A woman buys a car and she instantly looks for a driver, typically a young man. Not because of a law against female driving but it is the way things are done. Men drive and women don’t. Most women accepted the notion that driving is a privilege for men only.
But soon after, a handful of women decided to try the craft of driving. They decided to take to the streets and experience the adrenaline rush of moving a vehicle from one point to another, taking the wheel with their own hands. As expected these women were not embraced. Instead they were subjected to assault by male drivers who believed women did not belong behind the wheel.
One afternoon, I went to the market to fetch something. There was a standoff in the narrow streets of Bossaso between two cars. One was trying to avoid the clash but the other was persistent and finally the inevitable clash happened. The drivers got out of the car to inspect the damage, which is when we realized that one of them was a female. She was pretty upset about the way the man was recklessly endangering their lives. She started quarreling with the man but he dismissively walked away laughing and pleased with himself. That’s when she decided to hit him and physically confront him.
People started gathering around and watching the fight. There were men who were chewing khat across the street but they did not join to separate the fight, they just said he deserved it and he should just take few slaps for wrecking her car but he started to hit this woman. Immediately a group of women joined the fight and collectively beat him profusely. The man was getting punches, slaps, and kicks from a bunch of women.
The biggest defense mechanism for any girl that’s been subjected to an assault is usually, I have a brother, a father, an uncle, or any other male relative she can think of, but that day the defense mechanism was, I have every woman in this country as a backup if you pick on me for being a female.
This incident happens almost 10 years ago. The situation had changed dramatically in that decade. As I was coming back from the university, a friend offered me a lift. She was my high school classmate and now I am her lecturer for the computer class. I hesitated to join her but I finally did because it was a perfect time to catch up on old times and I was too tired to wait for the university bus. I noticed she also picked up a few of her male friends. I was surprised of course.
Guys who are not appalled to be seen in a car with a woman driver! I know this was impossible few years back.
My mind drifted a bit trying to make sense of this situation because I knew her family were all educated. She had a professional doctor for a dad and a humanitarian aid worker for a mom, and amazingly the first time I actually touched a laptop was at her house, therefore, it seemed strange for me that she was not sent abroad for studies like her brothers. I learned the reason was early marriage because she got married right after high school and immediately got pregnant with her daughter which is the reason why she put her studies on hold, because she had to find a job and take care of her little girl, but after her daughter turned 3 years old she then decided to go back to school and get a degree, and now she is about to graduate from university. I admired her courage and resolve to achieve her goal and continue her education despite the challenges.
I did not want to interrupt my friend, and I wanted to hear her whole story but I was also aware of the fact that we had no challenges in the street from male drivers. Surprisingly, we have seen several other female drivers.
Throughout the way, the drivers were behaving completely normal to this female driver, giving her the lane when it was her turn. I waited till the very last minute to ask my friend “Hey, do you realize that no man tried to challenge us and get us in an accident?” Of course being away from Somalia for almost 5 years I was positively surprised. Things have changed and women have become drivers. They are in control now, and they do not need a male chauffeur in order for them to get around. In Bossaso, there are no traffic directors or traffic lights in most roads so the drivers are responsible for directing traffic in order to ensure that there is no jam and to avoid accidents. Today both male and female drivers do take this responsibility, and men accepted the idea of female driving because they cannot stop it.
Women drive their cars across the north and eastern parts of Somalia. In fact, both my next door neighbors are women who drive their own cars.
It is no longer a rare thing to be challenged. It is no longer a laughing matter to be made fun of. And certainly it is no longer a man thing.