The general notion that “What a man can do, a woman can do better” is being proven by some women in Akure, Ondo State Capital as they daily make profits from driving commercial tricycles popularly known as “Keke Napep”, a profession known to be dominated by the male gender.
Tina Alfred was a businesswoman before she ventured into commercial tricycle driving. Her little business ceased to progress due to the challenges she encountered during the Covid-19 lockdown and #EndSars protest but her independent lifestyle could not make her stay idle, she needed to work.
She was inspired into taking up riding a tricycle in Akure to make daily earnings to sort out her everyday bills. Unlike her former business where she could not separate her profits from her expenditures, she reiterated that things have turned out to be better than before.
“Even my children know that I don’t like being a liability, depending on others to survive. That was why I gave driving a commercial tricycle a trial. Although, while learning how to drive, as a woman, I felt fear as time went on I was able to overcome it,” she noted.
Apart from fear factors, Tina explained how she was able to overlook the prejudice that emanated from people having seen her drive a tricycle.
“Most times, people driving tricycles are often belittled, especially women. Just like when I started, someone saw me on the road driving and her reaction was ‘Tina, has the situation gotten worse to the extent of driving a tricycle?'”
“I never mind. I saw driving as a thing of just going out in the morning, carrying people, and coming back home. Even, we have graduates among us who drive tricycles to earn a living and that hasn’t taken away their certificates from them,” Tina remarked.
For Babatunde Damilola, another female tricyclist in Akure, she got the boldness to start driving tricycles for a living from the idea that if women could drive cars and motorcycles, then they also can drive tricycles without fear.
Babatunde Damilola, a female tricyclist at Democracy pack, Oja-oba, Akure waiting for her turn to carry passengers. Photo credit: Emmanuel Oluwadola
Having worked as a teacher in a private school for eight years, she explained how driving a tricycle is of a better advantage than her previous job.
“Doing this job, I now have time for myself. There is no pressure or query from the boss. When it’s time to work, I work and when it’s time to rest, I rest and I am relieved.”
“Although people usually show some kind of attitude towards us for driving a tricycle, I didn’t let that affect me. My personal goal is what I am driving after and I am not after what people have to say,” Damilola disclosed.
Another young lady, Beke-ere Tueke claimed that after she finished as a graduate, things have been quite uneasy for her. Knowing that an idle hand is the devil’s tool, she wanted to get involved in what could fetch her money. After trying several jobs, she is now steering a tricycle for daily wages.
“I am riding a tricycle just for the meantime, not as a long-time occupation. The payments that I do receive from previous jobs weren’t enough to cater to my expenses. So the assurance of better daily income is what prompted me to start riding a tricycle.”
Tueke also spoke on the peculiar challenges the women folk face in the trade.
“The challenges we face as women in this job are what we cannot put away. Challenges like oppression from male drivers who sometimes overtake our charters. The stress of collecting daily tickets, body pain, and rejection from female passengers are other problems we face as women in this job,” she narrated.
In Akure, More Women Are Getting Into Riding Tricycles Says Park Chairmen
Reacting to the situation, the Oda road Unit Chairman of tricyclists, Mr. Sunday Ojo commended the courage exercised by young ladies and women who are getting into driving tricycles in Akure and he echoed that they are increasing in numbers.
“Female tricyclists in our midst are trying and we have always been encouraging them. Before we allow them to start driving on the road, we give them proper training for them to overcome fear and other circumstances.”
“The number of female tricycle riders in Akure is increasing daily. The situation in the country has propelled some females into doing male jobs. Shockingly, they also bring other female colleagues into this business of driving,” Sunday Ojo noted.
Omosebi Sunday, the Unit Chairman of tricyclists plying Ondo road also confirmed how the number of female tricyclists in Akure is increasing daily and according to him, he recounted that it is not a crime for women to drive for daily income.
“12 years ago, it’s a long story of how we started the operation of Keke Napep in Akure. A lady called ‘Bukola’ was among the six of us who started this business at Olufoam in Akure.”
“But today, we can count more than 20 women that have joined the Union. Their numbers are increasing every day and most of them joined due to economic hardship in the country, hoping to meet their everyday needs,” Mr. Omosebi disclosed.
Meanwhile, Friday Ifioma, a resident of Akure selling cloth fabrics expressed his support for women driving tricycles to make money. He reaffirmed that some women have extraordinary strength and can do what men can do.
“For me, it’s a fantastic and welcome idea. At least, we have seen women flying airplanes and driving trucks and ships. So if we see women driving tricycles to make money I think that shouldn’t be a problem,” he said.
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