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Coolie No. 15: Jaipur Junction’s lady porter

Not discouraged or disheartened; resolutely courageous, she sprints up and down stair cases each day, loading taxis, chasing customers and carrying upto 30 kilograms on her head.

Working among 200 men as a porter or “coolie” at Jaipur city’s railway station, Manju Devi, with her porter badge no 15, goes about her daily routine with grit and determination, fighting all odds.

Probably the only lady porter or a female coolie in all of India, one can be easily deceived by Manju Devi’s slim body but not by her spirit to survive in a profession that is traditionally considered to be an all-male bastion. 

Widowed and left with three children to support at an early age, 34-year-old Manju Devi works in three shifts during winters and one day hopes to carry as much weight as the male coolies.

Thomson Reuters Foundation’s South Asia Correspondent Nita Bhalla details the challenges that Manju faces in doing what is considered a “man’s job”.

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