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Thursday, June 13, 2024

Widowed at 28, mother-of-two turns to commercial driving for succour

In the bustling city of Lagos, where the streets are alive with the hustle and bustle of daily life, a remarkable woman, Mrs. Chiamaka Duru, has carved her path amidst the tumult.

The 28-year-old widow and mother-of-two is facing the daunting responsibilities of providing for her family. Her journey to becoming a commercial bus driver, a choice not often associated with women, was far from a snap decision. It unfolded after the untimely death of her husband, leaving her with the sole responsibility of caring for their children.

The sight of commercial female drivers and tricycle riders on Lagos roads is not new, though, as more women delve into the murky waters of the once male-dominated enterprise, particularly after the COVID-19 pandemic that ravaged the country in 2020.

Traditionally, strenuous occupations were considered the domain of men, attributed to their perceived physical strength and superiority. However, times have evolved, and women are rewriting the narrative, demonstrating their excellence in various fields without compromising their roles as mothers, wives, sisters and daughters.

The vibrant and bustling nature of Lagos has erased shyness and the stigma surrounding gender-specific job roles as individuals, regardless of gender, unapologetically embrace diverse occupations to sustain their livelihoods and nourish their families.

Mrs. Duru is one of the strong women in Lagos, she sees dignity in herself and instead of engaging in prostitution or illegal jobs, decided to be a commercial mini-bus driver, known as Korope.

Chiamaka initially dabbled into selling second-hand clothing and also ventured into various businesses, from tailoring to selling school bags and shoes

Narrating her story, she said she initially dabbled into selling second-hand clothing and also ventured into various businesses, from tailoring to selling school bags and shoes. However, she soon realized that these endeavors could not provide the daily income required to support her family.

With mounting bills for school fees, house rent, and the ever-present need to put food on the table, Chiamaka knew she had to make a change. She decided to brave the world of commercial driving, a job that demands both strength and resilience.

As a widow and the mother-of-two, her day begins in the early hours, often waking her children at the break of dawn to ensure they are ready for school. The responsibilities of household chores, she said, are shared with a 15-year-old girl living with her.

“I step out to work as early as 5am. At times, I wake my kids up as early as that time to brush their teeth, bath them and prepare them for school. Once in a while, I also stay back to take them to school,” she said.

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Like the male drivers, Chiamaka, too, shouts ‘Egbeda Egbeda Egbeda’ or ‘Ikeja, Ikeja, Ikeja’ as the case may be to invite passengers into her bus.

Chiamaka’s day begins in the early hours, often waking her children at the break of dawn to ensure they are ready for school

Driving a commercial bus in Lagos is not for the faint of heart. According to her, the challenges are manifold, from enduring body pain and muscle pull after long hours at the wheel, to coping with the stress of traffic and the noxious emissions from other vehicles.

When asked about navigating the often turbulent waters of Lagos traffic, Mrs. Duru’s response is simple yet profound: “This work is survival of the fittest.” She emphasized the importance of focus and lane discipline, urging aspiring female drivers to avoid reckless maneuvers.

In a state like Lagos, where BRT buses, trailers, and various other road users compete for space, Mrs. Duru has found that care and attention to detail can earn respect on the road.

In spite of her current status, her aspiration extends far beyond her role as a commercial bus driver as she dreams of owning her transportation own company, and ensuring a brighter future for her children.

the challenges of doing commercial driving in lagos are manifold, from enduring body pain and muscle pull after long hours at the wheel, to coping with the stress of traffic and the noxious emissions from other vehicles

With unwavering determination, she seeks to provide her kids with the best opportunities, aiming to eliminate any distinction between them and their peers with both parents.

“My future goal and aspiration is to own a transportation company of my own. I also desire to further my education and secure a very good future for my children. I do not want people to be able to differentiate them from kids that have father. I want them to be at the top always,” the hustling mum said.

Commenting on how she copes with agberos, LASTMA, taskforce and male drivers on the road; she said, “This work is survival of the fittest, if you don’t have a strong mind, you won’t be able to do it but for those who may want to become commercial driver, just be focused while driving, watch your lane, don’t jump out of your lane haphazardly. It is not easy because you have BRTs, trailers, danfos, tankers and other road users to contend with. If you are careful and focused, they will give you consideration once they see that you are a woman. So, don’t be in competition with them, be loyal while driving.”

My future goal is to own a transportation company of my own. I also desire to further my education and secure a very good future for my children

While she commended the efforts of other women who are struggling to make ends meet like her, Mrs. Duru made a heartfelt plea to the government to exempt women from the multiple daily taxes such as loading and booking fees among others as well as support in the form of mini-buses, which could empower women to make a living.

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These initiatives, she said, can greatly alleviate the burden faced by families striving to meet their responsibilities.

She also encouraged government to assist widows especially in educating their kids and providing educational materials.

While her journey is ongoing, she harbors the dream of returning to school, though, her current focus remains on securing her children’s future. “I won’t go back to school while struggling to provide for my family. When we are stable, I will return to my education,” she affirms.

Chiamaka’s story is a testament to the strength and resilience of women who navigate life’s challenges with determination and hope. Her journey as a female commercial bus driver serves as an inspiration, demonstrating that with focus and perseverance, one can overcome obstacles and shape a brighter future for themselves and their loved ones.

Christiana Alabi-Akande
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