A soul-stirring film, based on the inspiring true story of Selvi, South India’s first female taxi driver, titled Driving with Selvi, has become an award-winning Canadian documentary. Directed by Elisa Paloschi, Canadian filmmaker and president of Eyesfull, a Toronto-based independent production company dedicated to non-fiction documentaries, this documentary is a 10-year journey of a charming, strong and courageous young woman, who defies all expectations, moving beyond the pain she’s experienced to create a new life for herself.

Selvi, like so many girls living within India’s patriarchal society, was forced to marry at a young age of 14, only to find herself in a violent and abusive marriage. One day, in deep despair, she chose to escape and went on to become the woman at the wheel. The inspiring story of Selvi sees her defy stereotypes by learning to drive, starting her own taxi company, leading educational seminars and emerging as a true inspiration for all the victimised women in a patriarchal society.

Paloschi spent over 10 years filming Selvi’s journey from despair to hope. The film has been screened at over 100 international film festivals and Selvi has travelled with the film to over 15 cities abroad, including in Canada and the US. The film has been broadcast in The Netherlands, Jordan, Peru, Kenya and the US. Canadian and additional broadcasts are planned for 2018.

As a kick-start to the first phase of the campaign, Paloschi, her team and Selvi herself embarked upon a 25-day screening bus tour through North and South India. This was aimed at validating the implementation of the film within grassroots and educational programmes and initiate partnerships with organisations that see the value of the film as a tool for social change.

Selvi’s Bus Tour was launched in Delhi on 11 October on the occasion of the International Day of the Girl, in partnership with the Canadian High Commission and Miranda House University College for Women. Since its start, the bus has travelled to urban slums and rural villages through Delhi and Uttar Pradesh. Post this, the bus also toured through Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh from 25 November to 10 December, marking the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence, informed Paloschi. The other areas included Mysuru, Mandya, Banguluru and Bellari in Karnataka; Chittoor in Andhra Pradesh; and Hyderabad in Telangana.

The conclusion of the campaign on Friday was marked by two gala screening events, which were co-hosted by the Canadian High Commission. The screenings were held in Bengaluru and Delhi on 4 and 8 December respectively. During the event, the highlights of the tour, as well as results, findings and testimonials concerning the film’s impact as an educational tool for social change were shared. The event was attended by government representatives, NGO representatives, campaign partners, educators and activists.

In addition to this, Selvi is also being awarded the Women’s First Achiever Award by the Union Ministry of Women and Child Development (WCD). Selvi ranks among the 100 exceptional Indian women. who are being given this prestigious award.

Speaking on this, Paloschi said, “There are five million Indian girls just like Selvi who are married each year before they turn 18, according to UNICEF. I am truly humbled to meet these girls as part of this campaign, hear their stories and witness the remarkable way in which they engage with the film and the actions that are resulting.”

She added, “We are now looking to secure partnerships with NGOs and educational institutions who see a potential in integrating Driving with Selvi in their programming as a tool to engage communities on topics of child marriage, gender-based violence, women’s empowerment and women’s agency.”

The film has received several awards and accolades, including Top Ten Audience Favourites, IDFA 2015, Best Documentary ~ Truth to Power Award, Reel Asian Film Festival 2015, New Mavericks Award, Atlanta Film Festival 2015, Best Documentary Award, Atlanta Film Festival 2015 and Winner ~ Best Director Non-Fiction, Yorkton Film Festival.