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For Women, by Women Taxis

This idea is to start a "collaborative laboratory" in India, where organisations learn to start up their own “by women for women” taxi companies employing low-income women. [Summary by the Amplify Team]

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Provide a short description of your idea

Our idea is a Women’s Global Transport Collaboratory (a Collaborative Laboratory) for start-up cab and chauffeur hire companies by women and for women. It tackles the problem of gender discrimination, lack of opportunities for livelihoods with dignity for resource poor, unsafe conditions for women travelers and as a result decreased mobility. It addresses the problem by providing access to income while increasing safety and mobility for passengers, creating new models that expand opportunities for women in the transport industry, and challenging gender stereotypes.


We will bring the experience that Azad and Sakha have acquired in three Indian cities to women and girls in eight more cities. The Collaboratory will bring together individuals and organizations that can spearhead ventures with angel investors, human rights champions, transport specialists and others; a cohort of women and men who are literally and figuratively driving safety in some of the most dangerous cities for women and girls.

Get a user's perspective on your idea.

For this information, consult the Day in the Life of Shanti document we have uploaded.

We did not complete an experience map since there is ample detail about the experiences and aspirations of the drivers on Azad/Sakha's websites and Facebook page. (see:

Additionally, the most recent Azad/Sakha annual report contains illustrative testimonies and examples of the impact that this initiative has already had on the drivers, chauffeurs and their families/communities. (See:

Show us what implementation might look like.

see image.
The sight of women driving taxis, trains or trucks continues to fascinate us because it remains so unusual. That has been the experience of the 70+ women who are drivers in Delhi, India for Sakha Cabs. The courageous and creative Sakha drivers are proving that women can earn income while increasing safety and mobility for their passengers, creating new models that expand opportunities for women in the transport industry, and challenging gender stereotypes.

Responses to the questions posed in the comments section for Refinement:

Q. What is the demand like for this type of service? 

A. The demand from women for jobs as drivers and from passengers for women drivers – taxi drivers and chauffeurs – is growing. Azad/Sakha has undertaken feasibility studies for Jaipur, Kolkata and Noida which show that there is a significant interest and opportunity to increase safety, to generate jobs and to advance women’s rights. As an example, the feasibility study for Jaipur – showing the kinds of data that can be assembled for other cities – is attached.

The experience of Azad/Sakha in Delhi over the past 3 years has demonstrated that there is greater demand for women taxi drivers and chauffeurs than there is supply. Sakha is operating at full capacity. 

Q. Have you already done some research to gauge interest or identify potential partners? 

A. Azad has explored potential partnerships, for instance, in Jaipur. The link to the feasibility study, above, shows the kinds of partners that would be pursued in other cities. These include transport unions, women’s organizations, municipal authorities and others. The positive reception that Sakha has received from all of these sectors in Delhi and Jaipur is an indication of the growing interest that we fully expect in other Indian cities. 

Q. What would make an organisation a good candidate for the Collaboratory? 

A. We will invite organizations that have:
-A shared commitment to advancing women’s human rights and safety;
-A commitment to pursuing entrepreneurial and empowering strategies that are potentially profitable for poor families and that also challenge stereotypical images of women (e.g., non-traditional employment)
-An existing program for women drivers or credible plans to start one AND investors with an interest in supporting these types of enterprises AND organizations that currently support transport-related initiatives that is interested in expanding options for poor women
-An interest in experimentation and collective learning and impact

Q. What would be your first step in launching this Collaboratory? 

A. The first step would be to undertake documentation of Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for operating a Women on Wheels initiative that trains women taxi cab drivers and chauffeurs. The SOPs will be in Hindi first and then in other languages, and will include both written, visual and multi-media components. This would be drawn from the Azad/Sakha so we have a ‘workable model documented. The SOPs would make it possible for a much larger group of potential programs in other cities to replicate the Sakha experience. The SOPs would be a ‘living’ document, revised as we gain greater experience through the Learning Journey and the Collaboratory process.

Q. How will the work on this project be shared between Gender at Work and the Azad Foundation? 

A. Azad will lead the initiative and will bring the substantive experience and content on growing a social enterprise in the field of non-traditional employment for women. Azad will also lead in choosing additional cities in India for expansion. The two organizations will collaborate closely in designing the Collaboratory, its participants and learning process. Gender at Work will support Azad in facilitating and documenting the Collaboratory, as well as in identifying possible partners from other countries in South Asia and beyond.  Will recruit a full-time coordinator who will sit in Azad…

Q. How will you choose target cities for expansion? 

A. Two criteria are particularly important. One is the result of feasibility studies for running this kind of enterprise. We already know some of the basic criteria: the cities have to be large enough to demand transport services that involve autos, taxis etc.; a significant female clientele must exist. The second criteria is availability of a partner who is capable of adapting the model to the local context.

