3rd March 2020
Here is a story that began on International Women's Day 2019 and within 12 months has come full circle.
This time last year, I was researching incredible women’s initiatives around the world for an International Women’s Day blog. Reading about all these amazing women is of course inspiring no matter where someone is from, but there is something particularly impressive about rising above gender stereotypes in countries where they are so deeply entrenched.
One of the initiatives I came across was the Pink City Rickshaw Company. This is a sustainable enterprise from not-for-profit organisation ACCESS Development Services, who focus on reducing poverty in India. The initiative provides career opportunities for women from low-income households in Jaipur, and the women are also able to buy shares in the company with the purpose of one day owning and running the business themselves. As an added bonus, the rickshaws are electric and eco-friendly, which means that this initiative doesn’t contribute to the growing pollution problem in India.
The women are trained in driving the rickshaws and taught some basic English skills. They then guide tourists around the Pink City of Jaipur, offering visitors a ‘behind-the-scenes’ glimpse of their home city. It empowers the women, safely and securely, building their confidence, self-esteem and breaking the stereotype of a woman’s role in India.
You can read more about them in my original blog: The Amazing Women who are changing the World.
Wild Frontiers have been running tours to India and the iconic Pink City for over 15 years. Naturally, upon reading my blog, this initiative stood out to our Sustainable Tourism Manager, Nardia, who immediately began looking at incorporating a Pink City Rickshaw Company tour into our existing itineraries.
Nardia enlisted our Head of Product, Anna to check them out. She was due to leave on a trip to India that same month and arranged an early morning tour with a lady called Jyoti, who took her out around Jaipur. Experiencing backstreets and hidden temples at a quieter, cooler time of day, allowed Anna to really get a taste of the ‘real’ India before she had even had breakfast!
You can read more about Anna’s experience in her blog, early Morning Jaipur with the Pink City Rickshaw Company.
Anna’s feedback helped us decide that the Pink City Rickshaw Company was, indeed, very ‘Wild Frontiers’. Thinking beyond simply incorporating the rickshaw rides into some of our group tour itineraries, Nardia saw the opportunity for the Wild Frontiers Foundation to get involved and began initiating a project to fund the purchase of new e-rickshaws, which would allow more local ladies to benefit from the invaluable initiative.
One of the keyways we raise funds for the Wild Frontiers Foundation’s projects is through our annual Royal Geographical Society talks, which Nardia puts her blood, sweat and tears into. Proceeds from ticket sales and donations from our October Evening of Adventure in 2019 were put towards the purchase of two electric rickshaws and training for four ladies to be driver guides. We managed to raise the £4000 needed on the night and thanks to additional donations as a result of the event, were able to fund another lady’s training.
Starting 2020 off right, by January five ladies had been selected and trainer Renu was putting the budding drivers through their paces. In February, the new rickshaws were purchased.
As of today, those five ladies have been fully trained and just a few days ago, our Operations Executive Francesca got to meet them and hit the road in a Wild Frontiers sponsored rickshaw!
Within a year, thanks to the efforts of the lovely ladies in our office, as well as the amazing women breaking down stereotypes and seizing the future for their very own in Jaipur, we’ve seen how from little things, big things can grow.
The work doesn’t stop there. All Wild Frontiers clients that visit Jaipur on our Taj, Temples and Tigers, Classic Rajasthan and Real Exotic Marigold Hotel group tours now get to meet some of the drivers and enjoy a ride with the Pink City Rickshaw Company through the city’s charming backstreets, helping to ensure the sustainability of this fantastic initiative.