Female Bikers Take to the Streets in Pakistan as 'Women on Wheels' Reaches Karachi


On Sunday, the 'Women on Wheels' campaign kicked off in Karachi, Pakistan after a successful run in Punjab earlier.

The 'Women on Wheels' campaign is a project implemented by the Salman Sufi Foundation that aims to provide better mobility to women in Pakistan through subsidised motorbikes. It also aims at providing road safety education and training as well as networking opportunities to women drivers.

The project has already been implemented in Lahore, Rawalpindi, Faisalabad and Sarodga and is now expanding in Karachi. while the initiative is a private undertaking, it has support from the United Nations Development Programme, UN Women, Japan, FINCA as well as the government of Japan and Careem Pakistan.

According to a tweet by UN Women Pakistan, almost 10,000 women from Sindh will be taught to drive motorcycles. "Economic empowerment is dependent on mobility, and this was the cheapest way we could give women mobility," project director Salman Sufi told Gulf News in an interview in 2018. According to a report, the programme has already trained 3,500 women in Punjab to ride motorcycles and provided motorcycles at 40 percent discounted rates to increase access to mobility among women who are often dependent on the male members of the family to commute.

Sufi also posted a photo of the first woman trainee at the Karachi training centre. He and others shared images of the inauguration event.

The campaign got a nod from Twitter with many including Bilawal Bhutto Zardari. Many pointed out that apart making cheap transport accessible to women, the campaign was also a blow to the patriarchal notions prevalent in Pakistan that often prevent women from assuming public roles as driving vehicles. The Karachi leg of the campaign evoked an enthusiastic response.

A survey by The Centre for Economic Research in Pakistan found that patriarchal restrictions constrain women from working professional jobs, pursuing higher education or even venture outside of their neighbourhoods.

The Women on Wheels program was first launched in Punjab in 2016 by the Punjab government when a team of 150 trained women motorcycle riders took to the streets of Lahore.