According to a survey conducted by the International Road Transport Union (IRU) in 2022, only 3% of truck drivers in Europe and the world are female (Survey). The trucking industry has grown to attract more female employees, however this is still classified as an occupation that requires improvement on gender ratio, representation and inclusion (Freightwaves, 2022).
“When I’m driving I feel so good! It still brings me a lot of happiness! Let’s just say everyone is always surprised because it’s not really common here.”
In this article, we will be looking at the story of Ademola Omolade, a 22 year old female truck driver from Nigeria who agreed to a brief interview with her and share her story.
Ademola comes from a family and community that holds specific expectations for women, particularly when it comes to occupations and careers. Ademola expressed frustration at being confined to pre-selected jobs that were either hairdressing or tailoring. But this changed when someone she knew took her to a truck driver in hopes that she would get tips on learning how to drive ordinary vehicles. However, she left, excitedly, with an aspiration to one-day drive large articulated trucks. A short 10 months later, Ademola completed her training.
Data from Technext discloses that the majority in Nigeria believe that men are better drivers with only 12.5% preferring female drivers. Ademola was quick to support this by stating “It’s not really easy in Nigeria to be a female truck driver, not even a female driver!”. As a young woman, she told me that her biggest challenges were around safety and security, specifically with young men in remote areas; she referred to them as ‘touts’ or ‘area boys’. She mentioned that when she is away on a delivery task these young ‘area boys’ are most likely to inflict harm such as verbal or physical abuse. Ademola also emphasised that due to narrow and damaged roads, she is particularly worried about faults or breakdowns with her truck. Especially when she goes on long journeys for delivery which can take her alone and away from home for up to 4 days.
“Everywhere I go people just stop, stare and look at me!”
With three years driving trucks, Ademola shared that she has only come across one other female truck driver and has grown to understand how rare female presence is in the Nigerian trucking industry. After obtaining her driving licence she also made sure to learn how to change tires and general mechanics for a truck. This enables her confidence and independence when she takes long distance deliveries. Ademola told me another example of how she keeps safe on the road; when her journeys are very distant she sometimes goes with a motor mate, in other words, a friend who agrees to accompany her as a passenger in her truck. Ademola shared that despite these two measures, she doesn’t feel completely safe, but it’s her own way of making this male-dominated sector more comfortable for her.
The one thing that Ademola made sure to communicate was the empowerment she felt driving her 22-tyre truck, she said:
“Everytime I get out of the truck and I see the length of the truck, I am still surprised that I drove the truck! I’ll think ‘you small girl, are you the one who drove this truck?’ ”.
She continued to share that her hope is to be an inspiration to young women in Nigeria and to set up a truck company that will employ women and bring more equality to the industry in Nigeria.
In the race to reshape gender roles and expectations on the African continent and around the world, women like Ademola are examples of the individuals that are playing a massive role to challenge and change society.
You can follow Ademola on Instagram here.
Collaboration article/blog between Hub Cymru Africa and SSAP.
By Isimbi Sebageni, Diaspora and Inclusion Officer.