Nigerian Women Drivers Unite to Navigate Male-Dominated Industry

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Late last February in Lagos, Nigeria, Victoria Oyeyemi received an urgent phone call while getting ready for bed. A fellow taxi driver, Gladys April Abanang, had been in a serious accident in the Oshodi area. Despite being slightly injured and bleeding, the first thing Abanang did was call Oyeyemi, the chief security officer for Ladies on Wheel Association of Nigeria (LOWAN).

Oyeyemi rushed to the scene within 10 minutes to assist Abanang. As a volunteer for LOWAN, she manages a helpline for members needing emergency help. She stayed at the scene to settle matters with the thugs who demanded payment for helping remove Abanang from her overturned car. LOWAN also arranged for the towing of the car, which the organization paid for, and provided ongoing support until Abanang recovered.

LOWAN, originally founded with only six women drivers six years ago, now boasts a membership of 5,000 female commercial drivers across Nigeria. They support each other in various ways, including facilitating loans for members who do not own their own cars and operating a savings club. In addition to driving, they engage in campaigns against gender-based violence and domestic abuse to raise awareness about the challenges women face in Nigeria.

Despite the increasing number of women entering the commercial transport industry in Nigeria, they still face discrimination and harassment. Some passengers refuse rides when they see a woman behind the wheel due to misconceptions about female drivers. LOWAN was founded to create a safe space for female drivers to support each other and speak without intimidation.

Female drivers encounter sexual harassment, assault, rejection, and discrimination on the road. LOWAN members work to report such incidents to get perpetrators punished and raise awareness about the challenges they face. The organization provides a valuable support system for these women in a male-dominated industry.

The economic situation in Nigeria has worsened, making it difficult for low-income families to make ends meet. Rising costs of living and diminishing earnings for drivers have made it challenging to save money. LOWAN assists its members with loans and operates a savings club to help during crises or emergencies.

While LOWAN offers vital support to its members, many hope for greater government assistance in the form of economic policies and grants. Women in the commercial driving industry believe that empowering more women through driving could be beneficial for the economy.

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