Nigeria’s ladies drivers rally collectively to navigate male-dominated trade | Girls

Nigeria’s ladies drivers rally collectively to navigate male-dominated trade | Girls

Lagos, Nigeria – It was after 11pm on an evening final February when Victoria Oyeyemi acquired an pressing telephone name as she was preparing for mattress.

A fellow taxi driver, Gladys April Abanang, had been in a severe accident. Her automobile misplaced management, climbed a curb and somersaulted whereas she was working within the Oshodi space of Lagos.

After a crowd of passersby and neighbourhood thugs who noticed the accident helped take away her from the car, the very first thing a barely injured and bleeding Abanang did was telephone Oyeyemi, the chief safety officer (CSO) for Girls on Wheel Affiliation of Nigeria, or LOWAN.

“I used to be on the ground however in some way I used to be capable of get my telephone and put a name throughout to LOWAN CSO,” the 47-year-old mom of 1 informed Al Jazeera.

Inside 10 minutes, Oyeyemi was on the scene. In her volunteer position on the non-profit that helps ladies drivers, she mans a helpline for members needing emergency help.

Whereas Abanang’s husband took her to the hospital, Oyeyemi stayed on the scene to settle issues with the thugs who insisted on getting paid for his or her assist. She additionally organized a towing service for the automobile, which LOWAN paid for. And within the weeks that adopted, the group repeatedly checked on Abanang and supported her till she was again on her toes.

“They took care of me, they stored encouraging me they usually have been so supportive … It was solely LOWAN that got here to my assist,” Abanang stated.

Six years in the past when the affiliation first began, there have been six ladies within the group. Now there are some 5,000 members ranging in age from 25 to 60 – all of them feminine industrial drivers working throughout Nigeria. As their membership grows, so do the methods they help one another.

LOWAN is a close-knit group, says founder Nkechi Abiola, with members taking care of one another, looking for each other on the street, and even exchanging commerce recommendation and secondary enterprise alternatives.

Additionally they facilitate loans to assist the 60 % of the group’s members who don’t but personal their automobiles, they usually help each other by means of a daily financial savings scheme.

Past driving, members additionally have interaction in campaigns towards gender-based violence and home abuse to boost consciousness about points ladies in Nigeria face.

Nkechi Abiola, Glory Ashiru, Akpan Dorothy, Princess Abiola, Tolase Olorunnihi and Victoria Oyeyemi from LOWAN in Lagos [Pelumi Salako/Al Jazeera]

‘Combating’ for acceptance

In recent times, there was a surge within the variety of ladies venturing into the industrial transport enterprise in Nigeria – working as taxi, danfo bus, tricycle and motorbike taxi drivers.

Specialists say this enhance is pushed by Nigeria’s worsening financial state of affairs which is forcing ladies to earn extra money to help their households – ushering many into industries which have historically been extra male dominated.

Seyi Awojulugbe, a senior analyst at Lagos-based geopolitical threat advisory agency, SBM Intelligence, informed Al Jazeera that whereas extra ladies being employed in Nigeria’s formal sector “is because of elevated marketing campaign for feminine participation”, within the casual sector, it’s due to “primarily financial causes”.

“They want a continuing move of money,” stated Awojulugbe. “A few of them could also be because of the lack of a breadwinner within the household, or job loss.”

Nonetheless, Nigeria stays socioculturally patriarchal and the shift has not been straightforward for feminine drivers. Some passengers even go as far as rejecting a experience as quickly as they see a lady behind the wheel, due to the false assumption that ladies are unhealthy drivers, LOWAN members stated.

“Folks, each feminine and male, don’t actually like ladies driving them. Even the speed of acceptance for us as industrial drivers is low. We’re nonetheless combating for that,” Abiola informed Al Jazeera.

Earlier than she began LOWAN in 2018, Abiola belonged to a mixed-gender drivers’ discussion board. Nonetheless, after the ladies within the group have been shunned by their male counterparts when attempting to share enter, she determined a brand new house was wanted.

That’s when she established LOWAN as a women-only affiliation the place they might converse with out intimidation, and extra importantly, present help for fellow feminine industrial drivers.

Nigeria taxis
Business buses regionally often known as ‘danfo’ line a bus cease to select up passengers alongside the marina in Nigeria’s industrial capital Lagos [File: Akintunde Akinleye/Reuters]

Amongst ladies drivers, many say they face types of sexual harassment, assault, rejection, extortion, discrimination, and intimidation by passengers, fellow street customers, and even legislation enforcement brokers.

“Some males come into the automobile and begin touching you outrightly, these issues are rampant,” Abiola stated concerning the conditions they encounter. “We’ve collaborated with a basis to report and get perpetrators punished.”

SBM’s Awojulugbe stated the distinction in the best way feminine drivers are handled can also be on account of society not getting used to seeing them in such roles, and “due to the character of the position”.

“[Drivers] need to take care of touts and so-called ‘tax drive’ on the street who don’t have the endurance of coping with change,” the analyst stated, referring to the boys who informally accumulate dues from drivers within the metropolis to permit them to select up passengers who will not be used to seeing feminine bus and taxi drivers.

