Seven women of all ages and from all socio-economic backgrounds are gathered around a man in his 50s, who instructs them about the dos and don’ts of riding a Motor-bike.
He stands up on the kick, places his knees around the fuel tank of the bike, and sits comfortably down, resting his back in a comfortable position: the angle that does not hurt your back is supposed to be a slant of almost 80 degrees.
Mr Fazl has been training people to ride a bike for five years now and I am amazed to see his spirit of teaching women with the same vigour that he would teach any other gender with
To see women riding bikes in India is not surprising because Bollywood made us accustomed to it, but to have women on bikes go unnoticed in the bigger cities of Pakistan is still a wild concept. We, as women, turn back twice to confirm and reassure ourselves, but obviously, men stare back to catcall or judge the woman on wheels.
In a social fabric like ours, to see a project like a free bike training facility exclusively for women is heartening. However, it is still easier said than done when we align the realities of a Pakistani woman’s daily life.
Afshan, a housewife and mother of five, awaits her turn at the personal training because she was a bit late to the first session. She had to ask her husband to drop her at Karachi University, where the first batch of Karachi’s Women On Wheels participants is being trained.
Unlike Afshan, another participant, Faiza Frances, is a nurse at a reputed hospital in Karachi and has to face the brunt of an infrastructurally stunted city. “Half of my salary goes into my commute expense,” claims Faiza, who has set up a monthly rickshaw to travel to and from work because the uncertainty of public transport regularly makes her late to work.
Lots of women have already registered for the Karachi chapter of Women On Wheels and they will soon be reclaiming public spaces in Karachi.
WoW is a project by Salman Sufi Foundation, which brought it to Sindh after Punjab will be taking it across Pakistan next. They are still open for registrations