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18 women set to pass Pakistan’s first training programme for female bus drivers

As many as 18 women are all set to graduate this month from the first-ever training initiative launched in the country to produce female bus drivers.

The training programme, which is based in Karachi, was launched by the Sindh Mass Transit Authority (SMTA), a subsidiary of the Sindh government, under its vision to increase the number of women workforce in the public transport sector.

Earlier, female conductors were hired for the women-only Pink buses launched in Karachi under the Peoples Bus Service of the Sindh government. The training programme was launched on November 1. Seventeen of the 18 women selected for training belong to Karachi while one of the course participants is from Hyderabad who daily commutes from her native city to attend the training programme.

Two of the course participants are from the underprivileged area of Lyari. From November 1 till mid-December, the selected women attended an orientation session on driving skills at the drivers’ training school of the Motor & Highway Police on M-9 near Gulshan-e-Maymar.

In the orientation programme, the course participants learnt about the fundamentals of driving skills and road safety rules. A driving simulator was used at the training school to train the would-be female bus drivers.

Since mid-December, the course participants have been attending the practical part of the training programme at the Mehran bus depot. During this phase, the trainees are learning to drive the electric, diesel-electric hybrid, green and pink buses imported by the Sindh government under the People’s Bus Service.

The programme graduates could also be employed for the upcoming service on new sections of the bus rapid transit (BRT) system to be launched in Karachi. Huma Ashar, who works as the Gender Specialist at the SMTA, said the provincial mass transit authority had planned that the graduates of the programme, after attaining the licence to drive public service vehicles, should not just be hired to drive the female-only Pink buses in Karachi.

“We aim to train them for all types of passenger buses and BRT service to be launched in Karachi as part of our aim to maximise the component of women empowerment of the mass transit system in the city,” she said.

The course participants expressed their resolve to get employment as drivers of passenger buses in Karachi after graduating from the programme. They said the course had gone a long way to make them fully skilled in the road transport sector for attaining the stage of economic self-reliance in the shortest possible time. They said that after graduating from the course, they would be fully confident to professionally drive on the roads of Karachi with complete awareness about road safety rules.

Sharjeel’s statement

In a post on social media platform X on the training initiative, Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) leader and former Sindh information and transport minister Sharjeel Inam Memon said the previous government of the PPP had envisioned the training programme for female drivers for economic empowerment of women.

The former transport minister said the training programme fully reflected the vision of the PPP, which stood for the socio-economic empowerment of women for the progress and development of Pakistan.

He said greater participation of women in the country’s economic workforce was necessary for the country’s growth and prosperity.

“This step will go a long way to serve the cause of women empowerment and give the sense of protection and security to females to actively serve in the public service sector,” Memon wrote.

He added that after again coming into power as a result of the general elections, the PPP would continue with its agenda of empowering the underprivileged sections of society in order to help them become financially self-reliant.

Source: The News