Updated 22 Nov, 2017


My name is Rehana and I’m one of the few, if not the only, female rickshaw drivers you'll find on the streets of Lahore.

I was born and raised in this city. My home is in the Fatehgarh neighbourhood. I have three siblings: two older sisters and a brother. I also have three children: two daughters and a son. My daughters — aged 7 and 12 — are studying. My 17-year-old son dropped out of school after class 6. I’m the sole breadwinner of the family, as my husband left us three years ago.

As a child, I wanted to be a boy. I used to play the games that boys played — marbles, kite flying. I was never interested in going to school despite my parents' insistence. I was a complete tomboy. But as I grew up my parents told me I'd have to get married one day. They eventually got me married. I tried to keep my family together, but my husband left me.

"I decided to get a rickshaw in February. Many people helped me with the money. I had some of my own saved too. The showroom people gave me the rickshaw on discounted instalments and eased the purchasing process. God bless everyone who thought so much about me."

When he left, I wondered how I would raise my three children, how I'd feed them and send them to school. I started looking for work. I couldn’t work as a domestic help because I had fractured my leg in an accident. As a child, I used to ride bicycles, so my son taught me how to ride a motorcycle so I could transport my daughters to and from school where I found a job as a maid. Due to my fractured leg, I had two extra wheels fixed to the motorbike. The teachers supported me a lot but the school only paid me Rs6,000 and wanted me to work double. So I quit.

Once out of work and after a lot of deliberations and even suicidal thoughts, I decided to get a rickshaw on instalments in February this year. A lot of people helped me with the money. I had some of my own saved too. The showroom people were really helpful and kind; I told them my husband had left me and I wanted to work for my children. They were very encouraging and gave me the rickshaw on discounted instalments and eased the purchasing process too. God bless everyone who thought so much about me.

After riding a motorcycle for so long, I didn’t find driving a rickshaw difficult. I thought the method was the same and practised driving myself. I brought it home from the showroom myself.

In the beginning, I used to pick and drop schoolchildren and had girls going for tuitions. I barely took customers from the roads; I only picked up women if I found them on the way, but I never waited for customers like rickshaw drivers usually do. I didn’t want to wait among men; they make all kinds of comments. So my main source of income was through schoolchildren and teachers.

But this could not go on for long because a lot of those children shifted schools. I became worried about paying the instalments. At the petrol station where I refuelled my rickshaw, I asked them to connect me with some schoolchildren. They didn't have any leads. I was getting desperate and even thought of committing suicide again.

But a person at the petrol station suggested that I join the Careem fleet and even made me meet his friend who was already associated with the company. They took me to the Dharampura office of Careem where they conducted a little interview, got my rickshaw details and trained me a bit. That’s how my journey with Careem started a month ago.

The training at Dharampura made no sense to me because I’m completely illiterate. I couldn’t use the mobile phone or the internet. I asked my son to join me while I take rides on the rickshaw. So now he handles the phone and maps.

"If I don’t know the directions, fellow rickshaw drivers on the way guide me. If my rickshaw stalls they help me push it to a petrol pump or a workshop. They’ve been very helpful to me."

My day starts with sending my daughters off to school after which I take out my rickshaw around noon. Initially, I had to complete six trips in eight hours, but then Careem asked me to do at least four trips in five hours. I don’t want to spend more time outside because I have to give time to my children too; there’s nobody else to take care of them.

When they come home, I feed them and send them off to Quran lessons and tuition. Once they leave for tuition, I take out the rickshaw to drop girls to their tuition. I believe if we start by making less money, we’ll eventually get more, but if we run after more, we’ll lose the little we had also. So I’m satisfied with the time I’m spending on the rickshaw.

I even got my son a motorcycle rickshaw so he doesn’t get into bad habits after quitting school. He helps me with running our house when I’m not driving.

I’ve mostly had women customers, and they've been very supportive of me for what I’m doing for my children.

Sometimes the maps are so confusing that we reach a location, but the customer doesn’t come out or even call to check where I am, so we don’t know if we’re at the right place. Some end up cancelling the rides. I have had women lawyers as customers who gave me their visiting cards and told me to call them in case of any problem. The few men I’ve had have been nice and supportive too. So far, I haven’t faced any difficulty with them.

I mostly take rides near my locality because if I go far and then a customer cancels a ride, it gets problematic for me. So I prefer staying near my house. If ever end up going far and don’t know the directions, fellow rickshaw drivers on the way guide me very well. If my rickshaw stalls on the way, or there’s a tyre issue, they help me push it to a petrol pump or a workshop. They’ve been very helpful to me.

Earlier, I used to earn enough only to provide food to my children, pay house rent and rickshaw instalment. But now I think I can save too.

When I started driving the rickshaw on my own in February, a lot of people, including my sisters, told me I could face problems on the way, passengers could harass me.

But I told them God will help me. I said that if someone would tease me, they’d get a thrashing from me. I also made it a point to dress in a way that they wouldn't dare tease me. I had to become a man myself. Even when my husband left, I had to become both father and mother for my kids. They are also supportive and say they don’t need a father, I’m enough for them.

