Case Studies

Arti, Amal Clooney Women’s Empowerment Winner 2024

21st May 2024

In May 2024, trailblazing e-rickshaw driver Arti won the prestigious Amal Clooney Women’s Empowerment Award for her determined efforts to drive change.

Young mother Arti has broken the mould to become one of the first pink e-rickshaw drivers in her district in Uttar Pradesh, India, providing safe transport for other women, and inspiring other girls in her village to believe that they too can forge their own path. She received her global award from our Enterprise Ambassador and award sponsor Charlotte Tilbury at a star-studded ceremony at London’s Theatre Royal Drury Lane.

Arti’s parents are daily wage labourers, so their income is both low and insecure. With her family struggling to make ends meet, Arti was married during her 10th grade and had to leave school. But the marriage didn’t last and she soon returned to her family home with her baby daughter.

With few earning options in and around her village, especially for a single mother, Arti, now 19, focused mainly on domestic work at home. Then she joined Project Lehar and began to believe in a better future for herself and her daughter. With quiet determination, she set about making it happen.

Options and opportunities

Project Lehar is run by the Aga Khan Foundation with support from Prince’s Trust International. It offers vocational training, entrepreneurship and life skills courses for girls and young women from low-income backgrounds in Uttar Pradesh and the neighbouring state of Bihar. It also supports girls who left school early to complete their education.

Lehar gave Arti the chance to build her skills and confidence, open her eyes and broaden her horizons. The project enabled her to see, and then believe, that working for herself could be an option.

‘All sessions within the programme helped me develop my skills, especially those that impact my life, such as problem-solving ability, communication skills, managing stress and emotions, and understanding entrepreneurship,’ Arti recalls. ‘Through the learning I had over that period, I became capable of making important decisions for my life.’

 In July 2023, Lehar introduced Arti to the Indian government’s Pink Rickshaw scheme, an initiative to provide rickshaws for female passengers, with female drivers. The idea aims to kill two birds with one stone, increasing employment opportunities for vulnerable women – especially widows and single mothers like Arti – while also improving women’s access to safe transport, thereby increasing their mobility and independence.

Learning to drive

Arti was among the first women to sign up as a trainee driver in her region. Driving is traditionally a male profession in Arti’s community, where girls and women have far fewer opportunities and far less freedom than boys and men. Female drivers were almost unheard of. Daring to step into mobile, independent self-employment broke through multiple social barriers and took significant courage.

Arti soon passed her driving test, and got out on the road. She now works as a self-employed rickshaw driver for six hours a day, enabling other women to travel safely and earning enough to provide for her daughter. She is also planning to go back to the classroom to complete her schooling.

Arti has boldly stepped into the unknown, far beyond the boundaries of her background and experience. She has dared to forge her own path, and is blazing a trail for others to follow, making a great leap forward for women’s physical and social mobility.

‘My daughter would be proud of me when she grows up,’ Arti says.

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