For women in Delhi, the national capital now rechristened unofficially as the “rape capital”, their ambitions are always met with an inevitable question – Does the city offer a safe space for her women? In recent years, the growing reports of sexual violence have curtailed the career goals of many young women. The worst sufferers were those who belonged to the economically weaker section, with not many educational degrees and skillsets to opt for a decent job. Sheerly out of safety concerns and gender bias, families consider it a better option to confine their daughters to the home and train them to be the ‘perfect bride’.
Yogesh Kumar, a women empowerment crusader from Delhi, was determined to liberate these women from the shackles of fear and restrictions. Thus was born Even Cargo, India’s first logistics company which recruits only delivery girls.
In the age of thriving e-commerce, we are well-accustomed to seeing delivery executive men on two-wheelers plying through our cities and knocking on our doors. Now imagine opening the door to a delivery girl holding your parcel with a smile. This has been a reality in Delhi-NCR for the past two years, thanks to Even Cargo. Since 2016, around twenty-five delivery-women from Even Cargo are proving their mettle and scripting history in a chiefly male-dominated field. “We also have started our operations in Jaipur and have plans to expand in Punjab, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat as well,” informs Yogesh Kumar, in a conversation with Efforts For Good.
Breaking the gender stereotypes
The need for economic integration of women in the country’s workforce was something that prodded Yogesh Kumar, while he was working as a production engineer with a German corporate. So, after pursuing a degree in social entrepreneurship, he launched Delhi OYE: Open Your Eyes – a non-profit to combat gender disparity. “Our prime agenda was to create safe public spaces for women,” shares Yogesh. His first initiative of starting an all-women cab-service, only catering to women passengers, did not match up to the expectations, mainly because very few women were licensed drivers and even fewer could afford a vehicle of their own.
Yogesh always wanted to sensitise the masses about women emancipation, starting from the grassroots level. Providing employment to the women was a boost in the right direction. “Then again, I did not want to train women in tailoring or handicrafts, which has been the traditional norm. My wish was to establish women at par with men, breaking the stereotypes.” That’s when the idea of Even Cargo occurred to Yogesh. His team went door to door, inviting young girls from resource-strapped families. “There again, we were met with apprehensions from the parents, who were solely worried about the safety of their daughters,” he reveals.
That’s why the Even Cargo core team designed a foolproof training programme for the girls which included compulsory self-defence classes. The working hours for the employees are very convenient, with no delivery encouraged beyond 6 PM. Also, the company mostly co-ordinates with women-centric online shopping sites, so that both the delivery-women and the customers can feel at ease. “Not only homes, but our girls are also now delivering to offices, hostels and other institutions as well. Thankfully, we have not encountered any major trouble regarding the safety of our employees which helps to dispel the myth that all public spaces are unsafe for women,” Yogesh declares proudly.
How Even Cargo is changing lives
With a humongous backpack filled with 30 to 70 packages of diverse shapes and sizes, the young heroes wheel through the city in their scooters, braving the sun and dust throughout the day. More often than not, they are greeted by amazed customers with a swarm of appreciation and encouragement.
“Tabassum, who hails from a very conservative family residing in a slum, had to battle hardships all her life. Her father’s paltry income of Rs 9000 a month failed to make ends meet for the family of eleven. After she joined Even Cargo, the income nearly doubled for the family. She even opened a bank account for the first time and bought her own ‘Scooty’,” narrates Ekta, the strategic partnership associate at Even Cargo.
“For most of the women, Even Cargo has opened a new dimension altogether. They are supporting their families, while many are enrolling in different courses to continue their studies with own earnings,” Yogesh continues, “In fact, their financial stronghold has helped them become the decision-makers of the family.”
The story of Shakuntala is equally moving. A single mother with two kids, she had been supporting her family with irregular income from odd jobs, till Even Cargo employed her. And now she is serving as an inspiration to countless women like her.
‘Women empowerment’ to ‘women empower’
A recent study revealed that the integration of women in the workforce can substantially increase the GDP of India. Even Cargo is a first-of-its-kind company which has not only employed so many women, but they are also creating a positive network of awareness wherein other young girls are stepping into the shoes of confidence and empowerment. Even Cargo has successfully kickstarted nothing less than a revolution in the workforce and will continue to bolster more women towards uninhibited success.
“The narrative has to change from ‘women empowerment’ to ‘women empower’. Only a substantial change in the career demography for women can change the mentality of the people. They need to realise that women do not need empowerment anymore, rather they are now empowering others. Only then we can boast of a true change in the society,” Yogesh signs off.