ENGINEER SANDRA AGUEBOR’S PROFILE
Nigeria’s first female auto-mechanic, Sandra Aguebor (NPOM, MFR), was born in Benin City, Nigeria. In her early teens, she was fascinated by motors and engines, and was inspired by her father to pursue her dream of becoming a lady mechanic. Against many odds, she earned her degree in mechanical engineering.
Upon graduation, she worked for Edo Line and Nigeria Railway Corporation, and then launched her own auto repair garage SANDEX CARE. As a female garage owner, she attracted several customers to her workshop, and landed contracts to manage repairs of large fleets of trucks with broad distribution networks throughout Nigeria. It wasn’t too long, though, before the land authority demolished her garage. Undeterred, she turned her private car into a mobile workshop, patrolling Lagos freeways with on-the-spot emergency vehicle service, and soon thereafter opened two more garages in Lagos.
SKILLS CHANGE LIVES
In 2004, Ms. Aguebor founded the Lady Mechanic Initiative (LMI) a non-profit, social enterprise that empowers girls and women with mechanical skills to enable them to become certified professionals in the field of automobile repairs. Many of the students are former prostitutes, deportees, orphans, widows and survivors of human trafficking. Most do not have school certificates and are unable to proceed to higher education.
Today, more than 700 LMI graduate-alumni are changing their lives and defeating poverty. Many graduands operate their own Garages, and in turn, recruit and train new female mechanics. Several others work with world-class companies such as Cummins Nigeria®, Toyota Nigeria®, Mercedes Nigeria®, Coscharis Motors®, TATA Motors Nigeria (Trucks)®, Renault Nigeria (Trucks)® MTN® etc. These empowered individuals now live their lives with dignity. Lady Mechanic Initiative operates in 5 States in Nigeria namely; Lagos State, Edo State, Abuja FCT and Kano State. Training of Lady Mechanic Drivers is on-going presently at our Lagos State Head Office.
As an Ashoka Fellow, she was featured in the Global Book on Economic Empowerment published in Washington DC. The BBC, New York Times, South Africa Broadcasting Cooperation, CNN, Christian Mirror, USA Today have all shown documentaries and presentations of her work. Ms. Aguebor won the ISPCAN Honorary Membership Award for emerging leaders in child protection working in developing countries and countries in transition (January 2008 – December 2009). She hosted channel 10 program; ‘On the Road’, where she lectured on tips for vehicle maintenance. She was featured on Communication for Change: a 30-minute documentary shown on DSTV.
She was a speaker at the Lagos Empowerment and Resource Network (L.E.A.R.N): a career talk program for over 600 Secondary School Students at Badagry Grammar School. She also spoke at the think-tank meeting organized by ECOWAS—hosted by Nigeria. She was among the speakers during the Scenario Based Strategy Development workshop organized by African Business Strategies Netherlands, in collaboration with Phillips Consulting and the Lagos Business School.
Ms. Aguebor was selected as a Woman Actor for Leadinanch Calabar and Social Entrepreneurship: Exchanging Global and Local Experiences. The event, held in Amman Jordan, was organized by the United Nations University and the International Leadership Institute. She was also a delegate at the Common Wealth Business Strategy held in Abuja, Nigeria; organized by the United Nations Development Funds for Women. In 2007, she was a delegate at the Women’s Peace Conference in Texas, USA, where additional interests to support the Lady Mechanic Initiative were gained. She recently received a letter from the Federal Republic of Germany commending her works and the impacts she has created on the lives of these less-privileged girls.
The Lady Mechanic Initiative has received partnership supports from individuals and several foundations such as the MacArthur Foundation, VSO, Ashoka, Coca-Cola etc. Visitors from outside Nigeria like Clare Short of the British House of Commons (Parliament) and the Artics and Leaders Quest of Surrey, UK are keenly interested in the LMI program and impact. The German and Netherlands embassies in Nigeria and several other groups have given their supports to LMI. Ms. Aguebor also encourages student exchanges in the LMI program, for example, a female mechanics student from Scotland, training to become a Lady Mechanic in Scotland, recently concluded her stay at the LMI training centre in Lagos. Beyond her very demanding job in- and outside the garage, Ms. Aguebor likes reading motivational books, listening to jazz music, and attending business networking events.
In 2013-2014 the Lady Mechanic Initiative, with the support of MacArthur Foundation-Chicago, launched ‘The Lady Mechanic After-School Club’ in select schools in Lagos, Nigeria. Also, for the first time, LMI overcame the religious and cultural barriers in the core northern Nigeria, to train a total of 20 women in Kano State as Professional Lady Mechanic-Drivers.
Ms. Aguebor was recently featured in a book titled: “THOSE WHO INSPIRED NIGERIA” . She was also featured on Aljazeera (watch video below or view video on youtube ) and BATTA BOX; an online TV/and entertainment station, and currently working towards replicating the Lady Mechanic Initiative in South Africa. She was recently invited by the Federal Government of Nigeria to speak at the event of the visiting managing director of International Monetary Fund; Christine Lagarde. Her biggest dream is to see the lady mechanics start assembling and production of spare parts in Nigeria. For more information.
AWARDS AND RECOGNITIONS
VISION 2007 VANGUARD AWARD OF EXCELLENCE – 4TH AUGUST 2005
INRI WIDOWS FOUNDATION (THE IWF Humanitarian Service Award) 14th December 2007
AFRICAN WOMAN NATION BUILDER’S GOLD AWARD – 26TH AUGUST 2006
WEAN AWARDS 3TH MARCH 2007
LEADERSHIP DIGEST INTERNATIONAL (African Leadership Role Model Gold Award)
THE SPILL- GOLD READER AWARD – 2009
EDO LEADERSHIP ASSEMBLY- HONORARY AWARD – 28th August, 2010
WIDA AWARDS FOR HUMANITY (I.W.D 2011)
FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA (National Productivity Order of Merit Award) 3th August 2012
ESOB HEROES (Recognition Awards) 2014
COMPLIMENTS OF THE GOVERNMENT AND PEOPLE OF BAYELSA STATE.
AWARD OF EXCELLENCE BY THE OFFICE OF HER EXCELLENCY OF THE FIRST LADY OF EDO STATE