Nigeria, like many countries around the world, still puts restrictions on what is ‘acceptable’ for women to do. When it comes to career choices, being a mechanic is still sadly considered an unconventional choice for a woman – Oh because you know, society stereotypes girls from a young age, believing that we can only care about dolls and playing dress up. And to that, we say …
Sandra Aguebor, who has been a mechanic for 32 years and has been running her own garage for 22 years, isn’t interested in these one-dimensional stereotypes of women.
In 2004, Aguebor founded the Lady Mechanic Initiative, an organization that teaches women from diverse backgrounds how to fix cars and become financially independent. These women include former sex workers, victims of sex trafficking, school drop-outs and, mothers and wives looking to gain new skills.
Now 12 years later, over a thousand young women have graduated from the Lady Mechanic Initiative programme across five states in Nigeria.
But this success story didn’t come without a few hiccups – Aguebor recounts stories of people’s responses to her career choice:
“Men have been there from generation to generation, fixing cars.
“When I came in, they said, ‘Excuse me? Are you okay? Do you need to see a doctor?’ But no, I knew what I was doing.”
Not letting the frustrations of gender inequality and male privilege get her down, Aguebor like many women in a male-dominated industry, continued to work harder than ever:
“For me to become the first female Nigerian mechanic, I had to work five times harder than men to prove myself. Now, many people don’t know my name, it’s ‘Lady Mechanic’ everywhere I go.”
Here’s hoping for the day that women can just be called ‘mechanics’ like their male colleagues, not ‘female mechanics’.
In the meantime, watch the video below to learn more about Sandra Aguebor’s story and the Lady Mechanic Initiative.