End discrimination to driving profession for women
Compared with the restricted situation of women post liberation, the current picture is indeed encouraging with a large number of females working alongside their male counterparts. However, the patriarchal notion that some jobs are unsuitable for women still persists as a New Age report finds that the public sector quota for female drivers, standing at 15 per cent, is not properly used. The Bangladesh Road Transport Authority’s statistics, which show that a paltry 350 women have professional driving licences against a male number exceeding 7.5 lakh put the highly skewed situation in perspective.
While non-government organisation BRAC along with the BRTA trained 75 women, only 18 got jobs. Results from other organisations training women drivers also present a hope-deflating scenario as in most cases, less than half end up with work. It is also found that most women drivers who are determined to take up driving as a profession prefer to seek employment at certain kinds of non-governmental organisations and international development agencies as these bodies largely adhere to strict workplace modalities, providing a working woman with safety from possible sexual harassment.
As we laud the number of women who have added to our workforce, it has to be admitted that often many women have to maintain their employment in the face of oblique sexual innuendos. Naturally, in a workplace setting where most colleagues are men, a woman working as a driver may feel awkward because, still now, most local organisations do not have clearly outlined guidelines regarding male-female work-related etiquette. Add to this the social perception that certain tasks should be dominated by men only. In this regard, it needs to be asserted that driving is a task that can be performed by women with equal skills once work place ethics are delineated. Those who undermine women’s ability as a driver should be reminded that global surveys have proved conclusively women to be better behind the wheel and less likely as victims of road rage. Bringing the angle of women’s emancipation to the fore, unless we open up the profession of driving to both the sexes, discrimination against women will continue to prevail, feeding to more subtle chauvinism in other social spheres.
Looking at the long-term ramifications, if society entrenches the belief that women cannot be professional drivers, one form of livelihood will eventually be shut for good.
But we also feel that deeply held prejudices in society sometimes deter women from taking up driving as a career. Therefore, a complete overhaul of social attitude is required along with more importance attached to making workplace safe and secure for females.
The immediate impact of opening up one sector of livelihood to the women creates more employment but in the long run, it contributes to solidifying a social credo which accelerates gender equality. Hopefully, the government, will make the case of women taking up driving professionally a strong social cause.
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