Taking the wheel of her destiny on the roads of western Nepal
Padma Chaudhary, a 38-year-old mother of two, leaves early in the morning from her home in the village of Phulwari to her e-rickshaw stall almost 20 km away, in Dhangadhi bazaar. Decked in a smart, long red coat that matches her bright red chariot on wheels, she marvels at how much her life has changed in the months since she acquired the vehicle, which has allowed her to work independently.
An e-rickshaw, short for electric rickshaw, is a battery-operated three-wheeler that is a greener alternative to rickshaws that run on fuel. “I never expected there to be initiatives willing to support rural women like us,” says Chaudhary, as she talks about the e-rickshaw she received from Pourakhi Nepal, UN Women’s implementing partner, some seven months ago.
“There’s an immeasurable satisfaction in being financially independent than having to live your life at the mercy of others,” she says. “I am able to comfortably provide for our family’s needs. I feel rather content because this vocation has given me financial freedom.”
Chaudhary’s family had mainly relied on agriculture as their major source of income, which was hardly enough to sustain a family of six, that included her husband, her two kids and her parents-in-law. In 2009, she went to Lebanon hoping to support her family better. She describes her two years there as trying, and not worth the sacrifice of being away from her family.
She still remembers the day when she learned about the e-rickshaw programme, which was offered at a women’s group meeting that she attended regularly. The programme was offered to returnee women migrant workers to support their economic empowerment. Chaudhary received the e-rickshaw training, which she says was a wonderful experience. “Since I’m used to cycling, it only took me a day to learn to drive,” she adds. “The day we received our e-rickshaws was a joyous occasion for the whole village.”