Q. Will the Azad Academy training be remote or would you be looking to have new and potential partners attend a live training in Delhi? How would this work?

A. Three levels of training need to take place: 
1. Training of trainers who can train drivers and others associated with the transport initiative
2. Training of drivers (the existing curriculum includes 14 modules for drivers) 
3. Training of business leaders and partners in operating the business

The initial training of trainers and training of business leaders will take place in Delhi. However, our intention is to develop basic modules on driving, gender, human rights, etc. that, ultimately, could be part of an online library of learning instruments. We will also explore uses of webinars, skype and other remote technology to support training and knowledge/experience sharing across locations.

Explain your idea in one sentence.

Sakha Cabs for Women, the Azad Foundation and Gender at Work are teaming up to start a Women’s Global Transport Collaboratory (a Collaborative Laboratory), for start-up taxi-cab companies by women and for women. We will increase safety for passengers, income for women drivers, and challenge gender stereotypes.

What is the need you are trying to solve?

#1 - SAFETY: Data from around the world demonstrate that transport in cities is often risky for women and girls, but could also become an engine of safety and security. 82% of women in Delhi said that buses are unsafe because of male harassers. Putting women – especially women with training in self-defense, self-confidence, rights and other areas -- into more drivers’ seats increases safety for their passengers and for transportation in general. Putting the taxi cab drivers and chauffeurs in touch with each other within and across cities and countries will also increase their knowledge about their rights and safety.

#2 - MOBILITY: In many countries, women have limited mobility or they are denied mobility as a way of keeping them submissive. This initiative will enable women to have safe alternatives, inspiring families and the women themselves to have confidence about venturing into public spaces for work, for health, and for leisure, enabling women to break their own glass ceilings.

#3 – INCOME & OPPORTUNITY: This initiative will expand income-earning options for resource-poor women in urban areas by catalyzing companies and training programs to bring women into the transport industry (specifically, taxis or mini-buses for women driven by women to start). It builds on the Sakha model of self-care for drivers, with opportunities for young women to learn and expand their voice and visibility, to link up with women’s rights networks and organizations, and to assist them to identify more options in their lives.

#4 - CHALLENGING GENDER NORMS/DISCRIMINATION: More women in the driver’s seat have symbolic and literal value for challenging gender norms. This initiative aims to break gender segregation in the transport industry, creating equity and opportunity for all. It will inspire, as it did recently for British MP Beeban Kidron who used Sakha cars when she visited India and was so appreciative of the experience that she decided to raise funds to donate a car to the Sakha fleet.

#5 - SCALE THROUGH KNOWLEDGE-SHARING: Tested models – like those of Sakha Cab – have the potential to inspire opportunity in many more locations. We will map existing transport-by/for-women initiatives in India and Asia and gather good practices (including what works to engage women in non-traditional employment). And we will pilot an Azad Academy, developing and offering training packages and training of trainers for start-up’s, including opportunities for exchange visits between women drivers from different cities.

Who will benefit from this idea and how would you monitor its success?

Low-income women and girls living in urban areas will be the main actors: As drivers, they will benefit through expanded opportunities for training (in multiple skills, from self-defense and women’s rights to safe driving and self-care) and income earning through driving. As passengers, women and their families will benefit from affordable and safe transport options that expand their mobility.

Individuals, NGOs and companies at the front lines of starting taxis-for-women enterprises will become part of our Learning Journey. This initiative will help those who are considering start-up’s to collectively build a knowledge and experience base to draw on.

Who would be best equipped to implement this idea in the real world? You? Your organisation? Another organisation or entity?

Sakha Cabs/ Azad Foundation and Gender at Work will form the starting nucleus of this initiative.

The Azad Foundation has 6 years of experience in running Women on Wheels in three cities in India (Delhi since 2008, Haryana since 2012, and Jaipur since 2013), offering resource-poor women the opportunity to become professional chauffeurs/drivers. Women receive 6 to 10 months of training (including apprenticeships) in driving skills, self-defense, women’s human rights, communication and self-caring skills and English language classes. Since 2008, in partnership with local NGOs and CBOs, Azad has reached out to 200,000 women and families in in 23 neighborhoods in slums and has supported 2,500 women to acquire identification papers and 200 women to secure a permanent drivers license.

