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Nigeria's 'Lady Mechanic' Fixes Cars And Lives

posted 11 Jun 2013, 07:51 by Mpelembe   [ updated 11 Jun 2013, 07:51 ]

Sandra Aguebor-Ekperuoh is arguably Nigeria's first lady mechanic. Sandra who has been an auto mechanic for the past 27 years, now runs a non-governmental organisation that empowers women called the Lady Mechanic Initiative where she has graduated over 150 women.

 LAGOSNIGERIA  (REUTERS) -  Satisfied customers drive out of the Lady Mechanic Initiative Garage inNigeria's commercial capital, Lagos.

Dressed in red caps and blue overalls covered in grease, the mechanics here are all women.

They are also experts at the inner workings of almost every kind of vehicle that can be found on the roads of the city.

This Lagos garage is one of four around Nigeria started by Sandra Aguebor-Ekperuoh, who has been fixing cars for the last 27 years and is considered the first successful female mechanic in the country.

Nine years ago, Aguebor-Ekperuoh decided to use her growing mechanics business to empower disadvantaged women.

Over 300 students have undergone training at the garage since the initiative began.

"These girls they need a lot of mentorship and counselling because it's not just that they want to be out there in the cold for one reason or the other to make money but Lady Mechanic has come into the state to rescue them from all that trafficking from being female traffickers to female mechanics and more productive and more independent and have dignity," said Aguebor-Ekperuoh.

Up to 7,962 US dollars is invested in each of the ladies for a three year industrial training course. Part of that money goes to paying salaries of about 32 US dollars that the girls can use to survive and cater for basic needs.

They also receive counselling and psychological assistance to deal with their troubled past.

Graduates are then either employed by the garage or by other car repair shops. Others start their own businesses.

Stability and a steady income is something many women here have never had. Some say Aguebor-Ekperuoh saved their lives.

"She has finally removed me from shame, from disgrace and from poverty, as in from arrogance as in she has brought me out, she has shown me life," said 21-year-old Happiness Okpenyen who spent two years as an illegal immigrant inSpain where her aunt tried to introduce her to prostitution.

Working in a male dominated field is not easy. Car owners are often reluctant to leave their vehicles in the hands of a woman. For those who dare, Aguebor-Ekperuoh says there is is always positive feedback.

She recently ran a training programme in Benin state in southern Nigeria, where the concept of Lady Mechanics is catching on.

"We just graduated 47 female mechanics in Benin about two weeks ago and I'll be happy to tell you that 40 of them already got employment with various car companies in Nigeria. We are now like a resource centre where car companies go to knock on the doors of lady mechanic initiative, we need staff in the workshop, we need technicians and we are able to give them; they test them and they employ them," she said.

Angela Isuman trained under Aguebor-Ekperuoh for three years and now owns her own garage in Lagos where she makes enough to care for her four children.

"Number one, people respect me for me being a mechanic, I'm a mother, I have 4 kids. Before going to learn mechanic job, so when I went, people were like why did you choose to go and learn mechanic, I said that's what I want. People were like let us see. I went, I thank God for everything, I learnt for three years without any problem so today, I'm on my own," she said.

Students at the Lady Mechanics Initiative Garage also benefit from corporate and individuals sponsorship and there are plans to expand the program within the country and the region.