October, 9, 2019
Ride Hailing apps have not only transformed mobility in Sri Lanka, but also created employment opportunities for persons who have hitherto had no means of being financially independent in a safe and dignified manner. Women especially, have enjoyed an increase of empowerment as driver partners, playing a significant role as contributors to the family economy. We spoke to Wasundara Dewage, one of the pioneer female driver partners of Uber, about the various aspects on partnering with the popular ride hailing service.
Q: How did you join Uber? What made you consider becoming a driver partner?
A: I used to do my own garment business. I did it on a large scale for 28 years, and even had my own shop in Pettah. However, when you do a business, there are many issues that demotivate you and stress you out. I heard about Uber and thought that I should try it myself. Initially I drove a car that belonged to another person and I was paid a monthly salary. But now I drive my own vehicle.
Q: How has Uber helped you?
A: I am past the age of retirement. Both of my children are married and have their own lives. So Uber is my income generator. I am financially independent and do not have to be a burden to anyone. It has helped me a lot in terms of my personal well-being. We are well looked after as driver partners and the income is really good.
Q: There is a bigger risk when you are a female driver. How has your experience been?
A: I have been driving for about 2 years now, and there hasn’t been a single incident that has caused me harm. I take long distance hires; I have driven to Kandy, Ratnapura, Habarana etc. I also drive during the night, and in rural areas, away from towns. Many people ask me if I’m not afraid or concerned about my safety. But I have not come across any problems.
Another concern many have is when we pick hires in the city at night. I have taken those who are intoxicated, and who asked me to wake them when we get to the destination. I do as I’m asked and they pay and get off. I haven’t had any problems.
Q: When you are returning after a hire alone, what do you do?
A: I always switch on music when I’m driving alone, and try to get to the main road as soon as I can. I lock all the doors, and never stop for strangers. Another thing is that I rarely stop to ask for directions. You should never show that you don’t know the roads because people take advantage of it.
Q: Have you come across memorable incidents?
A: Once when I was taking a passenger to Habarana, we saw a wild elephant by the side of the road. But thankfully, nothing happened. We drove off after it went away.
Q: What are your thoughts about Uber?
A: Driving for Uber has become the most enjoyable thing I do. We often get hires even before we complete one. It is also safe for women and a good income opportunity. I have introduced about 4 more drivers to Uber because I can recommend it.