Thousands of female students show interest in learning to ride a motorcycle

Thousands of female students and staff have expressed interest in learning to ride a motorbike after the Department of College Education in Sindh recently asked the administrations of state-run women’s colleges to provide details on female students who wish to learn to drive two-wheelers for free.

According to data submitted by Shaheed Benazirabad College Regional Management, more than 300 female students, along with 50 female teachers and 30 other staff, have registered for the training.

The initiative was taken by the Department of Women’s Development in collaboration with Women on Wheels (WOW) and the Sindh Traffic Police to train the women and focus on addressing their mobility issues.

In 2019, Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah inaugurated WOW Karachi. It aimed to empower women and solve transport problems. In 2016, WOW was launched by the Salman Sufi Foundation in Punjab. After the success of the project there, the Sindh Department of Women’s Development is now focusing on training female students of state-run women’s colleges.

“We have asked regional college directors to provide the names of students who wish to take motorcycle training. However, the department would ensure that the students participate in the training after getting permission from their parents,” said Deputy Director of Sindh Directorate General of Colleges, Dr. Qasim Rajpar. He said that at the request of the Department of Women’s Development, the Chief Executive of Colleges had asked almost all women’s colleges in the province to involve their female students in getting the training. “The positive side of this initiative is that the training would be carried out under the supervision of three provincial departments while the long-standing problem of daily commuting faced by the girls would be solved or at least the girls would be able to drive motorcycles and scooters to attend colleges.”

Moreover, he said, the burden of transportation expenses on parents would be reduced, as their children would no longer have to hire private vehicles, including rickshaws, to get to their colleges. Instead of waiting for public transport, the girls would go to their colleges on their own, feeling empowered and safe riding their motorbikes and scooters, he added.

Dr. Rajpar said that after the completion of the training, the government of Sindh or the department of college education can provide interest-free loans to students trained by the two-wheeler. “There are no restrictions for female teachers and employees, but they can also apply for motorcycle driving training.

The DG colleges will provide all the data to the colleges of the secretaries and after their selection, the training will start in the colleges where playgrounds are available. Across Sindh, there are six regional directorates of colleges – Karachi, Hyderabad, Sukkur, Larkana, Mirpurkhas and Shaheed Benazirabad.

According to Rajpar, the principal college of Shaheed Benazirabad has submitted their data to the DG and the remaining principals will submit their data on Friday (today). From the Shaheed Benazirabad region alone, more than 300 female students as well as 50 female teachers and around 30 other staff have registered for the training. This trend shows that thousands of students are expected to enroll in the training.

Former student leader and human rights activist Naghma Sheikh said on Thursday that due to the unavailability of public transport, women in urban areas such as Karachi, Hyderabad, Sukkur, Larkana and other cities were facing serious problems, including sexual harassment.

“They usually wait for hours on the side of the road to get on a bus, or find a rickshaw and a van to travel. However, they rarely find space to travel due to the fittest rule in public transport. Men can sit anywhere on buses and vans while drivers have specified very limited seating in their vehicles for women.

Sheikh said: “Riding a motorbike would definitely empower girls. They wouldn’t have to wait hours for public transport. The government should have started this program ten years ago. However, it’s still better than ever.

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