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Damini’s Story: From Dropping Out of School in India to Driving a Truck-Trailer in Europe

Discover how Damini, a school dropout in India, has turned her fears into fuel and pursues her dreams of being a truck driver in Europe against all odds.

Women across the world have had to fight long and enduring battles to gain their rightful place in society — as equals to men, with equal opportunities at the workplace. While the West has had a headstart in its march to gender equality, the issue has been quite challenging to reckon with in emerging economies and societies fighting against income and social inequalities. 

This calls for greater grit and determination to break glass ceilings. The women pioneers who break them lead the way for a legion of women to follow in pursuit of creating a more egalitarian society. 

One such woman is Damini. Born and raised in one of the poorest corners of New Delhi, India, she was forced to quit school early — in her tenth grade — like most women in her neighborhood. 

Just as her life took off, Damini felt it had ended abruptly. Lacking the confidence to face the world, she cooped in her house, scared to venture out. Traffic frightened her, and it seemed like everyone was out to get her. 

Amidst the gloom, serendipity led her to the Azad Foundation, where she learned how to drive, eventually becoming a driver with Sakha Cabs.  The same road, a source of fear in many ways, transformed into a metaphor for her journey of self-discovery. Now, she could stand up for herself. 

Life fell into place as she drove her cab around the streets of Delhi. Damini became financially independent and grew to even provide for her loved ones. She finally found a place in discussions and conversations within the house, with her family actively seeking and respecting her opinion.

While working as a driver at the Canadian embassy in Delhi, Damini encountered truckers who took pride in their profession of moving freight. She was in awe of how passionate the people were about truck driving — a respectable job and a personal choice they eagerly embraced. 

Such interactions helped mold Damini’s career, pushing her to become a truck driver.

Her family’s journey from dismissive to supportive

When Damini’s parents initially found out she wanted to be a driver, they laughed it off as one of her whimsies — a hobby she would abandon in a few months. She had many of those back then — embroidery, knitting, and many others. But, despite the odds, driving was one such ‘hobby’ that stuck. They realized she was serious about her job as she stayed out for nights during her training.

Over time, attitudes changed within the family, as they proactively inquired about her working hours to ensure they could provide and time her meals accordingly. While Damini feels grateful for her family’s support and understanding of her work detail, she feels this is a privilege not many women from her society enjoy in India. 

Dreaming of a better future in Europe

To ensure her safety, Sakha Cabs provided and insisted that she carry pepper spray everywhere. All female drivers working with the firm had an SOS button installed on three sides of their vehicle in case they felt threatened. While there have been a few backhanded jabs from passengers, Damini found they were always outnumbered by the people who expressed their admiration and support.

For a while, Damini has been dreaming of living and working in a different country. Earlier in her career, when she worked at the airport, she purposely picked up clients who had traveled from the Middle East and Europe. She loved quizzing them on the culture and way of life in these countries and hearing their personal anecdotes about living and working in developed economies. 

Today, she is ready and eager to experience it all for herself. From finding the world daunting to driving across European roads as a trailer driver, Damini could not have foretold this journey in her wildest dreams. Today, she is excited to earn for her family and ensure all their needs are well cared for in India. 

Damini’s family has always wanted to own a house, and her income and dedication will help them realize their dreams. When she returns to India, Damini intends to frame her visa, hoping that her first visa will inspire her nieces and nephews to become so good at their jobs that their company sends them abroad—just like hers brought her to Europe.

Damini inspires all of us at Baton. Stories like hers drive us to keep pushing the boundaries, providing the tools and opportunities needed to turn aspirations into reality. At Baton, we are committed to fostering an environment that encourages growth, champions diversity, and celebrates success at every turn.

Damini’s story is not just her own; it’s a beacon of hope for countless women striving to carve out their own paths in the face of adversity. Here’s to Damini, a true trailblazer, whose journey reminds us all of the limitless potential within each of us to overcome obstacles and achieve our dreams.