Special Report

The Driving Edge

From the early days of its inception, Bangladesh has dramatically evolved out of the shell of societal barriers. The once conservative nation has now opened wings towards becoming a more progressive one. And the women of BRAC’s driving school are taking the wheel and redefining the traditional role of women. Women have now started to shatter the social stigma and found their place elsewhere alongside being a homemaker. With the help of organizations like BRAC, they are not only performing diligently as corporates but also taking up tasks like driving with dignity. ICE Business Times opens a dialogue with the women that are steering the change.

What was your motivation for choosing this profession?
This was not just a reason to work; as women of different backgrounds, we want to stand out in the crowd. Once inspired by relatives and challenged by financial situations many of us took driving lessons at CARE Bangladesh where we were taught to feel more comfortable about this new profession. Our mindsight was geared towards setting examples for the ones who spend their lives succumbed to orthodox beliefs. Driving made us feel independent and helped fight our inner fears to a great extent. So, the profession was appealing for a number of reasons. 

What Sort of Health Hazards do you often face at Work?
There isn’t much of a health hazard at work here, apart from the usual risks associated with driving and road conditions. However, once there was an accident, and people mistook my car to be the victim, and a lot of people came out to help and said upon the discovery that it isn’t always that people witness a woman driving office cars in our country.

Are the earnings from this job sufficient enough to manage your household?
Our earnings here is moderate and is sufficient enough to cover an individual’s needs. However, the same cannot be true when it comes to meeting their family needs.

What impact does this have on your family life? What improvements can be made to solve any such problems?
Sometimes it happens as such that due to unavoidable circumstances at work, we head towards home quite late. For many of us who just got married or have taken children this is a troublesome situation. It often gets difficult for us to balance both sides due the time constraint. Our working hours would be favorable if we were allowed to work at reasonable hours. This condition will motivate the existing drivers to work more efficiently and also encourage more women to join this line of work.

What is your work duration?
Many of us who have staff duties are obliged to come work in the early morning hours. Apart from that our regular shifts are generally of around 10 hours every day for five days a week. However, depending on circumstances we sometimes work on the weekends as well.

Do you work elsewhere besides this job? Why?
We work here full time, and that leaves us with no time to work elsewhere. Besides this, we also have to give time back home, and our pay here is sufficient enough for us not to look for other jobs.

Have you faced any cultural stigmas from the society or your family when you chose this profession?
For some of us coming from different conservative backgrounds. Initially, it was difficult to break the idea back home that girls are only born to manage the household and that such a profession is just restricted to men. Whereas, many of us started off with this profession with the personal consent of our family members. The rebelliousness in our thoughts and success in this field is what helped us break all stereotypes. Society has started accepting girls performing such roles way more than the way it did twenty to thirty years back, and we are glad to be a part of this change. 

*The names of the interviewees have not been included to protect their privacy.

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