Riding commercial tricycle is a male-dominated job but that is gradually becoming a thing of the past. The old adage that ‘only the brave can milk a lion’, is now applicable to these women in their struggle for survival. IJEOMA OKEKE interacts with some women who now dare the devil in this field
Despite the challenges associated with riding tricycle and passengers insatiable requests, women now thrive in that field, they not only do commercial riding, they also display the characterisation that goes along with it. Most of them who spoke to New Telegraph, said they venture into the business because they have to fend for their families, support their husbands, also look after themselves.
Since everyone has to survive in doing one thing or the other, these women are seen diligently and occasionally rascally behind the wheel either on the road or at various Tricycle parks beckoning onto passengers. And in fact, they were also seen chatting and laughing shoulder to shoulder with their male counterparts. Obviously they were enjoying it and seemed prepared for challenge that could come out of it. What matter most to them is that the end justifies the means. They are indeed super heroines.
Fatimah Abiodun, 32, reluctantly joined driving Tricycle otherwise called Keke Marwa when she got sacked from her previous job. According to her, that shouldn’t be the end of the world for her. She determined that she has to do something to support her family. And that becomes her daily source of livelihood.
Abiodun loads her passengers from Ogba, a suburb of Lagos, where female and male tricycle riders were seen loading passengers to Berger.
According to the Bachelor of Science (Bsc) degree holder in accounting, it is not an easy job but she has adapted her body to the pains associated with the job, hence, she no longer feels pains. She agrees that it is a man’s job but it became her last resort when she got sacked at her place of work. “I had to quickly look for another means of livelihood, I am 32 years old and a Bsc holder in accounting, after I lost my job it was really hard for me and my family. My husband business was no longer moving well and my kids were in school. So, my husband and I sat down to discuss the way forward and at the end, we decided to get a tricycle.
“At first I was not happy but the situation on ground does not understand happiness or sadness. I had to join this driving business; I couldn’t do any other business because most of the businesses meant for women nowadays are too competitive. Tricycle riding is not an easy job and women involvement in it, is quite rare.
“Though I face so many challenges like police, touts, traffic regulators, and Traffic workers and Operators Association (TWOA) where we pay fine, there are times, most of us are arrested, even the bad road in some parts of Lagos is really not helping at all, and at times I use pain killer drugs because of body pain. I start by 8:00 am and close by 5:00pm. There is no competition in this job because it’s a man’s job and the women in it, are not many, so you just mind your business and move on. She said”
Abiodun said her husband supports her at twhe home front by catering for the family while she is away. According to her, the only time she enjoy the job mostly is when there were passengers on ground. Otherwise, if there were no passengers, it was usually a problem, “especially when some men try to prove manly to me by making me feel inferior but I just caution them and most times ignore their rude behavior to me.” On handling men’s advances to her, she replied that, “there are so many men who try to make advances towards me, but I ignore them because I know what I am after. What’s really important is focus. Ironically, my children aren’t aware of the nature of job I’m doing because they are still little. I’m just doing this job for the main time and I believe with time I will stop it because of the stress.” She said.
Another female tricycle rider, Funmilayo Halimi, 26 years old married with two kids, said she started driving Keke Marwa four months ago. “For me, I am into it because I love it and I needed something that brings money on daily basis. I am an HND holder of marketing from Ilaro Polytechnic, Ogun State. My husband has no issue with me doing the job because there is money in it and our children are all aware about the job. I am proud of it,” she said.
Halimi told New Telegraph that men often make sexual advances towards her knowing full well that she is married with kids but she said she always rejected them. It’s just a normal thing for these entire things to happen; it is for the woman to know her aim and be focused,” she said.
The snag in the job for Halimi is the street urchins otherwise called area boys, and some difficult passengers occasionally. “Some of them are rude to us and perhaps believe we are into this job because we have no choice or because we are illiterates. Human beings are naturally difficult to handle, so once in a while, when we come across such people, we just use our maturity to handle the situation, it’s just part of this job,” she explained.
