The name behind Priyadarshini Taxi Service - Susieben Shah
Not only a compassionate social worker, but also a businesswoman, author and lawyer by profession, Susieben Shah has come a long way in her fight for women's welfare. Aiming for holistic progress of the downtrodden, her exemplary inititive, the Priyadarshini Taxi Service, is a milestone in itself. Let's hear what this multi-faceted woman has got to share with us:
1. How would you describe Susieben Shah, the "woman"?
I would like to be known as a woman committed to women's empowerment, with special focus on economic empowerment of women. A social and political activist, not a hardcore feminist but certainly a woman who celebrates womanhood, in all our different facets & role, maybe, that of a daughter, sister, girlfriend, wife, mother, daughter-in-law to name a few.
2. What inspired you to undertake such a novel initiative, the Priyadarshini Cabs?
I believe that true empowerment of women is when they become economically independent. With this in mind, I founded “Priyadarshini Taxi Service”, a Taxi Service driven by women with special emphasis on women from the weaker and economic backward classes. Priyadarshini Taxi Service was conceptualized and implemented a novel and unique concept by me with a view to economically empower women. It has been very satisfying and exciting journey so far which has been appreciated and hailed by one and all. The spirit behind Priyadarshini Taxi Service is to create an income generating capacity in the Priyadarshini drivers, it enables our women to earn a respectable livelihood. Many of our drivers are sole breadwinners of the family, the income so generated is used for a better standard of living, health and education of the family. It will also enable creation of an asset in the name of the woman, which would result in better standing for the woman in family and in society at large.
3. What are the challenges that you've faced in giving shape to your vision of a woman-only cab service?
The biggest challenge that I faced was the implementation of Priyadarshini Taxi Service from the Domestic Airport. I had to wage a war with the unions and other vested interest to start our operation under the Pre-paid Category despite a Govt. Notification in our favor. We moved the Mumbai High Court to have it implemented.
Further, we have approached the Govt. of Maharashtra to support the economic empowerment of women by issuing Taxi Permits under the Women’s Quota. Mumbai is considered to be relatively safe women and to further ensure safety for ever increasing women workforce and commuters, you will agree, that , taxi driven by women, on 24X7 basis is the need of the hour!! The Government of Maharashtra is favourably considering our request.
4. The Priyadarshini Taxi Service has been an exemplary manifestation of woman empowerment. What are your views on woman empowerment?
The level of women's empowerment is a strong indicator of the progress of a country. I strongly believe that for a progressive society, it is imperative that the women of the society is empowered, economically, politically & socially, which in turn, empowers, the family, the chawl, the community, the village, the city, where she resides. With the above in mind, I am a firm believer in the fact that women have to be economically independent for her to assert her identity, it is imperative that she has the economic independence, can stand on her own feet & has the capacity, should the need be she could emerge as back bone of the family.
5. What are your future goals and objectives for the betterment of women?
I consider myself as the empowered women of the 21st century, my mission is to reach out as many women as I can, through, of course, Priyadarshini Taxi Service, but have also
a. Established a government approved & supported, Family Counselling Center, "Stree Shakti Kendra", which through trained Counselors & Legal Advisers, guide the women out of their distress whether it be marital, at her work-place, physical & mental abuse to name a few.
b. Director, in a company, For-she, which focuses on providing, vocational training for women, in various fields. We also focus in providing Self Defense Training to Women.
c. I am penning an updated book on legal awareness, adding the rights of a women under the recently enacted women-friendly legislations…..
I, in my humble capacity, do my best to make the world a better place to live in for Women!!
6. How has your being a lawyer facilitated your role as a social activist?
A sound legal knowledge, a trained mind always helps you through the maze of Public Policies, Government Resolutions, helps you to interpret the said rules, in a manner which would benefit the ‘Aam Aadmi’. A social activist can always deliver better if he\she has a legal knowledge.
7. Share some words of advice for the women who also want to contribute to the society.
We women, stand unto injustice, whenever we see injustice, harassment meted out to any women. Unless & until we all stand united against atrocities & injustice we will not be able to fight the evils of gender injustice…let us not forget we are a at least a 50% of the population!!
8. Tell us something about your book "Legal Awareness Amongst Women."
I believe information is a Gateway to Knowledge. Unfortunately despite various women friendly legislations enacted by the Government of UPA 1 and UPA 2 the women of India across social and economic background are not aware of their rights accorded to them in the Constitution and in various Acts prevalent in India. With that in mind, I penned the book "Legal Awareness amongst Women" and published in 4 languages. I have once again started writing a book on the latest Amendments thereon, focusing on the Criminal Amendment Act and Prevention of Sexual Harassment at the Workplace which has just been enacted by UPA Government, to protect the safety and dignity of women. It is going to be my sincere effort that these books are available at every bus-stop, railway station and all public places for the women to read and make themselves aware of their rights, because it is only when you know your rights, can you enforce them.
9. What according to you has been your biggest achievement till date?
I am walking the tough long path of women’s empowerment….it is a process, it is a battle….I will continue to strive till a semblance of Gender Justice is established. Lot of work has to been done before I can say this is my achievement!! All my endeavours are listed on Priyadarshinitaxiservice.com & susiebenshah.in. YOU DECIDE, which of my activities truly depict women's empowerment!!
10. Are you glad to be a woman? Why?
As we are celebrating the Navratri, Durga Puja & Diwali, where women, stree shakti have played a pivotal role in ensuring the Good prevails over the Evil, whether it be in the form of Ma Durga, Ma Kali, Ma Sita….I am indeed proud to be a woman and shall strive to ensure that every women is empowered enough to assert her own identity and secure her rightful place in the society.