“As issues go on, individuals will change and adapt. However we’d like extra consciousness that these ladies are doing authorized jobs and don’t should be discriminated towards,” she stated.

Love and help

For ladies drivers themselves, the occupation has served totally different functions: a getaway, a supply of earnings, and a buffer towards oppression.

After founder Abiola’s marriage resulted in 2017, she wanted a job that paid greater than tailoring to be able to care for her 5 ladies. Driving was her go-to, she stated.

“I didn’t need to be susceptible. I didn’t need to be on the mercy of any man on the market.”

For driver Glory Ashiru, the transfer has been useful in contrast together with her earlier job as an egg provider, the place she often needed to wait weeks earlier than getting paid.

She began driving for e-hailing service Bolt in 2019, and never lengthy after was approached by a member of LOWAN who launched her to the group.

“I used to be parked on Adeniyi Jones road and he or she simply walked as much as me and he or she informed me concerning the affiliation that introduced ladies drivers collectively,” stated the only mom of two.

“Since then I’ve been a member. The affiliation has helped me financially, the love and help we’ve is actually good.”

A woman taxi driver
Glory Ashiru has been driving since 2019 [Pelumi Salako/Al Jazeera]

Different ladies with households – like Tolase Olorunnihi, who additionally drives for Bolt – additionally admire the work driving offers, whereas struggling to stability it with their major tasks at house and expectations from their husbands.

“I don’t drive at evening, I set out after I drop the youngsters at school within the morning and go house after the youngsters are by means of at college or I shut at 5pm,” the mom of 5 informed Al Jazeera about her try at discovering a stability.

Working in Lagos, Olorunnihi has additionally had her fair proportion of disagreeable experiences. As soon as, a drunk passenger grew to become offended and began swearing at her as a result of she was a lady driving at evening.

One other night this January, she picked up a feminine passenger who determined to change the journey midway by means of in order that she might cease to purchase hen. The passenger then ended the experience with out paying for the journey. Even after Olorunnihi adopted up together with her, and later reported it to Bolt, she nonetheless didn’t obtain any cost.

“Essentially the most painful factor is that Bolt has eliminated their fee from my cash,” she stated, referring to the 20 % charge the e-hailing service takes from each experience a driver completes.

Olorunnihi finds consolation in sharing these experiences with the opposite LOWAN members at hangouts the place the ladies advise each other and discover humour of their shared tales of life on the street.

Cash in a disaster

In Nigeria, with inflation at 33.20 %, the forex paling towards the US greenback, and the rising value of residing, employees, particularly low-income households, are worst affected.

The removing of a petroleum subsidy – which has made the petrol worth soar from 160 naira ($0.11) to 680 naira ($0.48) per litre – excessive import duties and excessive inflation, have additionally burdened commuters and lowered drivers’ earnings.

When Ashiru began driving commercially in 2019, her day by day earnings was about 8,000 naira ($5.59), which might cater for her household’s wants. However not any extra, she stated, although she now earns between 15,000 naira ($10.48) and 25,000 ($17.45) – as a result of the price of meals and different fundamentals has additionally risen.

“If I earn 700,000 naira ($489) month-to-month and I spend a lot cash on repairs, gasoline, meals and others, what can be there to avoid wasting?” she requested, noting {that a} bag of rice that was 10,000 ($7) now prices 60,000 naira ($42).

“We’re making extra however we’re not taking as a lot house,” she stated.

Woman taxi driver
A girl drives an e-hailing taxi in Lagos [Pelumi Salako/Al Jazeera]

In a troublesome financial local weather, LOWAN assists its members with loans to allow them to work in direction of proudly owning their very own automobiles. However the group additionally helps in different methods that aren’t strictly driving-related – equivalent to when a member has a well being emergency or one other disaster.

The group additionally runs a financial savings membership, regionally referred to as ajo – a system whereby a bunch’s members contribute cash day by day, weekly or typically month-to-month. The cash is then pooled and distributed to totally different members on a rotating foundation.

“We organise ajo, or thrift, amongst members,” LOWAN founder Abiola stated. “We come collectively, we contribute cash and provides it to somebody to get a automobile. We do it like that amongst ourselves.

“When there may be pressing want for cash or there’s a disaster, additionally when there’s a celebration, we rally spherical,” she added.

LOWAN’s members are grateful for the lifeline the group of ladies offers – each bodily when it comes to having Victoria Oyeyemi on the opposite finish of the helpline in case of an accident or emergency, and financially, for occasions once they want a mortgage.

However many want the state would step up and do extra.

The federal government ought to make enterprise extra conducive by means of impactful financial insurance policies and the availability of grants and small-interest loans to drivers, Ashiru stated.

“Driving is an excellent strategy to empower extra ladies,” she added.

#Nigerias #ladies #drivers #rally #navigate #maledominated #trade #Girls

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Written by bourbiza mohamed

Bourbiza Mohamed is a freelance journalist and political science analyst holding a Master's degree in Political Science. Armed with a sharp pen and a discerning eye, Bourbiza Mohamed contributes to various renowned sites, delivering incisive insights on current political and social issues. His experience translates into thought-provoking articles that spur dialogue and reflection.

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