(ERGO) – Sahro Abdi Ahmed, a 41-year-old widow, has become a familiar sight as the only woman driving a tuk-tuk taxi in the central Somali town of Beletweyne.
Determined to make a decent living for her eight children, and disabled from a childhood illness, Sahro learned how to drive in just two weeks. She took over from the driver she had hired, who had not been bringing in any income, in order to pay off her mounting debts.
She is making between $10-$20 a day now, working seven days a week, and has paid off her $105 rent arrears and ensured that her eight children are back in school.
“We were living in a dire situation but thank God we are fine now. My children are not sent home anymore by the school for failing to pay the fees,” she said.
Sahro bought the second-hand tuk-tuk six months ago for $1,400, using $656 from the sale of her women’s clothing shop and funds from relatives.
“I wake up at 3am to cook breakfast and lunch for my children. After cooking, I tell the two elder sons to feed their younger siblings and that is how I manage through,” she said.
She pays around three dollars a day to a conductor, who helps loading goods onto the vehicle. She also depends on the rotating group savings scheme she is a member of to raise the $40 school fees and $35 house rent, supplementing her taxi earnings.
Driving in Beletweyne’s dense residential areas is tricky and she has lost her way several times, once spending three hours travelling in the wrong direction after dropping a passenger in one of the villages.
“All the four villages are full of corners. Sometimes I find myself driving in one village for hours thinking I am on the right track. But I end up at a dead end, blocked by a wall,” she said.
She is sometimes bothered by other young tuk-tuk drivers speeding or driving carelessly, as well as by rude comments from some passengers doubting her driving skills as a woman.
Sahro told Radio Ergo she would like to be an example for other women in Beletweyne who are struggling to make ends meet in businesses that are not profitable. Several women have already approached her with questions about the tuk-tuk taxi business.
She has already taken another widowed mother under her wing, hoping to induct another woman driver in the male-dominated taxi scene.
“She is struggling to provide for her children so we bought her a second hand tuk-tuk. She is currently being trained for six days and we hope she will join the market soon,” she said.