Being an Uber driver is a job perceived to be more suited for men, but there's a group of women who've garnered the boldness and determination of becoming Uber drivers, and are excelling.
Dar es Salaam is one of the fastest growing cities in the world, something that has led to the demand for affordable and flexible transport.
Such demands have seen the advent of various means of standard transportation systems, one of them being Uber; a Transport Network Company that provides commuters with a technologically based platform to request rides. Since it started its operation in Dar es Salaam in June last year, Uber has experienced popularity among locals.
Despite operating in a less developed market, drivers have continued to sign up to the online app in numbers. Women in particular have not been left behind as some of them have made a bold decision to join in what is believed to be a male dominated field.
Woman had an opportunity to talk to some of these few women who shared their experiences in breaking a taboo in what is perceived to be a job reserved for men and what really pushed them to join the network.
Suma Mwaitenda, 34, a quantity surveyor by profession and a Lecturer at Ardhi University and Uber driver
Defining herself as a leader, self-motivated person who is obsessed with creativity and Innovation, the academician currently works as a registered Uber driver and also founder and CEO of Uhuru Women Club – a club dedicated to empowering women in different ventures.
Suma, 34, who believes that she was brought into this world for a purpose joined Uber in March this year after her trip to Nairobi.
“While I was in Nairobi, I happened to use the Uber App I had installed on my phone and the person who came to pick me up was a woman. I was impressed by her courage. The woman shared her experience and how she got into Uber business. She told me she was once employed but later decided to quit her job after she saw an opportunity as an Uber driver and decided to take on the job fulltime,” explains the academician, adding; “I was motivated and I gave some thought to the idea and told myself that when I return back to Tanzania I will tell people, particularly women about the opportunity. But then I told myself that if I wanted people to believe that this thing can really work I had to do it first. So when I came back, I went to Uber offices and registered, thereon I started working.”
To be sure of the possible opportunities, Suma started her latest job as a demo to see if she could make money out of it, also to observe the challenges that existed and if it was feasible for a woman to really do it.
“After making a few trips, I realised it is possible and exciting for a woman to work as an Uber driver. I was very happy and even the passengers I picked were pleased and surprised to see a woman doing such kind of a job. One of the biggest question they always ask me is ‘why I am I doing this?’ And when I tell them that I also have another job they get confused altogether. After a while I met with several women and encouraged them to see Uber as an opportunity that they can use to make money either by working part time or full time,” she happily explains
Explaining how she manages to balance her time between her other jobs and doing Uber, Suma, a mother of two says this depends on her teaching schedule, “I usually spare three to four hours a day depending on my teaching schedule, sometimes I might have morning lectures at the university which end in the afternoon and I happen to be free say at 4pm, or if it happens I have an appointment in town then I switch on Uber App so I can pick any passenger along the way, same as when I return from town. So in short I can do it at my own convenience,” she notes.
As a married woman she had to talk to her husband first about the idea, however it didn’t take a lot of her energy to convince him to agree. “I am a type of person who believes and trusts herself and so I didn’t see it as something that I needed to ask permission for as long as it was something to empower women. I consulted him out of respect and he agreed,” she says.
Suma sees Uber as an opportunity for women to make extra money in a safe way possible because the car scan be tracked and easily monitored so long as they follow all the rules. She says instead of letting their personal cars or family cars stay idle at home, they can make use of them by hiring someone to drive or they can do it themselves because this is a business just like any other business.
The Uber driver admits that challenges are there just like in any other job, for instance being inappropriately approached by male customers, but this will depend on how smartly one deals with them and in what manner these women tend to value themselves. “You should view this just like any other challenge you face in a day to day working environment. Some passengers can be rude thinking that you’re doing it because you have got nothing much to do,” she advices.
I used to tell and I convinced myself that I am not a feminist as I believed that preaching feminism is to acknowledge the shortfall that women have – that there is something wrong with us that we need to correct. So I believed that was not the case and that I am just like everybody else and if I want to do something then I can do it.
My advice to women is they need to trust in themselves, they need to believe that they can achieve anything they set their mind to.
Instead of letting their cars stay idle they can decide to empower each other by hiring women who can drive so they can both earn something at the end of the day.
Happiness Mremi, 25, a Bachelor of Education degree holder from St. Augustine University.
