You would have had men coming over to deliver your parcels, but how about the idea of having women coming over to deliver your orders on two-wheelers? Even Cargo, a Delhi-based social enterprise, is doing just that by being India’s first women-only delivery personnel service.
Driven by a team of women delivery personnel, Even Cargo works towards attaining gender parity by empowering women and engaging them in professions that have traditionally been inaccessible to them.
An initiative by Yogesh Kumar, who had earlier started Delhi OYE (or Delhi Open Your Eyes) – an initiative aimed at women empowerment and preventing incidents of sexual harassment in public spaces – Even Cargo employs women from marginalized communities and provides them with job opportunities as women delivery personnel.
“Inequality and disparity were responsible behind my decision to start Delhi OYE first, and then Even Cargo. Many of my experiences – whether it was seeing a girl struggle to find a safe spot on a crowded bus or them trying to stay away from unwanted touches and gazes – made me start this initiative. It’s a shame that I saw women struggling on a daily basis and I could do nothing,” says 28-year-old Yogesh.
It was a deliberate decision to not train the women in skills like cooking or teaching (those which are associated with the fairer sex).
“We wanted to make a statement through our action so we decided to start a ‘for women by women cab’ service. But it didn’t work out due to various factors; one being that the risk of owning the vehicle was seen as a big problem by these women. The whole purpose of starting this venture was to empower women to reclaim their share of public space. So then we started Even Cargo,” he adds.
The focus, says Yogesh, is to overcome the barriers of unemployment through skill development of women to increase their participation in the labour market.
The average age of the women employed with Even Cargo is 21.5 years, and all of them belong to families whose average income is less than Rs 1 lakh. However, all of them have completed their high school and primarily deliver apparel and accessories.
“For any girl to be employed as a delivery girl with Even Cargo, she has to go through four modules of training – a) a training in riding two wheelers by Honda, b) a training in soft skills, c) training in self-defense, and finally a logistics-specific training,” says Yogesh.
One of the women working with the company says she feels extremely content and empowered by working as a delivery personnel.
“Initially, people used to feel surprised at having us deliver their orders. But they always used to commend and congratulate us. This adds to our confidence and helps us perform better,” says Pooja, who works as a rider.
While the scooties, which are used by the women to commute, are currently owned by the organisation, Yogesh says that he is exploring opportunities and approaching government bodies and even corporate houses to help him procure two-wheelers for his employees. “We are also considering getting these scooties financed from banks,” he adds.
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The company has until now trained over 100 girls to ride two-wheelers, but it was not easy for Yogesh to convince them and their parents to take up the job. But all’s well that ends well, and the women feel much more confident now.
“Narratives (however small) have started building around their actions. Conversation has started happening in their families and communities. Stereotypes are being challenged (at a small level though), but we have been able to create ripples and we believe these ripples some decades down the line will create change,” he says.
“The best thing was to witness the growth of these girls, increased confidence and the conviction that they are no less than anyone else. It has always been heartening to hear anecdotes from them,” he says.
To know more, you can visit their website here.