MUNIRA BANO: Pink auto rickshaw renews hope

Surat-based Munira Bano is one of the few women rickshaw drivers in the country who is content with her life and is an inspiration to many. "I was among the first women to register myself for the Pink Auto Rickshaw Service in Surat when we were approached by Surat Municipal Corporation few years ago," said the forty-three-year-old who currently owns two auto rickshaws. Today Munira's daily earnings are in the range of Rs. 1,200 – Rs.1,500 and she is able to run her household well. But earlier, she had to go through a lot of hardship with an average earning of just about Rs. 250 per day. "I used to stitch lace in sarees and run a tiffin service where I used to prepare the food and deliver it to households. The money which I used to earn was not at all sufficient to survive in a family where I have three children and my husband," said Munira. Surat Municipal Corporation helped her to learn driving, get a driving license and provided a uniform. Then she managed to get a bank loan and bought her own auto rickshaw about three years back. "In my initial days, people used to make fun of me because they are not used to seeing a woman driving an auto. I decided to not pay heed to them as my husband was always there to support me," said Munira remembering her days of struggle. She bought the second auto rickshaw a year ago, again through a loan. Her husband drives that rickshaw. Due to her determination and willpower, she became a role model. "I was invited for an event at the residence of our Prime Minister in New Delhi. I even have a picture where he is addressing the gathering and I'm sitting in the audience," said Munira who currently encourages women to come forward and start their journey as Pink Auto Rickshaw drivers. She believes women can do everything and driving auto rickshaws is just one of them.