According to Halimi, her joy knows no bound as she said she is enjoying the job but it is more because it fetches her money daily. This, she said helps her to support her extended and immediate family. She explained that the tricycle she is using is on installment payment of N1M, and that she has paid almost N500, 000 from her daily proceed. She said she makes enough on daily basis to cater for her family. By 8:30am, she hits the road and latest by 7:00pm, she is done for the day, according to her.
Halimi narrated that she was working in Micro Finance bank but she couldn’t cope with the challenges of marketing target. “I was frustrated and I had to leave,” she said.
For her, the main competition on the job is Danfo drivers who always struggle for passengers with them on the road and at the park but “what can we do, we all just have to meet up, I don’t have any godfather but trust in God completely.
Modupe Babalola, a 35-years-old, mother of four, was seen calling out to her passengers in Ikeja. For two days of monitoring her operates, she was not only active and aggressive in going about her job, she displayed passion and enthusiasm as well. She said she ply Ogba, Ikeja, Obawole and Shaga routes.
Babalola narrated that she joined the tricycle business because it is more profitable than any other job she has been engaged in, in Lagos and it’s a way for a woman to build up herself and be focused.
“The reason I am into this job is because salaries these days are not really helping out at all. My husband is not earning much in his work place, so I had to support him, and again the only job that I can see that is unique and different for women is this tricycle, because every other business like selling of clothes, provisions, and other things is just everywhere and I can’t open a business and start struggling to get customers again. But transportation is a must for everyone which is everywhere because people must go places, so that’s why.
“Women should never be focused on only house chores or be satisfied with being housewives. As the saying goes, an idle man is the devils workshop,” she advised.
Luckily for Babalola, she said her husband gives her full support, and her children are aware of her job, “because I take it home and I use it to drive them to their school and they are happy,” she beamed.
She quip that the job is stressful but she just have to ensure as a woman not to over stress herself. She explained further the male counterparts respect them for the fact that they are women on men field. “Sometimes, the Lastma and police are troublesome always looking for ways to extort money from us, either by arrest or snatching our tricycle. Area boys known as Agberos are also part of the problem, always taxing us every day to make payment for riding on the road,” she said.
Interesting! Often times, my husband will say he doesn’t have money to pay children school fees, and I make payment for it without him knowing about it because I can’t bear it if my kids are sent out of school, it’s a big embarrassment. But he gives me back the money later, without him being aware I already paid.
However, Babalola said she would be happy if government could show them support because there are some women who aren’t convenient in the job. “The economic situation in Nigeria has contributed to women driving tricycle, if they can help us it will be better for us,” she pleaded.
A 24 years old tricycle rider who plies Ogba, Iju/Shaga road, Esther Emmanuel said the reason she is into the job is because there is no money and she needed to survive but through decent means. “I started this job last year, I’m not married, and I am an SSCE holder, ever since I finished my secondary school, no money to further my education so I had to help my mum in her business, but since it’s not moving well I had to join tricycle riding, a friend of mine introduced me to it and I’m happy about the job.
“My family is not in support of this job because they believe it is a tout job but I am just perfect with the job, proud of it because it’s not an illegal business and it’s what most women do these days. I got the tricycle on loan of N1.2 million, which I am paying little by little. The males around are very supportive. They respect us and we play together and my earnings daily depend on the job for that day. I don’t have any God father supporting me in this job,” she said.
Emmanuel however pointed to the fact that most roads in Lagos are really bad, thereby leading to the high cost of maintaining the tricycle. She operates from Elliot to Shaga and Anjuwon.
For Titilayo Adewunmi, a 35, the issue in tricycle business is that of touting, Lastma officials including bad road. She said it is more nightmarish for them with the issue of traffic which she described as horrendous. “It is very tiring and frustrating but because we need money, we have no choice but to succumb to it all,” she said.
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