Woman Rising: Nallamma


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The Vicente Ferrer Foundation USA (VFF USA) is thrilled to announce the save-the date for our annual gala, “Recipe for Empowerment” as October 6th, 2017.
Are you interested in traveling to India?
Nallamma is not only one of the first women in India to become a rickshaw driver, she’s also one of the stars of the virtual reality experience debuting at VFF USA’s official launch party on Sept. 22. Nallamma and two other incredible women will give you a special look at their lives and the impact that we’ve had on their families and communities during our “Recipe for Empowerment” event. We can’t wait for you to meet these rising women. Check our website at vffusa.org for more details as the date approaches.
Auto-rickshaws are three-wheeled vehicles designed to transport people and cargo throughout much of India. Every village street and highway is packed with rickshaws conquering traffic and defying load limitations with livestock, passengers (sometimes entire families) and all manner of goods. The driver is almost always a man.
Nallamma wants to change this. Brave and determined, the 34-year-old from the village of Papampalli deflects harassment everyday from people who believe that rickshaw driving is a man’s profession. Nallamma is the head of her sangham and leads a community network of local women. She wants to help other women come out of isolation and take advantage of their full potential.
What motivated you to become a rickshaw driver?
I saw my husband work hard on the field as a day laborer and I wanted to find a way to support my family by contributing to our household income as well. I went to ask for work at many places and I started reading the newspaper every day. One day I saw an ad that began: “If you are female and want to be driving auto-rickshaws…” 
This offer for employment wasn’t like the others. The local government and a state bank were offering subsidized credit to help women like me obtain a driver’s license and purchase a vehicle. I immediately went to the office to sign up. When I arrived, I was disappointed to learn that at least 20 women needed to be interested to make the opportunity available and there were only two who had expressed interest. I began working to find other women in 2013; by April 2015, we were all ready for the program to start. 
Why do you think there were only two women?
I think there were many more women who were interested, but three challenging barriers held them back. 
First, I know many women who, after coming home to speak with their husbands, were forbidden to participate because the husbands said driving was a man’s job. My husband is a very good person, but he also had misgivings. The other men in the village told him not to accept my desire to be a driver.
In addition, we faced the educational requirement for obtaining a driver's license. All drivers must complete 10th grade. Although I was a good student as a child, I left school in 7th grade to help my parents. 
Finally, we had to make a down payment of 40,000 rupees (almost $600USD). I borrowed this money interest-free through the fund that the women’s group had developed to support each other. 
Without the support of the women’s group, I would have never succeed. My neighbors encouraged me at every step of the way and they are so proud of me today.