Sunita Chaudhary grew up in an orthodox village in Bahadurpur in Uttar Pradesh, where the purdah system is prevalent. Confined to their homes, girls from these villages still do not have access to formal education. Sunita learnt only basic reading and counting, and spent her days on household chores. She was married at the young age of 14 years to a very abusive husband and, lacking support from her parents or in-laws, Sunita was deeply unhappy. One day she decided to escape her suffering and she ran away to Delhi.
Clueless about her next step, and ill equipped for life in the big and alien city as a single woman, Sunita struggled to make ends meet. However, one day whilst riding a local bus, Sunita watched the driver and decided that she would learn to drive and make her living as an auto rickshaw driver. This was a very unconventional choice for a woman – driving rickshaws is a male-dominated profession. Yet never one to give up, Sunita overcame the multiple obstacles in her path and after three long years she finally secured her auto license and a loan to purchase her own auto. Working two shifts a day to repay the loan, Sunita is the only female auto rickshaw driver in the Delhi/NCR region. Simple, softly spoken and with a steely determination, Sunita is an inspiration and a reminder to women that it is always possible to follow your dreams.
After her traumatic marriage, without family or friends to support her or resources of her own, it was very difficult for Sunita to survive in Delhi. Whilst completing her auto training from IDTR, Loni Border, she faced daily taunts and teasing from male drivers. She ran from pillar to post to secure her auto license, and was denied a loan to buy her rickshaw by the government for three years. Unaccustomed to the Delhi roads, she would often follow bus routes or give rebates to her passengers for guiding her. In order to survive and earn a living, Sunita realized she needed to get around the degrading and debilitating perceptions of women auto drivers; she therefore chopped off her hair and dressed as a man. Sunita has been harassed by police and stopped for questioning for no reason, on many occasions. Nevertheless, she has dealt with every hurdle with an iron will and a smile.
Today, Sunita selflessly helps the vulnerable and abandoned women who come to seek her assistance. She wants to promote the education of girls everywhere because she believes education is the most powerful tool a woman can have. She is certain that if she could overcome all barriers to achieve her goal, other women can follow suit.
Quote:I am proud to be a woman as women bring new life into this world. A woman is powerful, if she chooses to be. She has many facets to her personality; she can be a goddess and she can be a destroyer.