Women Challenging the Stereotype in Commercial Driving
This is a special edition of Morning Crossfire in conjunction with Wole Soyinka Center for Investigative Journalism
The show takes a look at women who venture into vocations that men often dominate. The show kicks off with Fidelia’s project, which took a deep look at women as stereotype in commercial driving in Nigeria. She spoke with female drivers and these women related their joy and travails of working in a sector that has been largely dominated by men.
Fidelia said she embarked on the project in order to embolden other women and assure them that they could actually do this and that it is not “just something that is reserved for their male counterparts.”
She spoke to two women who are both graduates and they were at the time of the project driving commercial vehicles. One is a mother of three, while the other is a single lady. What brought these women to commercial driving industry? They claimed that it was the harsh reality of being jobless that made them go into the commercial transportation business. One of them was a travel agent, who said she wasn’t well paid and then she had to switch to a driving job.
Multiple source of income to make ends meet was also a motivating factor for these women to take jobs in commercial driving. At first, the one with three children said she was apprehensive that people would turn her down. She supposed police, LASTMA and other law enforcement agents would constitute a big challenge but it was a surprise that when she started people warmed up to her. Even when she committed traffic offenses, she was pardoned especially when they see that she is a woman. She said she believes they did that just to encourage her.
To sample the opinions of people who enter a commercial bus and finds out it’s a woman that's driving, Nigeria Info FM"s news correspondent, Goodnews Ndukwe went out to interview a few individuals.
All those interviewed expressed satisfaction and admiration at what they do and one young man even said he sometimes pay double the bus fare because he really admires the lady for taking up a job in the male dominated industry.
Goodnews also spoke with some lady commercial drivers and here's what they had to say:
"I'm Jumoke. I have been driving keke Maruwa for three years. It has not been easy as Lastma, agbero boys, and the police keep harassing us. Government should try and help us. It has not been easy because we are married and have children at home that we have to feed."
Others also recounted the travails they go through daily while doing their job. A woman who drives keke Maruwa said she was slapped one day by a Lastma official because she refused to give him a bribe of N100.
Another recounts how the male drivers try to humiliate them. But she believe s that she can do what a man could do, saying that it is not how long but how well the job is done.
It is also clear during the interview done by Goodnews that many of these women had other work they were doing for survival before they started commercial driving work. Some still maintain their ‘side hustle' as they utilize transportation as an additional means of making ends meet.
Other challenges that the women face are challenges having to do with the road rife with pot holes that make driving more difficult. They call on state government to repair the roads as that alone is a major concern.
49% of Nigeria's population women, and yet the NBS report shows a 6.3% gap between the rate of unemployment between women and men. The imbalance in the employment rate along the gender line may mean that more women may be relying on others for survival.
Sarah Johnson who hails from Plateau State said she has been driving for about a month but the cold weather is a big challenge for her. "I actually don't have a challenge. It's very cold but it is also fun to me. There's no stress. The only problem for me is the rough drivers and crazy people on the road but I think I can handle that. It is nice that police don't talk badly to me like they do to the men. I have other works that I do but this one is the best for me."
Some of the stories passed down by female commercial drivers are positive, yet not all these women have had it so good. There are still some aspects of discrimination that these hard working women go through every day.
One question that can be asked is; are women better drivers than men?
Click here to follow the conversation fully.
Guest List: (1) Fidelia Agwuncha - Journalist @tv360 Nigeria/Fellow on the Wole Soyinka Female Leadership Programme.
(2) Toyin Adeniran - Programme Officer Wole Soyinka Centre for Investigative Journalism.
3) Adeolu Adekola - Wole Soyinka Senior Programme Officer.
Written by Jude Chukwuemeka