Uber, the world’s largest on-demand ride-sharing company has partnered with Manas Foundation, a Delhi-based NGO working in the field of mental health and gender equity and justice for the last 15 years, to scale up their gender sensitization workshops for its driver partners in Chennai.

Since Uber arrived in India, they have established themselves as an alternative means of transportation for many, especially for millions of women who seek to move freely. Women who move to their place of work, who return from academies to their home or who go out to have fun, among other hundreds of activities that women perform every day in our cities.

Uber believes that violence against women is a widespread problem in India, one that needs to be addressed with a multi-sectoral and collaborative approach. Technology has the power to transform how we address safety and create these new alternatives, but at the same time, a lot needs to be done, specifically to deploy scalable sensitising solutions. That is why, in addition to continuing to develop technology and processes that contribute to the safety of all those who use the Uber app, we also partnered with Manas Foundation to customise sessions for our driver partners to sensitise them with the nuances of gender and its implications.

Kicked off nationally with training more than 6,900 driver partners in 2018, this partnership aims to strengthen Uber’s commitment towards sensitizing and educating driver partners to create a safer platform for riders and drivers. The workshops consist of in-person gender sensitization program to driver partners associated with Uber and are facilitated by trainers from Manas Foundation in regular batches every day, across different cities. The customised driver sensitisation sessions are focussed on safety, with specific attention given to behaviour on the platform and women’s safety. Manas has already developed a unique, behaviour-change module to engage men in transforming public transport into a safe space for women. They apply the principles of psychology to combat violence against women through interventions with drivers of public transport vehicles.

The partnership has seen an enthusiastic response from the driver partners. The sessions are conducted twice a day for 6 days a week, with each of them being attended by 10-30 driver partners on an average. Uber has been able to reach out to thousands of driver partners in the country, helped transform public transport into safe spaces for women and aims to continue increasing this number further.

Pavan Vaish, Head of Operations, India and South Asia, said: “At Uber, we believe in the transformative potential of technology to create these new alternatives, but at the same time, we recognize that we still have a lot to contribute, specifically in terms of how to confront structural and systemic social phenomena such as gender based violence. That is why, to further reiterate our commitment towards building safer cities and the safety of all those who use the Uber app, we are scaling up our nationwide gender sensitization workshops delivered by Manas Foundation. We have seen an overwhelming response from our driver partners who display their certificates with great pride inside their cars.”

Adding to this, Monica Kumar, Co-Founder, Manas Foundation, said: “We are very excited to scale up this distinctive program with Uber to engage men in taking ownership of the safety of their women passengers. These sessions involve participatory activities that clearly explain the concept of gender and how the laws governing gender discrimination and abuse have changed over the last few years. The training helps clarify what encompasses sexual harassment and it is this understanding of the issue that has been crucial to the change in the treatment of women – as commuters and members of their own families.”

Furthermore, Uber has introduced several innovative features to bring transparency, accountability and strengthen the safety of riders before, during and after a trip. The recently launched 24/7 safety helpline is the latest in a series of initiatives Uber has launched recently such as a safety toolkit for riders and drivers; call anonymisation to protect the privacy of riders; comprehensive background checks of drivers and updated community guidelines, which outline the behavior expected of riders and drivers on the app to foster mutual respect. To ensure seamless post-trip assistance, Uber has a 24/7 safety response team for riders and drivers along with a dedicated law enforcement response team for assisting police with any information they might need.