I want my children to become good human beings. It depends on them what they want to be when they grow up. My son says he will work and wants me to sit at home, but he isn’t that mature yet.

"After riding a motorcycle for so long, I didn’t find driving a rickshaw difficult. I brought it home from the showroom myself."

I wish my daughters study as much as possible. I give them my example when they say they’re not interested in studying. I tell them, 'This is how men can treat you, you need to stand on your own feet, become independent.' As we’re a Pathan family, women in my family do pardah, they don’t go out at all, they don’t even ride bicycles. But I was the rebellious one.

After I started riding the motorcycle, I saw so many women doing the same. Women driving cars have appreciated me. A lot of women asked me to teach them how to drive a rickshaw, but I said I will only if they take it seriously and not give it up.

I’ve told a lot of women around me not to give up, and keep their spirits high. I want to tell women to earn for themselves, for their children. Have enough courage, be brave. Don’t seek anyone’s help; it’s always best to help yourself. It gives you a sense of independence.

This story was told to Sheharyar Rizwan. It has been lightly edited for clarity. All photographs courtesy Careem.


Noor ahmed Nov 22, 2017 09:50am
keep it up
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Noor ahmed Nov 22, 2017 09:53am
if we start by less money we will eventually get more but we run after more,we will lose the little we had also..............this is best line keep it up
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Pragmatic Pakistani Nov 22, 2017 10:05am
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Prabir Nov 22, 2017 10:11am
Salute. Keep it up ,which place it from ,does not matter.
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Ah Nov 22, 2017 10:16am
Bravo and hats off. Bless you for doing your best to support your family.
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ashutosh Nov 22, 2017 10:17am
Real heroes of the country..
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AK Nov 22, 2017 10:42am
Superb story and very nicely narrated !!!
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Chitrubootham Nov 22, 2017 10:52am
Congratulations Reagan the Rickshaw driver in Lahore! I'm glad people are helpful. It''s a dream!
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Batool Nov 22, 2017 11:02am
What a wonderful story! Thank you, Images.
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Junaid anwar Nov 22, 2017 11:24am
seven stars .....
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Umg Nov 22, 2017 11:47am
Wonderful,but let not mulla advise her to wear burkha.
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Random Nov 22, 2017 12:14pm
Congratulations Rehana!
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santosh Nov 22, 2017 12:20pm
Pakistan has a future b"coz of women like you, Rehana.
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ahmar qureshi Nov 22, 2017 12:33pm
"I believe if we start by making less money, we’ll eventually get more, but if we run after more, we’ll lose the little we had also" THIS LINE ENTHRALLED ME ! WAY TO GO MADAME!
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ahmar qureshi Nov 22, 2017 12:34pm
@Noor ahmed THE BEST QUOTE I CONSIDER! THIS LINE TOOK ME AWAY! Nice pick! I did notice that too! :-)
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Shahid Nov 22, 2017 12:44pm
Great job Sherharyar for bringing this story out to the readers. Hurray for Rehana, very brave woman and agreat example for the rest. Best of luck.
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kinza younas Nov 22, 2017 01:14pm
Wonderful. This lady is amazing, no matter she is not able to write and read, but still she is doing hard work and become an example for those who give up either male or female. And most appreciating part is she is earning a Halal Rizq.
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Observer -Canada Nov 22, 2017 02:22pm
I am totally amazed by the vision and courage of this lady. She is a trail blazer. This is the real emancipation of women in Pakistan. Sitting in cosy drawing rooms or holding conferences in five star hotels is not enough. Those who strive for women emancipation and women liberty should step out and help such women stand up in a primarily dominated society.
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Surya Kant Agrawal Nov 22, 2017 03:14pm
Hats off to you brave lady....!!!!!
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mehran Nov 22, 2017 03:28pm
These are the trendsetters.
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Maaz PASHA Nov 22, 2017 04:32pm
Bravo..Pakistani women should learn from her and not sit home chatting ...They could change their lives same as this brave woman is doing.
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M_A_H Nov 22, 2017 06:00pm
The real face of a resilient and brave Pakistani lady. She should be the role model for all those people (especially men) who are hopeless before even doing any effort. Well done Lady!
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Dr. Salaria, Aamir Ahmad Nov 22, 2017 07:52pm
Well done. Keep it up and hang on tough.
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Seedoo Nov 22, 2017 07:59pm
My hats off to you, lady. You make us proud!
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Abdul Waheed Nov 22, 2017 08:06pm
Very impressive and inspiring story. You have all the ingredients of a CEO and a leader of a large corporation. The training, the positive outlook, and the courage that you possess are the all signs of a great leader. I will not even dare say that you keep it up because you will. I salute you and all people like you irrespective of their gender. if we start by less money we will eventually get more but we run after more,we will lose the little we had also.............
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Rashid Nov 22, 2017 08:41pm
Rehana keep it up, Pakistan needs more people like you, who are independent and hardworking.
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zohaib Nov 22, 2017 09:38pm
truly inspirational
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Nizamuddin Ahmad AAli Nov 22, 2017 09:51pm
Brave and determined daughter of Pakistan. Good luck, and keep it up. Pakistan Zindabad.
