World

India’s all-women railway crew derail sexist attitudes

JAIPUR, INDIA Ms Mahima Dutt Sharma rolls her eyes when men make excuses to gawk at her inside the booth where she checks tickets at India's only interstate train station run entirely by women.

"Even though all the information is displayed on boards, they keep coming again and again with silly queries," shesaid at Gandhinagar junction in Jaipur, where female station masters and clerks draw astonished looks.

"They are not used to seeing women handling such jobs, so I don't really blame them."

These trailblazers are not just breaking new ground in conservative Rajasthan but upending social norms in India that assume a women's proper place is in the home.

India is one of the world's fastest growing major economies but also has one of the lowest rates of female employment, and the trend is worsening.

This helps explain the fascination with the all-women crew "manning" Gandhinagar as superintendents, conductors and station masters.

Urban subway networks in major Indian cities may have train carriages designated for women, but that is less about empowerment than a measure to prevent sexual harassment.

Yet the thousands of passengers passing through the major junction at Gandhinagar - including from remote tribal corners of the desert region - come into direct contact with these pioneering women every day. - AFP

WORLD