Women truck drivers break new ground in Syria

Dima Mohamed lives with a daily challenge to prove her capabilities.
When the Syrian Internal Trade Ministry announced new job openings for both male and female bus and truck drivers, many thought women would not take the posts seriously.

But 34-year-old truck driver Dima Mohamed has proven them wrong. Mohamed and two others were appointed as part of the initiative to become the first women to drive big vehicles run by the ministry.

Mohamed was a driving instructor in a private school but it was shut after the war. Looking for job security, Mohamed thought that working in a government institution is a safer option.

Family members rejected the idea in the beginning, but seeing Mohamed mastering her new job has changed their minds.

Dealing with male colleagues was another challenge for Mohamed.

“When they saw me they came asking: ‘Are you here to apply for a driver’s job?’ or ‘Are you able to drive a big car?’ They would ask “Could you get into this truck, will you be able to do so?’ So, I said I have no problem, I can drive anything,” she said.

She lives with a daily challenge to prove her capabilities. “They (male drivers) said that you women are here to take a man’s job. No, this is not the case. On the contrary, I’m here to help you and to stand by you. I am not here to take anything away from you,” she added.

A ministry official said that three women and seven men were accepted. Mohamed and her fellow female drivers deliver goods inside big cities and are not authorised to travel between cities.

Similar initiatives are taking place in other government bodies. The Ministry of Transportation announced similar job openings for women in January.

Women in Syria have not only borne the brunt of the country’s lengthy civil war, they have been marginalised and rendered invisible, a panel of experts at the Women of the World festival in London said last year.

Syrian women often lead households alone, because men fight or travel abroad, they said, while a lack of working hospitals meant an unknown number had died at home in childbirth. Others were sexually exploited venturing out for food or aid.