Driving, or even being driven on Lagos roads is an experience at another level and every other car seems to be a taxi in various stages of disrepair. But finding ladies behind the wheels of a taxi is a rare sight. Rafiq Raji, however, managed to find one, an Uber driver. She relates her experiences.
The odds that you would happen on a female Uber driver in Lagos are slim. Still, Nigeria is not Saudi Arabia; women are free to do whatever they like here. Well, mostly. And if you make the error of thinking they cannot drive any better than their male counterparts, kindly try fighting for right of way with a woman in Lagos traffic. There are probably as many women as there are men drivers on Lagos roads.
Women at the wheel of public transport vehicles, however, are not as many. It is not the norm. So although there are plenty driving all sorts of vehicles in their private capacity, from those with little engines to the ubiquitous sport utility vehicles (SUVs), it is still a novelty to find female chauffeurs.
Those who are seem reluctant to work for men. And women are not likely to hire them. Wives in these parts would certainly shudder at the thought.
Uber, the on-call taxi service that has become ubiquitous in Africa, found out all too quickly how difficult it is to secure cars from 'partners' (car owners) for their few female drivers. That is, when the firm used to facilitate the connection. Now, it does not. At least, that is what Blessing Onuh, one of the ride-sharing firm's first female drivers in Lagos, says.
"I was actually the first female Uber driver that went for the exam. There were more than a hundred guys and I was the only lady--they actually thought I was one of the officials."
A few years ago, having just arrived from Abuja after being let go from a government job over there, Blessing took an interest in becoming an Uber driver after taking a ride with one.
She applied, did the training and eventually got a car. That last bit did not come about easily. Many of the car owners she approached turned her down for no other reason than she was a woman. "Women have issues", was the typical refrain.
As Blessing herself admits, many potential riders will cancel their trips the moment they see her picture. When asked how she knows this, she says she is able to tell from the app if she is the only driver in an area, and if a potential rider cancels a trip persistently, there can be only one reason why.
It turns out a couple of those who...