Bridgestone India recently conducted a professional car driving training in Indore as part of its women empowerment initiative. The training is expected to create opportunities for women to work professionally as drivers and auto mechanics. To date, 81 women have been trained in Indore. The company plans to take this initiative to other cities as well.

Spread over three-and-a-half months, the training included driving skills, preventive maintenance, and emergency repair. Soft-skills training in English speaking, map reading, first aid, and self-defence was also provided. There were also sessions on women-related laws, Motor Vehicles Act, Insurance Act, etc. Post training, many have been successfully employed as cab drivers, personal drivers, e-rickshaw drivers, and drivers on call, as per the company.

In response to CB’s questions, the company’s spokesperson clarified that the recruitment process includes focused group discussions where prospective candidates are explained about opportunities in this sector. In some cases, they also go door to door to interact with women regarding employment opportunities and how the training helps them. After that, interviews with interested women are conducted for final selection, which takes into consideration their per-capita income and assurance of completing the training and starting work post completion. Community mobilisation played a vital role in selecting women from different settlements in Indore.

As part of the project, the implementation partner is required to ensure placements/gainful employment opportunities for the trained professional drivers. Of the first batch of 29, eleven candidates have been successfully placed as per the company’s claims. The average income is Rs 7,910. The highest income is Rs 15,000.

The next phase, as per the spokesperson, will be implemented in Pune and Dhar in Madhya Pradesh, with the plan being to train at least 100 women under this programme.

‘Women empowerment is one of our prime focus areas for Bridgestone India. This initiative, while giving financial independence to women, also gives them the confidence to engage in a non-conventional occupation. The training content is core to Bridgestone’s ethos of safety and mobility. Even during the lockdown, when jobs were scarce, we extended our support to these women, who not only showed great dedication, but also found in themselves the strength to learn a new skill at this juncture,’ said Parag Satpute, managing director, Bridgestone India, in a press release.

Sonali Prajapat, who successfully undertook the training and is currently driving a cab, shares her perspective: ‘Indore has a large population of women commuters, and they feel safer being driven by a lady driver. The training has given me self-confidence that I can be a professional, earn, and support my family. For me stepping into the driving profession has been really helpful and driving a car makes me feel very empowered.’ Sonali is the lone earning member of the family and is taking care of her parents and brother.