A compassionate social worker, social entreprenuer, lawyer, author of books on urbanization and women empowerment, a politician, wife and mother of three, Mumbai-based Susieben Shah is all this and much more. How she juggles between so many roles is a miracle in itself.
- As chairperson of Maharashtra State Commission for Women, she undertook many initiatives for safety, empowerment and dignity of women.
- Created India’s first women-owned and driven Taxi Service “Priyadarshini Taxi Service”, which has won many international and national accolades.
- Runs Stree Shakti Kendra, a Family Counseling Centre (FCC) at Gowalia Tank approved by the Government of India to provide free legal counseling, aid and police support/ intervention where required.
- Promoting health and sports through Priyadarshini Park & Sports Complex Community Centre as its General Secretary.
- Founded Akhil Bhartiya Gharelu Kamgar Union for up-liftment and empowerment of domestic workers and workers in the unorganized sector.
After completing BA (Major) in economics from Sophia college in Mumbai, Susieben Shah pursued LLB from Government Law College in Mumbai and has been practicing as an advocate at the Mumbai High Court.
The Priyadarshini taxi service, an unique service, is aimed at providing safety to women passengers. This service not only provides employment but also empowers the women taxi drivers. Currently, they own and operate 20 taxis in Mumbai through a 24×7 call center. They also operate from the Mumbai domestic airport under the pre-paid taxi category, a scheme that was approved by the Government of Maharashtra with a view to empower women.
Priyadarshini Taxi Service was awarded GMR Express Travel Awards for innovation in women’s empowerment and customer experience. It was featured on NDTV 24×7 in the much-celebrated talk show ‘Walk the Talk’ hosted by Shekhar Gupta on the occasion of the International Women’s Day. It was also featured in BBC World as one of the most women-friendly features of Mumbai. The famous news channel America 24 featured them in a documentary. The Denmark Films Division too filmed a 15-minutes documentary on the concept and spirit of Priyadarshini taxi service. The widely-acclaimed Outlook magazine featured the service as a viable social enterprise in their special Independence Day issue in 2012. A special feature was televised by Life OK TV channel as part of their special coverage on the eve of Independence Day in 2012.
Shah has also served as vice-president of Mumbai Pradesh Mahila Congress Committee and president of their legal cell, general secretary of the Malabar Hill Citizens Forum, director of Forshe Logistics Private Limited, a premium institute focusing on vocational training for women and co-founder and director of V. S. International Pvt. Ltd., a leading manufacturer and exporter of pharmaceutical and health-care products.
As a child, Shah was given all the freedom to pursue hobbies, choose her academic course and career and fulfill her dreams. “No decision was ever forced upon me,” she said. Regarding status of women today, Shah said, “Women today are more aware of their rights and so, their status has improved. They don’t hesitate to assert their rights, if violated. Incidences of assault and abuse are on the rise but thankfully, more and more women are coming forward to complain and if required, lodge an FIR without hesitation, unlike old days when issues were swept under the carpet. This is a welcome trend. If an offence is registered, the culprits can be brought to books”.
Implementation of laws for women, whether in rural or urban India, is extremely poor as a result of which, the victim has to fend for herself. This should change with a pro-active approach, she added.
Shah has participated in and conducted several activities like Domestic Workers Convention – 2014, launch of self-defense workshops for municipal school girl students, release of the book ‘Know Your Rights: Towards Legal Empowerment of Women, ‘Ignore No More’ campaign, state-level conference of lawyers for dignity, safety and empowerment, freedom of women, ‘Portrayal of women in media and role of CBFC’, Mahila Jan Sunavani where special benches consisting of lawyers, social workers and counselors registered and heard complaints on fast-track basis, Mahila Melava, medical camps, conference on legal awareness amongst women, launch of book ‘Legal Awareness amongst women – Series 1’ published in 4 languages – Hindi, English, Marathi and Urdu.
From the shocking data of the latest NCRB report, she was convinced that the fight against gender violence must be multi-pronged. “While we work with law enforcement authorities to be sensitive to crimes against women, we must also look within, stand up and speak up so that no such crimes occur in our presence. Gandhiji famously said, ‘Be the change you wish to see in the world’,” said Shah.
In the Milind Deora South Mumbai Community Football Tournament at Priyadarsbhini Park, 180 teams from slums of South Mumbai participated for the Champions Football Trophy. Shah has been instrumental in implementation of various social welfare schemes and formation of self-help groups, helpline for women and converting Priyadarshini Park as a “Grid Free Park” only using the electricity from non-conventional source of energy, to take a first step towards green and clean environment.
Shah has also held legal awareness workshops, implementation of pension scheme in tribal areas, release of booklet on ‘Welfare and Empowerment of Women’, 10 kms environmental awareness run and ‘Rakhis For Jawans’ to pay homage to our martyrs.
She can’t stop praising her husband Vidyut Shah and her extended family, which supports her in every which way. Besides, Shah credits her team mates who plan her schedules effectively in order to balance all roles efficiently. Shah feels guilty for not spending enough time with her children but said, “I try to make up for it”.
Awards & Recognition:
- SME Award 2012 & 2014 – VS International was chosen as one of the 100 Top SME’s in India by BOI INDIA SME 100 AWARDS. VS was rated as one of the top 100 SMEs across India and spread across various businesses.
- Rotary Club of Bombay Mid-city presented a Certificate of Excellence for commendable work in the field of social work in March 2014.
- As co-founder and director of VS International Pvt. Ltd. and chairperson of Maharashtra State Commission for Women, she was awarded Women Leadership Achievement Award at the World Leadership Congress & Awards in February 2014.
- As Founder of Priyadarshini Taxi Service, Shah was felicitated by the Indian Merchants’ Chamber, Mumbai for meritorious contribution towards women’s empowerment.
- As Founder of Priyadarshini taxi service, she was featured on a show ‘Paisa Vasool’ as women entrepreneur, which was telecast on Doordarshan News in July 2014.