanirbhar’ to us citizens, thus raising a lot of queries and doubts. While netizens are endlessly searching for its meaning on search engines and what the Rs 20 lakh crore consolidated economic package entails, we’d love to break it to you that Modiji isn’t the first Indian to make use of #AatmanirbharBharat.
Back in 2017, a young woman from Mathura, Uttar Pradesh, graduated from college and started a venture for women by women. Pawani Khandelwal currently runs a multicity two-wheeler driving school which may not sound anything out of the ordinary. But it is! Called Aatm Nirbhar, this startup organisation supports underprivileged women from remote parts of the country to take the freedom of mobility and transportation in their own hands and to increase participation in economic activities.
In a country with over 500 million female population and massive gender inequalities, one of the many reasons why women are not financially independent is because of the unavailability of safer means of transportation in remote areas. With no mobility, the opportunity for women to leave their houses on a day-to-day basis becomes a task. Aatm Nirbhar has trained more than 5500 women to ride two-wheelers and has provided employment to 150 women as trainers in these schools.
But even recognition and participating at the World Economic Order (Chicago & Washington DC), Women Entrepreneurship Programme (Berlin), and Ashoka Changemakerxchange (China) among others over the last 3 years hasn’t provided the founder, her organisation, and their empowering vision the kind of engagement that they received overnight since PM Modi introduced the #AatmanirbharBharat campaign. The internet is currently flooding with memes, information, and references regarding this ‘Self Reliance’ package but maybe we have a woman to acknowledge for initiating it?
Aatm Nirbhar currently functions across the cities of Agra, Jaipur, Jodhpur, and Mathura among others. Its employment programme has provided female riders from marginal backgrounds in the food delivery sector and as two-wheeler taxi services like Ola, Uber, and Rapido. Pawani is working hard to get women on the road to be able to get somewhere in life, so maybe we could show these #Aatmanirbhar women some respect too?