A young woman from Karachi has taken on the task of entering a male-dominated profession of driving an auto rickshaw to support her family after her father’s unexpected death in an effort to tackle rising inflation and unemployment.
Alisha Abdul Jameel, the youngest of her sisters and a resident of the city’s Drigh Road neighborhood, aspires to carry out the last desires of her late father by breaking social norms. Rickshaw driver Abdul Jameel, who is without a son, trained his youngest daughter how to confront a bull head-on.
“When my father was ill, he taught me how to drive his rickshaw,” Alisha said. “He wanted me to fulfill his dream of becoming a breadwinner in the family like a son would… he wanted me to play this role to improve the financial situation of my family,” Alisha said
She claimed that she started driving the rickshaw a year ago at the expense of her education because she had to care for her mother and sister after her father Abdul Jameel passed away.
Alisha revealed that she shares a two-room rental home in the Drigh Road neighborhood with her mother, an unmarried sister, and four other sisters who are all happily married.
In honor of her late father, Alisha had a couplet inscribed on her rickshaw that reads, “When the burden (of obligations) becomes too much to bear, I miss my Baba deeply.”
The hardworking woman said that she could only study till the 8th grade and had no source of employment except for a few jobs in different factories offering a very meager salary.
As she anticipated a difficult financial position, Alisha decided to take on the role of family breadwinner on her own, refusing to ask for money from her relatives.
She said that she faces criticism from some of her relatives for running rickshaws but added she ignores them and focuses on hard work and providing for her family.
“I have the backing of my mother so I didn’t give up and I don’t care about anyone else,” she added.
Like other rickshaw drivers, Alisha to faces difficulties while searching for customers. “For my own protection, I try to offer rides to mostly families or women,” she added.
Alisha said that if her rickshaw ever breaks down, she pushes it herself and reaches a mechanic to get it fixed. “When I go out, my mother sends me off with her prayers… and I have no fear after that,” she added.
The girl said that a big chunk of her income goes into buying petrol for her vehicle, lamenting that the government had jacked up the fuel prices. “A large chunk of my money goes into buying petrol which is very expensive nowadays… I don’t earn as much as compared to the hard work I put in,” she added.
Salma, Alisha’s mother, said that Alisha is the family’s eldest daughter and main provider. She said, “Her father wanted Alisha to behave like her son and help the household.
Salma claimed that she worries about her daughter’s safety when she is out and about. She remembered that once not many people pursued her, so she parked her rickshaw next to a Rangers checkpoint.
Alisha has been operating the rickshaw for the past year, according to her. My heart was filled with pride the first time she brought the money, she continued.
Salma added that in these hard financial times, every daughter should help out her parents.