Female scooty riders recently gathered at one of the busiest intersections of Karachi, rode confidently along the beach, stopped midway for selfies and finally settled for drinks and snacks at a popular outdoor eating venue. The passerbys stared at them with a mix of envy, amazement and a little bit of contempt. But this ‘contempt’ for women on motorbikes or scooties is exactly what these inspiring girls are trying to change by desensitizing society and going public.
“At one point, women who drove cars were looked down upon and discouraged, today a huge per cent of women drive on the streets of Pakistan,” says a mother of two fixing her helmet.
The women riding their scooties come from all backgrounds, ages and income brackets.
“I was one of the first students of this initiative. It took me 15 minutes to learn and became their voluntary trainer by the next day,” says Sarwat Muzammil, a technology entrepreneur.
The scooty riders had full support from SP Shehla Qureshi and Karachi police who followed the women throughout the journey so that no unpleasant event took place.
The scooters and motorbikes used by the women were easy to ride, shaped and designed especially for women in mind and came in multiple colors. The vehicles have been manufactured in China and assembled in Pakistanand range from Rs.50,000-60,000.
Superpower Motorcycle was behind this particular rally. However, getting them trained and confident enough ride has also been their initiative and hard work. They started training participants last year free of cost at universities in Karachi and Hyderabad. Muzamil travelled to all locations to volunteer with the company and was given a free scooty as reward for her participation.
“If you know how to balance on a cycle, this would be a piece of cake,” she says.
When they opened up registrations, the organization was amazed by the number of young women who wanted to learn in Pakistan. Even after scooty training, they feared that not many women would not go out and do this in public. Fortunately, many have used their training to do their groceries, pick and drop their kids to school and go to their own offices.
“I’ve met 98% people who appreciate me, give me a thumbs-up or take a picture to show their friends. Of course there are a few who don’t like it. But we should’nt stop ourselves because of ‘log kia kahein gay’,” says Muzammil.
Another rider Ainy says using a scooty helps her avoid sexual harassment she regularly faces on the streets of Karachi and in using buses. She also thinks it helps her save money and time that she previously used to spend taking taxis, buses and rickshaws.
“To build my confidence, one of my female cousins sits on the backseat and I feel more secure when we are riding together.”
Interestingly enough, criticism and contempt doesn’t necessary come from random people on the street. Sometimes, it is your own family that creates barriers to riding a scooty.
“I had a harder time convincing my son to let me go on the scooty than my husband. They felt embarrassed that their mother would be on a scooty. Now I take my son on recreational activities on the bike,” says Sakina Hussain.
But scooty riding isn’t just to run your errands and reach offices, schools and universities. Some consider riding their scooty the most enjoyable and entertaining part of their day.
“The right to enjoy life is not just for men, I would also love to ride along the beach like men do every day without fear,” says the housewife.