In 2016, the Punjab government rolled out an extraordinary initiative, Women on Wheels (WoW). A one-of-a-kind rally was held in Lahore. Over 150 women mounted a neon pink motorcycle and zoomed through the city streets, reclaiming the public space. Prominent amongst the women was the late Asma Jehangir.
WoW aimed to reduce the yawning gap between male and female riders and to further empower women. In 2018, the keys of upward to 700 motorcycles were handed over to female riders, on subsidised rates. However, any extension of the project is now on hold, as the government in the province has changed hands. At the moment, it is unclear if WoW will continue or be scrapped altogether.
Geo.tv speaks to the women who benefited from the project. Here is what the bike riders have to say:
Raheela Qaiser (Teacher)
When I first got the motorcycle, with the help of the Punjab government, it was a bold and challenging step for me. I admit I was a little intimidated. But today, I use it every day for work and for household chores. My mother is in a wheelchair and she relies on me to get her to and from places. I really hope the government doesn’t shut down the project, Women on Wheels. That would be a huge discouragement for women like me. I wanted to see more of us on the streets, not less. Honestly, this small thing has made such a beautiful impact on my life.
Mubashara Nawaz (Student/ Sports Teacher)
I am one of nine sisters. Earlier only my father could ride a motorcycle, so the responsibility fell on him to take us everywhere. He is old now, which is why I decided to learn how to ride a bike. This is just so important for us, as a family. Last year, my sister got married and I got all her shopping done on my bike. You know people still ask me where I got this pink motorcycle from. They stop me on the road and ask. Some even give me their number and say: “Next time this scheme is launched please let us know. I want one for my daughter.”