When Uber started its operations in Egypt, there was an audible sigh of relief, especially from Egypt’s female population, who no longer had to deal with sleazy cab drivers who made them feel unsafe. On the other side of things, Uber’s tight operations made it possible for more women to break through the glass ceiling preventing them from doing jobs that are typically performed by men, driver definitely being one of those jobs.
There may have been an argument for why society defines certain jobs as woman-appropriate millennia ago, when we were living in caves and beating each other with clubs, but now there isn’t a job out there that a man can do better than a woman. Despite the many reservations regarding working women in Egypt, especially as drivers who interact with many strangers everyday, the progress for women in Egypt is undeniable, and this Mother’s Day, we along with Uber have decided to celebrate the mothers (and heroines) who work behind the wheel to bring home the (halal) bacon for their families.
We had a little chat with some of the mothers working as partners (drivers) with Uber, and how the job has affected their lives and more specifically their experience as women. Some are happily married with supportive husbands, and others are single mothers, but in every case, though they are faced with some adversity, these women wake up each morning and prove their strength and will and it is pretty damn inspiring. As a token of their appreciation towards these strong women, Uber gave them each a special Mother's Day gift.
A mother of three and still happily married, Karima jumped on the Uber train two months after it was launched in Egypt. She was looking for work to support her daughters and she read about Uber online, she already had a car so she thought, Why not? and she’s been with the ride-sharing service ever since. She explains that women often have no control over their lives in Egypt, and can’t do everything they want to do for their children to make sure they are taken care of. Karima was stuck in an administrative government job at a hospital for 7 years before she started driving. Unlike many women in Egypt, Karima’s husband is supportive of her work, which has made things much easier for her.
“It’s good to feel this way for the first time, that I have absolute control over my life, I can work when I want to work, and, then, when I want to spend time with my children, I can be home when they need me. I am not forced to stay at work and miss my time with them. The flexibility of the job has ultimately made me a better mother.”
Hadia is a mother of 4 girls, she has been working with Uber for three months. She explains that she loves the job, primarily because of her love of cars and driving. Hadia has been a driver for around 7 years now, and before her job with Uber, she, primarily, worked with women, driving them to and from places, so she has a bit of experience. She separated from her husband 7 years ago, which is when she decided to work because she had no other option. Cars have always been a little on the masculine side, an interest that is primarily male-dominated, but Hadia is proof that gender shouldn’t dictate what people should and should not be interested in. She does not charge her family for rides and explains that she can now drive them where they need to go without worrying for their safety.
“In all honesty, this job has been great for me, financially and psychologically. I am there for my children when they need me and I can work at hours of my choosing. And I’m amazing at it! I always hear how people are complaining that women in Egypt are terrible drivers, and, while many are, there are also a lot of men who are terrible drivers!" Hadia exclaims. "And to those people who may disagree with me driving and going out to make money, I am not doing anything wrong, and as long as I know I am doing the right thing, it doesn’t matter what people say.”
A PR agent-turned-Uber partner, Rehab moved back to Egypt from Dubai, where she was working. She has one son and she explains that she decided to take a break from her work to take care of him, which was difficult for her because she has always been a working woman and she enjoys it very much. After failing to find a job that fit her specific needs - to be a good mother but also work, she consulted her husband who still lives and works in Dubai and despite his worry about her, she managed to show him how important it is for her to work.
“As I got older, I started to realise that, in Egypt, the older a woman gets, the more difficult it is for her to find a job. It’s like they only want us around when we’re pretty and young, but in terms of following a career, that is extremely difficult. So after failing to find a job that was up to my standards, I decided to hell with it and that I would do a job where I was my own boss, and one where I had the control to be there for my son and do the things that mattered to me, when I wanted.”
A mother of three, Dina has been working with Uber for 7 months now. Her job with Uber is her second, while her primary occupation is in the physiotherapy department at the Olympic Club, she’s a bit of an athletics enthusiast. Dina is a divorcee, and, while she describes a certain amount of resistance to her job with Uber on her family’s part, Dina explains that the necessity for her to work and her resolve to take care of those she cares about far outweighed the resistance. She is quite progressive and has dreams of Egypt moving forward where backwards opinions are eradicated and silenced. She charges even her family members for rides with Uber and explains that business is business, even in family.
“Nothing comes easy and the way I see it, people who are opposed to a woman working in Uber, or a woman working at all, are backward and their opinions should not be validated! I have had passengers who have given me flowers, applauded me for being a working woman, and as long as there’s people out there who recognise our right to work and have an influence in our own lives, we will keep fighting! Women have been in wars, they have seen horrors throughout the ages and we have proved each time that we are strong enough!"
Photos by @MO4Network's #MO4Productions
Photography by Ahmed Najeeb
*The content of this article is sponsored.