LAHORE - One hundred and fifty female bikers yesterday took part in a first kind of motorcycle rally on The Mall during the formal launch of Punjab government sponsored Women on Wheels (WOW) project. These female motorcyclists have already completed their training under Special Monitoring Unit on Law & Order and City Traffic Police. Austrian Ambassador Brigitta Balaha and known jurist Asma Jehangir also participated in the rally.

Provincial Minister for Population Welfare Zakia Shahnawaz, Minister for Women Development Hameeda Waheed ud Din, Senior Member SMU Salman Sufi, assembly members, Danish Ambassador Helen Neilson, American Consul General in Lahore Zackary Harkenrider, UN Women Country Representative Jamshed Qazi, prominent motorcyclist of Singapore Juvena Huan and people of different walks of life were present on the occasion. 

Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif has already announced to provide pink scooters to working women and girl students under WoW Project. The distribution of the scooters will start on International Women Day.

The Punjab government had also started a pink bus service in the city specific for female commuters. But the buses gradually vanished from the city routes.  Though the Sindh government is already providing driving license to female bikers in Karachi and they could be seen at port city roads but any promise to provide free bikes to working ladies has not been made by the provincial government.

Enthusiasm of the participants was visible during the rally in Lahore. Asma Jahangir congratulated the Punjab government and SMU on WOW project. Executive Director of Working Women Organization and labour activist Aima Mahmood termed it a good move of the Punjab government towards women empowerment and upholding the soft image of the country.

Addressing “Women on Wheels” seminar which held prior to the rally, Women Development Minister Hameeda Waheed-ud-Din said that participation of women in development process was essential for achieving the aim of national progress and prosperity. She added that Punjab government was taking effective measures for the elimination of gender discrimination, change in social mindset and ensuring active participation of women in all sectors of life.

On the instructions of the government, free training was being imparted to women in motorcycle riding under the aegis of Special Monitoring Unit Chief Minister House, said the minister, announcing that on International Women’s Day, one thousand scooties will be distributed. Informing that women desk was being set up in every police station in Punjab, she said that the government steps against harassment of women were yielding positive results. Referring to various challenges and problems being faced by women, the minister said that equal rights as well as due encouragement was being given to women so that they could play their due role in the society.

Population Welfare Minister Zakia Shahnawaz said that provision of equal opportunities of development to women was the responsibility of Punjab government. She vowed that no effort will be spared for making Women on Wheels project successful. “The government will continue the process of legislation for empowerment of women,” she added.

Austrian Ambassador Dr Brigitta Balaha said that provision of opportunity and facilities to Pakistani women is commendable step. “Pakistani women are safer in the present days as compared to previous tenures,” the Austrian envoy added. American Consul General Zachary Harkenrider said he felt honoured to see the historic rally of motorcyclist women in Pakistan. He added the American institutions were providing assistance to Pakistani people for improvement in education, health and other sectors. 

MNA Maiza Hameed said there should be social boycott of the elements involved in harassment of women. “Parda (veil) wearing women have also equal rights of education and development in the society,” she stated. CCPO Lahore Amin Wains assured all-out protection to women motorcyclists in Lahore. “Police security will be available to women within five minutes after call on police helpline 15. Women can seek help though SMS on 8330 in any emergent situation,” he told the rally’s participants.

Women Country Head of UN Jamshed Qazi said women are progressing after getting equal opportunities throughout the world. “Pakistani women have to spend more on transport facility as compared to men,” said Qazi, adding that through WOW project, women would not only achieve transport but also facility of reduction in expenditure. At the end of the rally, provincial ministers, foreign guests and elected representatives distributed certificates among traffic wardens for providing training to female riders.