Inspirational Women

Challenging Patriarchy With a Rickshaw

Story of Bhagwani Devi, one of the first women to drive an e-rickshaw in Uttar Pradesh.  Bhagwani finds joy in providing affordable transport for school going girls and challenging dominant patriarchal norms in her community.

Walking uphill towards a temple in Vindhyachal is a little shack, home to Bhagwani Devi, one of the first women to drive an e-rickshaw in Uttar Pradesh. A proud entrepreneur, Bhagwani finds joy in providing affordable transport for school going girls and challenging dominant patriarchal norms in her community. An old resident of her city, her enterprise also offers guided tours of Mirzapur to pilgrims and devotees, high in demand during April’s ‘Kumbh Mela’.

Since the past few months, Bhagwani and her husband, Jeet Lal, have been planning on building a ‘pucca’ house with savings from her enterprise. Their plans have been put on hold with the nation in lockdown and no income from Jeet Lal’s farmland which was wrecked by off-season storms early this month. Constraints on movement and long waiting lines at Bank Mitras in their area have also led to delays in accessing transfers promised by the government.

A true entrepreneur, Bhagwani has taken these as short-term challenges and is dealing with them one day at a time. Every morning, she ties a mask around her face, dusts her e-rickshaw and gets ready in the driver’s seat for another day of providing her community with one of the few sources of transportation. On a usual day in April and May, she would be seen giving rides to tourists and school children. This year, she is getting her villagers to local health centres and police officers to their duties. Bhagwani is trying to bring the missing liveliness of Kumbh Mela in Mirzapur, and hopes for it to spread across India.  

Bhagwani Devi is a member of Work 4 Progress India program of Development Alternatives and “la Caixa” Foundation. She co-created her e-rickshaw enterprise model in 2018 and has been awarded by the regional government for providing inclusive services to her community.

– Saubhagya Raizada

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