Sakha Consulting Wing provides opportunities for the women trained by Azad to gain employment through a car and chauffer hire service provider. Its mission is to provide safer travel for women and children. With a fleet of 13 taxis, a national profile, and rapidly growing demand, it has secured employment for 72 women as chauffeurs as of Jan. 2014.

Gender at Work has 11 years of experience in supporting organizations and networks to identify and challenge the deep structures and social norms that hold gender inequality in place. Gender at Work has consulted with nearly 100 organizations in the past 10 years, from labor unions in South Africa to private foundations in the U.S. and Europe. Most recently, for instance, the organization supported a four-year program that enabled Dalit women to secure management jobs and new norms in the Indian National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA). Gender at Work will activate its global network to identify partners in Asia, Africa and worldwide.

As the initiative moves forward, we envision involving additional partners, including women’s angel investing networks, travel agencies, transport and infrastructure specialists, transport manufacturers, policy-makers, the entertainment/fashion industry and others.

Where should this idea be implemented?

The hub for this effort will be in Delhi, India for two reasons: a) Both Sakha and Gender at Work have bases there; b) Delhi is widely known as one of the five most dangerous cities for women. Using Delhi as a base and a laboratory, our aim is to develop partnerships in four Indian cities (possibly Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Pune or Goa), two other Asian cities (possibly Dhaka and Jakarta), one city in Africa (Nairobi or Johannesburg) and one in North America.

Our initial focus will be in India, branching out to other Asian cities and then to Africa and North America. Initial research has revealed women-for-women transport initiatives in about 15 countries (China, India, Indonesia, Iran, Lebanon, Malaysia, Mexico, Mongolia, Pakistan, Russia, South Africa, Thailand, UAE, U.K. and U.S.). The models are very diverse, including private sector, government and NGO/women’s rights initiatives. These initiatives will be part of our mapping work – and possibly our Learning Journey -- as will other innovative efforts focused on women and transport in urban areas.

How might you prototype this idea and test some of the assumptions behind it?

Sakha Cab/Azad Foundation is the prototype that we will build on. Our first steps will be to develop the mapping of what exists in India and Asia, convene potential partners to map out the Learning Journey, and seed action as a Collaboratory. Our assumptions are that many elements of Sakha’s holistic and rights-based model will be relevant in other cities in India and Asia, as well as in large cities in countries of the global North and the South. Gender at Work will support Sakha/Azad to create a rich Learning Journey that tests these assumptions and feeds into the growth of a Women’s Transport Collaboratory that increases agency, safety, new norms, and profitability for women and girls around the globe.

Evaluation results

26 evaluations so far

1. Does this idea have the potential to impact the lives of low-income women and girls living in urban areas?

Yes, the idea clearly targets low-income women and girls living in urban areas. - 100%

The idea targets women and girls but isn’t necessarily focused on those living in low-income urban areas. - 0%

The idea targets people living in low-income urban areas but doesn’t seem to benefit women and girls specifically. - 0%

2. Does this idea describe a set of next steps and a timeline to accomplish them?

The idea clearly outlines next steps, the resources and team needed to execute them and a timeline to accomplish this. - 88.5%

The idea gives a broad explanation of what it hopes to accomplish but there is no clear timeline or activities to reach its desired goal. - 11.5%

The idea has not clearly articulated what the next steps are. - 0%

3. How feasible would it be to implement a pilot of this idea in the next 12-18 months?

Very feasible – the next steps described in the contribution seem achievable in this time period. - 92.3%

A pilot appears feasible but more work needs to be done to figure out how it would be executed. - 7.7%

The idea is not ready to be piloted yet – the concept needs several more months of user feedback and prototyping to be ready for a pilot. - 0%

4. Does this idea bring a new and fresh approach to the city or region in which it’s set?

Yes, this idea appears to be new and innovative! I’m not aware of other ideas in this city or region that address this need using a similar approach. - 92.3%

There are other initiatives doing similar work in this area – but this idea targets a new group or has an updated approach. - 7.7%

I can think of many initiatives addressing the same need using a similar approach in the same region. - 0%

5. How scalable is this idea across regions and cultures?

This is an idea that could help women and girls in many different cities. I can see it being implemented across multiple regions and cultures. - 92%

Maybe but I’d imagine it would need very significant changes. - 4%

The idea is really only suited for one specific region / population. - 4%

6. Overall, how do you feel about this concept?

I love this idea! - 96.2%

I liked it but preferred others. - 3.8%

It didn't get me so excited. - 0%

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Attachments (3)

Sakha feedback form.pdf

Feedback on Sakha Cabs for Women from a cross section of customers.


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