Eunice Odeghe, a Masters degree holder, is the national president of Female Drivers Association of Nigerian (FEDAN), who has been driving for over a decade. In this interview with JOY YESUFU, she bares her mind on the thrills and challenges of a woman that decides to take up a driving job, which is mostly associated with men in Nigeria.
In a society where driving is associated with men, why did you choose driving as a profession?
To me, I like doing the job that people neglect. I actually have this passion for driving; it was during my youth service in Abia State that the urge became strong in me to be a driver. Though there were few women who went into driving as a means of livelihood and will tell you it’s because they don’t have any other job and this is the available one, but I went into it as a passion.
How do you cope with male drivers and the fact that passengers prefer men drivers?
We are trying to disabuse the minds of Nigerians that women don’t make good drivers. Driving is a professional job and not just a job for the men alone. We have female pilots; do people discriminate against them because they are women? Most people don’t even know who is behind the cockpit when they board an aircraft. So, what is the difference? What is the difference between a woman driving herself to the office and a woman driving same distance with passengers? Most people look at driving as a job for dropouts but I will tell you that driving is a professional job.
How do your passengers react about you being a female commercial driver since most people are used to male drivers?
Some will say ‘madam, you de try oh’; ‘I like your guts’; ‘I commend you etc. Most of my passengers are always proud of me.
Did you look for job after youth service or you just went straight into driving since you had passion for driving?
I worked for a while after youth service but the desire to venture into full time driving was very strong inside me so I resigned and just started the cab business.
Do you feel intimidated by male drivers?
I don’t feel intimidated at all. The only thing is that most people prefer the male drivers as they feel women don’t know how to drive well. Driving is a profession and there’s nowhere it is written that it’s for men alone. Anyone can drive, it doesn’t matter if you are male or female.
How did your family react to the news that you ventured into driving?
It wasn’t easy for me at the early stage though some of them have still not come to terms with the fact that their daughter, a graduate would decide to take to driving instead of the conventional white-collar job. Some of my family members still believe that something is wrong with me. But the truth is nothing is wrong with me, I am simply following my passion and it makes me happy. They were not happy with my decision at all but what matters is I find joy in what I am doing. They advised I do driving as part time since that’s what I love doing and have a secular job outside driving.
What is your advice to women who want to delve into driving and would you encourage women to take up driving as a profession?
I would ask the woman if she is ready to face the hurdle of the job because readiness matters. Then I would tell her that she could do it as the job is a lot easier if you have passion for it. Once you know how to drive and have gotten the basic driving training, then you are good to go. I hate seeing women beg, ask around, you will see people who have cars that are ready to give them out for driving if you don’t have a personal car. One of our members took loan to buy a car, today, she’s done paying and the car is hers now. I will advise them to take up driving, people will talk but what matters is that you pay your bills and contribute your quota to the family. I encourage more women to take up driving as a profession, don’t bother about what people say. Your family will respect you when you start dashing them money from your driving work.
What challenges do you face on the job?
The major challenge for me is that most people don’t have confidence in female drivers. They feel we can’t drive well. Sometimes, when I stop for a passenger and they see a woman behind the wheels, they will say no then stop the next cab behind me and enter. Women are more careful drivers than men. I can tell you thawt in all my years of driving, I have never hit any one. It is men that often bash my car. If I hear any sound from my car, I will park immediately to check what is wrong. I ensure my car is always in good shape. People, especially women, don’t want to board a cab driven by another woman. Most of my passengers are men, women rarely patronise us. My other members have same opinion about women not wanting to ride with them.
If you were offered a federal appointment now, would you quit driving?
I left a government job to start my driving profession. I resigned when I discovered I wasn’t finding fulfillment in the job. I tried to do my passion (driving) on part time basis but I wasn’t getting the satisfaction from that so I decided to quit white-collar job for driving and I must tell you that I never regretted that action. I intend to continue my driving profession for a long time. Government has started recruiting some of our members as official drivers. White-collar job is not meant for everybody.
How many registered members do you have in FEDAN
Now we have 75 registered members within Abuja and other states. We have members in Delta State, Osun State and also Edo State.
What is the benefit of being a member of FEDAN?
FEDAN collaborates with some government agencies like the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC). Recently, the corps marshal ordered free training and awareness program for our members. Also, some government agencies have recruited some of our members as drivers for their agencies.
What would you say to people out there concerning female drivers?
I am appealing to the general public not to discriminate against female commercial drivers. We can drive well too. Give us equal opportunity. And to the female drivers, be proud of what you do.
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