Sandra Aguebor-Ekperuoh listened to her dreams and became a mechanic, cracking a major gender barrier in Nigeria. With her father’s support and in spite of her mother’s skepticism, she honed her technical skills with the best training available.
Her first “garage” was a patch of dirt with a cardboard shade in Lagos. Authorities demolished it, but she was undeterred. Now she is not only a highly successful mechanic. She is also founder and CEO of the Lady Mechanic Initiative, whose goal is:
To equip 300 young girls and women each year with skills, attitudes, and competencies that unshackles traditional barriers of social and economic deprivation, and using same to model and repeat the gains of our program through the attraction of others
Aguebor-Ekperuoh is a dynamo, changing women’s lives while running a business, handling media interviews, training mechanics, raising funds and rearing her six children. Since 2004 her workshops have trained about 300 female mechanics. Graduates have no trouble finding work because of their skills and because placing them in good jobs is part of the services offered by the Lady Mechanic Initiative.
In an article posted on It Began in Africa, one of the graduates said she had traveled to Europe to work as a prostitute. It was one of Janet’s few options for supporting her family. She was imprisoned for eight months in Turkey, before being deported to Nigeria. She tried it again in Spain and Ghana, but on her last return to Nigeria she heard a radio interview with Aguebor-Ekperuoh. Now Janet is a mechanic, able to support herself and her daughter.
Trainees learn the rudiments of car care, inspection and repairs in a six-month program. After this they have the option of six months of training in auto companies that partner with the initiative. They must pass a trade exam at the end of this first year. Then they are enrolled in a six-month driving school. The final six months of the two-year program involves testing on theory and practice.
Women who graduate from the program are not just smashing barriers and defying stereotypes. They are providing an essential service based on high quality training and apprenticeships.
As girls and young women witness the success of these lady mechanics, more doors will open for Nigerian women. Sandra Aguebor-Eperuoh and her Lady Mechanic Initiative are stunning examples of the power of a dream. They give me hope.