Thursday, June 20, 2024

E-Rickshaw driver wins UK’s royal award

An 18-year-old rickshaw driver from a village in Bahraich district, Uttar Pradesh, is ecstatic after meeting King Charles III at Buckingham Palace. She received a prestigious women’s empowerment award in London this week.

Arti was honored with the Amal Clooney Women’s Empowerment Award, named after the famous human rights barrister, at the Prince’s Trust Awards in London. This was followed by a meeting with the 75-year-old monarch on Wednesday.

She was honored for inspiring other young girls through her work with the government’s Pink E-rickshaw initiative, which aims to provide safe transport for women while driving change, quite literally.

“I take pride in being able to inspire other girls who face similar challenges. This newfound independence has allowed me to see the world in a different light. Now, I am able to fulfill not only my dreams but also those of my daughter,” said Arti, who has a five-year-old daughter. On her first visit to London, she bought a cake and a pair of shoes for her daughter.

“It has been an unbelievably amazing experience, meeting the King who was so nice and sent his namaste to my family back home too. He also listened carefully as I spoke about how much I love driving my e-rickshaw, which does not run on polluting diesel or petrol but is charged at home every night,” she shared, speaking in Hindi.

Founded by King Charles when he was the Prince of Wales, the Prince’s Trust International will now transform into the King’s Trust International as it continues its work supporting young people across 20 countries through employment, education, and enterprise programs. The Prince’s Trust women’s empowerment award recognizes the global efforts of young women who have overcome significant challenges and made a lasting impact on those around them.

“This year’s winner, Arti, is an inspirational example of someone whose trailblazing work in a typically male arena makes women in her community safer. Arti is determined to create a world where her daughter will not face the obstacles that she has faced, and she is already making a difference through her example,” said Amal Clooney, the British activist-barrister after whom the award is named.

For the reception at Buckingham Palace, Arti arrived in a pink rickshaw, showcasing it not only as a sustainable mode of transport but also as an idea and a movement.

In July 2023, Project Lehar, delivered in partnership with Prince’s Trust International and the Aga Khan Foundation (AKF), introduced Arti to the Indian government’s Pink E-Rickshaw scheme. This initiative aims to empower women and expand their income-earning opportunities across the country. Under the scheme, the Bahraich district administration provided pink e-rickshaws with a subsidy for women drivers.

The scheme aims to create job opportunities for vulnerable women, particularly widows and single mothers like Arti, while also enhancing women’s access to safe transportation, thereby increasing their mobility and independence.

“Arti truly embodies the courage, perseverance, and determination to succeed against all odds, emerging as a role model for women in her village. We are immensely grateful for our partnership with Prince’s Trust International, which has enabled us to support young women in realizing their dreams and aspirations. Here’s to many more Arti’s – believe in yourself, and never let anything dim the light of your ambitions,” said Tinni Sawhney, CEO of AKF (India). She accompanied Arti to the award ceremony and also assisted with interpretation.

Will Straw, CEO of the Prince’s Trust International, added: “I am so proud of Arti on winning this year’s women’s empowerment award. She is breaking societal barriers and setting an example through her strength and determination.

“Our work in India gives young people the opportunity to build valuable life skills and find meaningful work. Through Project Lehar and our partnerships with the Aga Khan Foundation, we will continue supporting young women to achieve their ambitions.”

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