With Every Parcel Delivery, India’s First ‘Delivery-Women’ Company Is Breaking Gender Norms

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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.

Yogesh Kumar, founder of Even Cargo, at Singapore International Foundation

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.

Community mobilization by Even Cargo team

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.

One of the soft skills training sessions by Even Cargo

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.

Even Cargo delivery center

“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.


Also Read: When Drought Hit Their Husbands’ Jobs, These Feisty Village Housewives Stepped Up To Run Their Families

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MyStory: “Two Months After I Joined IIT For My PhD I Was Diagnosed With TB”

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A person suffering from Tuberculosis (TB) not only battles the ‘Mycobacterium tuberculosis’ bacteria inside his lungs but also from the stigma attached to the disease. It weakens the patients in many different ways in their fight against the dreaded disease.  

My fight with TB was also filled with stigma. I joined IIT Kharagpur for my PhD in January 2015. Two months later, in March 2015, I was diagnosed with TB. I had to take sick leave from March 2015 that eventually lasted till June 2016. Initially, I did not respond well to medication. Further tests revealed that I had multidrug-resistant TB (MDR TB). This meant that the type of TB I had was resistant to two or more of the antitubercular medication I was taking.

About a year after the intensive phase of my treatment, I felt better and applied for readmission to IIT in July 2016. A prerequisite for rejoining was that my faculty members had to verify my application. With the formalities completed, I resumed my education, but I felt that something was amiss. 

My guide indicated that he did not want his work to suffer on account of my illness. I also heard from a senior colleague that my guide had said that I would spread the disease like an ‘infested animal’. I was disheartened at being subjected to this indignity by my supposed mentor.

However, my primary concern was defeating TB, so I didn’t dwell on it. Today, as I reflect on it, I realise the reasons behind the stigma were ignorance as well as fear.

Even among the educated, there are misconceptions about TB. People think all forms of TB are contagious. Others believe the patient is infectious for the entire length of the treatment. Some even believe that TB spreads through touch. This breeds the fear of contracting the illness.

As we know, people stigmatise and discriminate when they fear. I felt the impact of the stigma on two levels – in my professional life and my personal life.

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Professionally, the reluctance of my supervisor to mentor me and his discouragement affected me. I could not decide whether I should wait for the IIT authorities to tell me to leave or drop out. That decision was made for me by luck when I found out that my CSIR grant application was never processed. 

This meant that I would have to pay for my education. Given the expenditure on my treatment, this was unaffordable for me. This was the final nail in the coffin. I was forced to drop out and could not go back to completing my PhD.

What I faced was not technically illegal. I was discouraged from doing my PhD, but it was still a form of stigma. The external stigma I faced led to depression and isolation. 

Eventually, I realised I had to fight. The treatment for TB is difficult, requiring strict compliance and the management of side effects, and these demands resolve. I began motivating myself. I began following a proper diet and completing my treatment to ensure I could recover. I also turned to books as they transported me to other worlds and helped with my isolation. I also focused on reviving my old relationships.

Gradually, things improved. I could not proceed on my desired career path, but I am an educator now. I constantly realise that I have a role to play in shaping young minds. 

Workplace stigma has tangible consequences. It affects an individual’s career, financial opportunities and their right to work with dignity. So what can we do to address this stigma? 

First, we need to sensitise people by educating them about TB, and the impact stigma has on patients.

Another measure is group counselling involving the patient, the employer and the immediate supervisor. Informal versions of these sessions happen in the workplace in the context of illnesses like cancer. Why should it be any different for TB? 

The goal of this session would be to ensure that the patient is in a supportive environment. 

Finally, at a systemic level, there needs to be a workplace policy on stigma mitigation and a mechanism where the patients can anonymously register their concerns about stigma at the workplace.

A person’s career or job is often their calling and a provider of financial security. Workplace stigma creates a hostile work environment, affecting a person’s ability to do their job and their financial security. Financial insecurity and stigma make it harder for the patient to fight TB both in terms of means and motivation. Therefore, addressing stigma in the workplace is critical to patient well-being and recovery but also to their right to work with dignity.

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It's not how much we give
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