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(From L-R) Shobha Joshi, Eddielin Fernandes, Rajashree Chari and Maria Almeida - four of the travel hostesses of the newly-launched taxi service in the state by GTDC. Pics by Nandesh Kambli | NT

Goan women take the driver’s seat

PANAJI: Coming from different age groups and backgrounds, with some being single and having good education, four of the 10 travel hostesses of the newly-launched women taxi service in the state shared their wheeling experience of the last two days while working in a traditionally male domain.
They have not only attracted the attention of the female tourists but also the Goans at large.
With a step to empower women, Goa Tourism Development Cooperation (GTDC) has achieved a major milestone by introducing women taxi service exclusively for couple, family and female commuters.
Though most of these travel hostesses have extensive driving experience, they never had thought that their skills would land them in a job that of driving a cab, and supporting their family.
GTDC selected the travel hostesses taking into account their passion with vast experience and desire for driving cabs.
These women were interviewed, chosen and given intensive six months training before they were ready to wear their white uniforms as travel hostesses.
The training covered everything from safe driving, first aid and self-defence lessons, as well as classes in English conversation and personality development. Their families were also consulted to make sure that they were okay with their women, taking up the job, who would be out on the road for more than nine hours in a day. The travel hostesses were also provided training in maintaining the cars and made aware of tourist attractions in the state so that they can also serve as a guide.
The women taxi service runs nine hours a day starting from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and the cabs need to be booked at least an hour in advance. The meter fare charge is Rs 33 per km with extra waiting charges as per government notified rate.
Now, for the obvious question, how safe will it be for the women drivers? Safety being the priority, all the 10 GTDC women service cabs come equipped with panic buttons that can alert their ‘vigilance team’ as well as police in case of an emergency.

Willingly became a travel hostess: Rajashree Chari
Standing well short of five feet, Rajashree Chari from Goa Velha, an unmarried woman, is barely taller than the car she drives, but she has stormed a male bastion – the women taxi service – by becoming a travel hostess serving only women passengers, although men can use it if they are accompanied by a woman.
With an ambition to be self-dependent and a passion for driving, Chari took up this job, whose dream to become a travel hostess has come true.
Having graduated in 2009, she is currently pursuing a company secretary degree through distance learning. She is not sure if she wants to change her `cab driving profession,’ but she does have a dream to fulfil in the future.
“Though I have three years of experience in back office and as a ground hostess in service-oriented industry, I had never taken up any extensive field job. Hence, I willingly took up this travel hostess’ job as a passion which is service oriented and will enable me to meet people of various backgrounds. Even my friends and family members appreciated and support me,” Rajashree said.
“Working late night was never a problem for me and my parents are used to it. I enjoy driving a cab and want to drive my own car someday,” she added.
“A day after the launch, a taxi operator came and told me that I shouldn’t be doing this job, that it’s a ‘dirty job’ for a woman, and it will be a loss venture. But I told him to work with us hand-in-hand under the same platform,” she said.

I have to take up this job to provide better education to my children: Maria Almeida
Another courageous travel hostess Maria Almeida, who travels daily from Aldona to drive a cab, said there is a strong stereotype in Goa that women are not good drivers and should not be driving cabs. “People think small. That’s the problem,” Almeida quipped.
“I never worked after marriage. Recently my husband left his lucrative job abroad since he was not keeping well and we both have started our own catering business but it will require more time to establish, and so I have to take up the travel hostess’ job to provide better education to my children,” Almeida said.
“Moreover with the support of my husband, and my driving experience of 15 years has given me confidence to take up this job,” she said.
“I wake up at 4 in the morning, do all the house chores including getting my children ready for their school and then leave home at 7 a.m,” she added.
She said that she misses her children but likes her job because the hours are more flexible. “I am earning so my children can grow up and be what they want,” she added.

It’s more of a passion than a job: Eddielin Fernandes
For Eddielin Fernandes, who is from Agaccaim, working as a travel hostess is more of a passion than a job. She says her husband and mother-in-law are very supportive and proud of what she does.
“I have been fascinated by driving since I was a kid, when my father used to drive a car,” she said. When she was in school, her brother taught her to ride a bullet. “I have 13 years of driving experience including at my previous workplace where I worked for an automobile company as a sales officer and I drive like a man. I would love to be a rally driver,” Eddielin said.
“In the last two days of the launch of the service I made only one trip that is from Miramar residency to the airport and the passengers were happy with the safety, comfort and friendliness during the drive,” she said.
“This is not a good job for a woman.” She has heard this over and over since she completed the training. He father initially was not happy with her decision to take up such a job. “Being a responsible mother of three children it was a hard to take decision but my husband and mother- in- law were very supportive,” she said.
Despite the hardships, she loves her job. “It’s exciting to be a travel hostess because you meet so many new people. Some are sweet, some are sour and some are a bit of both,” she joked.

Driving cab to bring a change in the mindset: Shobha Joshi
A diploma holder in civil engineer, Shobha Joshi, who originally hails from Vasco has taken up this job not merely to make a living but to inspire women to take up this job rather than sitting idle at home fearing about safety.
“The preconceived notion that prevails among the people is that it is unsafe for women to drive a cab. I have joined this field to change this mindset. There is no need to worry; the cabs are equipped with safety measures. I carry pepper spray and I have also been trained in self-defence,” Shobha said.
Shobha, who is middle-aged, gave up her government job in 90s, and has two children who have become engineers now. “It is my second job ever since I quit the government job. I have entered this field not to earn a living but to empower women and spread awareness about this job,” she said.
“I have been driving our family car for last 15 years and I enjoy it. Though I have a professional licence to drive a cab but I never prefer to drive above the speed of 50km/hour however the emergency it may be.
“My children and husband supported me for taking up this occupation. And, if needed, I will stick to this job,” she said.

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