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Zeeshan ahmef Nov 22, 2017 10:58pm
This story has brought joy and tears in my eyes, may Allah bless her and all those who helped her.
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Aman Nov 22, 2017 11:59pm
Brave woman, good job!
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Satya Nov 23, 2017 12:04am
So proud of you!!
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Rev. Eldrick Lal Nov 23, 2017 01:03am
Madam! I respect and appreciate your hardworking spirit.
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iblish Nov 23, 2017 04:10am
Great, Take control of your life and freedom.
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Syed Nov 23, 2017 05:13am
Is no shame of any kind to any job. If our people went abroad to clean toilets and don't feel shame and harm for sake of money with harsh conditions then why they should feel shame full working in their own place. As a result it creates poverty, dept and employement
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Habib A. Zuberi Nov 23, 2017 07:27am
This lady is just great. I live in America. I have never been a citizen of Pakistan, but number of my relative including first cousins and their children and grand children live there and we are from the family of Baha Uddin Zakaria and Shahbaz Khan Kamboh. I would like to help this brave lady who seems to have a strong character and wants to help her children to receive education.His husband did not know how to love and respect a lay of that character.
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Sumitendra Mazumdar Nov 23, 2017 07:49am
So many kudos for the woman. Not one comment that says that her husband should be thrashed and be made to pay child support.
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Habib A. Zuberi Nov 23, 2017 08:02am
This great lady has set a fine example. Respect her and help her accomplish the goal of educating her children. She earns her living by working and not begging. People like her will help make Pakistan a fine place to live. She should be. Model for others. Also note that when she needs help others willingly offer it to her. May you be a source of inspiration to others.
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Chris roberts Nov 23, 2017 09:41am
It's such a pleasure to read stories like this in Dawn. This lady really deserves credit. She will undoubtedly be a source of inspiration for other women. She seems as well to be a very good mum.
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Sheikh Nasir Nov 23, 2017 09:52am
Your Are Great you
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Javed Sarfraz FCA UK Nov 23, 2017 10:34am
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Abbas Nov 23, 2017 02:57pm
only the love of a mother for her kids can make women so powerful
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Saleem Nov 23, 2017 04:00pm
Really a story of Courage
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marian Nov 23, 2017 04:01pm
Proud that she took this step. The government should do this for our transgender community who wear make up and beg the streets. They are Human. They are most times very nice people. Nobody came across one that was evil so far. At least I hope not. They are not robbers or gangsters that are a curse to our very existence. Who loot and plunder and kill for no reason at all. When the transgenders are at the signal if they get a "no" they move away. Not like menacing beggar mafia! and all those little ones they force into beggary. Maybe the charitable institution should put these people to work similar to the above lady. The transgender should try for this. Because they are not mentally challenged they are born different! Nobody would notice if they do not have that makeup on. people just need to get from one point to another. Somebody think about it. They do not need to beg or wear make up in public. If they need to then should do so in the confines of their homes and communities. They are poor and need to be helped into better circumstances.
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Asad Nov 23, 2017 05:37pm
What about Pink Rickshaw scheme for the deserving ladies like her? Or is it just a gimmickry of the government, meant only for the party workers?
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putho madre Nov 23, 2017 06:38pm
Land of women bravery.
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khan Nov 23, 2017 09:21pm
You are a very brave woman, and because of people like you, Pakistan may have a bright future.
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Ihtisham Yousaf Nov 23, 2017 11:16pm
thats what makes me happy that this glorious land has good and high spirited people like u .. salute to u
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aHSAN Nov 24, 2017 01:41am
More power to you woman. . May ALLAH bless you!
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SUNFLOWER Nov 24, 2017 02:04am
And I want to say many thanks to the fellow drivers who help her out.
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Azam Siddiqui Nov 24, 2017 06:39am
God helps those who help themselves.
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raya Nov 24, 2017 08:26am
bless are the change that the subcontinent needs
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Faisal Nov 24, 2017 08:56am
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M Akmal Khan Nov 24, 2017 10:07am
Well done lady. An icon for may.
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an inspiration Nov 24, 2017 10:32am
May God bless you, and may you inspire others to earn an honest living.
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illawarrior Nov 24, 2017 10:51am
Never under-estimate the determination of a mother who needs to provide for her children. She will always find a way.
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Khan Nov 24, 2017 05:30pm
Sister! you are now in my list of heros!
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Shantanu Deb Nov 24, 2017 06:41pm
Salute to the brave lady. At the same time the husband and all such husbands who desert their wives should be forced to pay maintenance for wife and the kids.
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Imran Khoso Nov 27, 2017 10:21am
Splendid Job. If we look around we may find many stories like Rehana.
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