Soon after completing her degree in 2015, Happiness 25, engaged herself in agriculture by cultivating rice in Mwanza region for few months before she had to stop and return to her hometown in Kilimanjaro.
Thereon she engaged in the business of buying clothes from Dar es Salaam and sold them in Moshi but she had to temporarily stop doing this business too after she got married last year in October and moved to Dar es Salaam with her husband.
To keep herself busy, Happiness continued with the apparel business including owning a small shop in Kariakoo but with little success. “The business wasn’t doing well and so I had to think of doing something else. It was around this time when I heard a family friend who paid us a visit at our home talking about Uber. I got a little curious and so I asked my husband about it. He told me what it was and when I asked him if I could also do it he told me that I could not do something like that.
After doing more research I became more excited about the idea and told my husband I wanted to become an Uber driver because my car was just packed idle at home, he adamantly refused and it reached a point where talking about Uber would stir up a heated conversation,” she explains.
One day after her husband had gone to the office, Happiness decided to go the Ubero offices so that she could get a better understanding of how it works, “I was impressed especially when I met other women who were doing the Uber business. They connected me to their network and that helped me to convince my husband that what I wanted to do was safe since other professional women had also registered,” Happiness says.
That marked the beginning of her journey as an Uber driver. June this year she registered and started working as a full time driver after seeing great potential in the business. “I wake up at 6am to prepare for the busy day ahead, my day usually ends at 7pm” she explains.
With the money she earns every month ranging from Sh1.5 million to Sh2 million, she doesn’t see herself being employed in the near future, “I don’t plan to look for a job anytime soon, I love what I am doing because I earn enough, even more than what some employed women earn,” states Happiness.
Being a female Uber driver has its own challenges; however Happiness is happy with how most of the passengers who request for her service reciprocate her kindness and professionalism. “Most of the passengers I deal show appreciation for the service I offer and at times wonder how a young woman like me ended up doing such a job,” she says.
Happiness plans to do the business across the country once the Uber service expands to other regions. This is the type of business that anyone, especially young graduates can do and benefit from it because it is reliable and safe.
Angelina Shonza, 29, Holder of Bachelor degree in social work from the Institute of Social Work
After qualifying as a social worker upon completing her degree, unlike many of the young graduates, Shonza didn’t take much of her time to apply for a job in different organizations, but rather she chose to be self-employed.
One thing that saw her making the decision to become an Uber driver was her determination to make something out of her life, “before I joined Uber I used to sell handbags and clothes, a business I did while I was in college. I would sell to students, unfortunately the business wasn’t performing well and so I had to cut my losses. It was during this time when I heard about Uber,” explains Shonza.
Instead of staying at home she made a decision that would probably be one of the hardest decisions for any modern young woman – becoming an Uber driver, a rare profession for women in this part of the world.
“The idea of staying home idle while there was something out there I could do to make money pushed me to try my luck. The first person to tell me about this opportunity was my husband, but he told me it was not a job suitable for women since it is tough sitting for a long time driving. However, that didn’t stop me from trying, I decided to give it a try and later started doing it full time, working from 4 or 5 am up to 6 or 8 pm. Because I am a married woman and I have a family to care for, I have to return home early from work,” Shonza says.
Today, Shonza has been working as an Uber driver for five months, and she doesn’t regret making such a decision. I am happy with what I am doing and so far I have carried passengers in not less than 480 trips within the city. I am also happy to see how people react when they see me driving Uber, they usually don’t believe that a woman can do such a job but their reaction most of the time has been positive. Most customers are happy and comfortable to be driven by a woman,” she reveals.
For Shonza, young ladies should not shy away from a job that comes their way but instead they should make the best of whatever opportunity that they get. “This is just a job like any other because if a woman can drive her car to the office or market it is the same way they can use their car to make money. All they need is a driving experience and determination to do the job. I can now support my family and relatives with the money I earn monthly, which ranges between Sh2 million up to 2.5 million where per day I can make Shs150,000 up to 200,000,” Shonza elaborates.
Pascalia Dominic and Prisca Kabendera are other women Uber drivers, also members of Uhuru Women Club. These Uber drivers have also defied odds by choosing to do a job that is still peculair among women.