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Business News of Friday, 25 March 2016

Source: Graphic.com.gh

Women commercial drivers hit the road

Having been involved in a motor accident, she developed a sudden phobia for riding in a vehicle. Interestingly, to exorcise that phobia, she decided to enrol in a driving school to learn the rudiments of driving.

“My phobia for rides in vehicles just fizzled out after sitting behind the wheels to experience how a car really operates on the road. It was surreal and full of fun too,” Ms Esenam Nyador, who is now a professional driver in a male-dominated profession, said.

Known as Miss Taxi, Ms Nyador now drives across the length and breadth of the country with her clients, among which are diplomats, tourists and families. She drives to Cape Coast, Hohoe, Tamale, Paga, among others, with her clients.

“I don’t only drive around the city; sometimes I’m engaged by clients to drive them to places of interest, meetings, conferences and group tours. I provide airport and hotel pick-ups as well. With group tours, if the numbers are big, I rent a solid car to drive them to their destinations, since mine is just a taxi cab,” she disclosed.

Challenges

Touching on some of her challenges, Ms Nyador lamented the fact that most of the driver’s unions rejected her request to join their unions to enable her to do her job effectively.

“For them, driving is not a profession for women and, therefore, they couldn’t understand why I would leave all the perceived women-related jobs for driving. So they all kicked against my request,” she said.

After her disappointment with the unions, she decided to hang around the shopping malls in Accra. Over there too, her male counterparts did not want her around them, with the explanation that she would snatch all their customers. However, she never gave up.

“I decided to hang around and later begged them to give me back passes of the passengers whose offers they rejected. It was one of those offers I had which launched me successfully into the driving business.

“The client offered to pay GH¢8 from the Accra Mall to Ridge but the other drivers refused the offer because it was small. I accepted to take it and the client was awe-stricken to see a lady behind the wheels. He, therefore, decided to pay me GH¢10 instead of GH¢8 and asked for my contact,” she said while laughing heartily.

According to her, unknowingly, that particular client was working with one of the High Commissions and he gave out her contacts to his colleagues and friends who needed cab services.

“With that, my clientele profile changed drastically, by His grace,” she added.

Lessons as a driver

According to Ms Nyador, “we all have our moments out there on the road when we just cannot take anymore.

But a true professional driver leaves his or her ego at home. They do not try to teach people a lesson. They do not try to let somebody know when they have done something wrong by tailgating, honking or blocking the flow of traffic”.

She explained that when somebody cut off a professional driver, the professional simply slowed down to increase his/her following distance without getting angry.

“When somebody races down a lane that is going to merge, a professional will let that person in, even if he or she does not ‘deserve’ to be let in.

“When somebody is driving too slow, a professional keeps his or her distance and never tailgates. When a professional is the one being tailgated, he/she simply goes about his or her business or even assists in allowing the tailgater to pass.

“The driver is a high achiever – a mover and shaker who is definitely not averse to risk. The individual is extroverted, strong-willed, direct, practical, organised, forceful and decisive,” she added.

Ms Nyador, who described her cab as her office, said she ensured that it was always washed, vacuum-cleaned, with the seats and dashboard looking spick and span.

Indeed, this reporter had the privilege to inspect both the interior and the exterior of the cab and it was just good to attract a client.

Other passions

Ms Nyador is a woman of many parts. In 2001, she benefited from a training workshop organised by AMEX International, with funding from USAID. Shortly after the first workshop, she began working with a roadside friend to weave rope baskets and trays. She also did batiks and opened a shop near the Labone Coffee Shop in Accra called Antiks Batik. Some of her gift items were sold in several hotel gift shops and some of the tourist retail shops.

Education/family

I am sure you might be wondering if Ms Nyador ever stepped into the classroom, since, in our part of the world, we perceive driving as a career for school dropouts.

Yes, she is highly educated. In fact, she holds a First Class (Honours) in Social Work with Psychology from the University of Ghana, Legon.

She is currently pursuing an advanced postgraduate research degree (MPhil) in Family Resources Management at the same university.

Asked if her mates knew she was a taxi driver, she said they all knew she was a cab driver, including her lecturers.

“I drive my cab to school and park for lectures. Afterwards, I get some clients and go about my business,” she said proudly.

Ms Nyador, who comes from the Volta Region, was thankful to her mum who had always been a shield and took care of her two boys while she combined her driving duties with her education.

Her dream is to establish a driving school, buy more cabs and recruit only female drivers while she pursues a doctorate degree to enable her to venture into lecturing of students.

“Always know that a courteous driver brings you to your destination in a comfortable, safe and timely manner,” she noted.

No job is for men only

It is a turf many assume can be survived by men only but the ever-smiling, always smartly turned-out Esther Pomaa holds a different view about taxi driving and that is why she has been at it over the last nine years in Koforidua, the capital and commercial hub of the Eastern Region.

To the 51-year-old mother of three, what the job really requires is hard work, a clear sense of purpose and passion to succeed rather than merely being male or female.

She firmly believes no job under the sun is reserved for men. “My experience tells me that taxi driving is not for lazy people.

If you take it as your profession and mean to do it well, then you have to be brave and disciplined. It pays off well if you manage your affairs properly,” Esther Pomaa said in a chat with The Mirror at Effiduase, near Koforidua.

She started off driving someone else’s taxi but has managed to buy two of her own and does not regret turning to that profession after her husband passed away in 2004.

Born at Koforidua to a father who hailed from Berekum in the Brong Ahafo Region and a mother from Akuapem Larteh, Esther Pomaa, in early years admired the world of drivers and was not surprised she married one. She herself learnt to drive at the age of 18.

Her husband drove a truck that ferried goods between the northern and southern parts of the country. She took advantage of that and traded in a variety of items including meat and yams.

Some road accidents made her lose her capital for trading and she even got into debt. Esther decided she had had enough of that life and when her husband died, she took to taxi driving to make ends meet. “I relate well to the male taxi drivers in the municipality.

They don’t bother me. They joke with me. They call me their wife and I call them my boyfriends. They are even protective of me because at times when I decide to work late into the night, they all tell me to be careful and not stay too late.”

She, however, says they being nice to her did not take away her right to assert herself whenever necessary.

“If they shout at you on the road, you shout back and carry on. You don’t need to harbour any ill feelings against colleagues because they are the people you deal with everyday.”

According to Esther Pomaa, she gets hired regularly to drive people to places like Nkawkaw, Tafo and Somanya in the Eastern Region as well as to Accra, Kumasi and Sunyani.

“Being a commercial driver is a hard job. Sitting behind the steering wheel for hours at a time is difficult but it puts food on the table.

You become independent and for me as a woman, that ensures self-pride,” she noted.

She has been interviewed several times on radio in the municipality on how more women could enter the taxi driving arena.

The advice she constantly gives is that the job is not for those who love to just dress up and roam.

“It does not matter whether you are a man or a woman. You have to get your priorities right and love what you do. You have to put all your heart into it in order to make a meaningful headway,” Esther Pomaa advised.