“It is not God, nor the parents who can protect or keep a girl safe,” Meenu’s grandmother says during dinner at the family home in Jaipur, a city in the north of India. “The safety of a girl is with her confidence.”
Meenu had not turned 18 yet when her uncle tried to force her to drop out of school and marry a 30-year-old man. But the young woman had other plans. She had heard about a program called Women on Wheels that trains professional drivers throughout the country, and she had decided to join it.
Her biggest challenge was to convince her family. Her own mother was married at 11, and Meenu was raised by her grandmother while her mother worked as a housekeeper for wealthy families in Jaipur. Meenu grew up with very little, but she refused to let that dictate her future. Together with the Women on Wheels staff, she tried to explain what the program’s benefits could be. But it wasn’t until her uncle was told he would need to reimburse the program’s costs if she decided to quit that he conceded. A few months later, Meenu drove a car to her house for the first time.