Female Drivers in Yemen: No Guts, No Glory [Archives:1998/14/Culture]

April 6 1998

Nearly 98% of the women who drive cars in Yemen are working women. Since taking public transportation is annoying, these women learned to drive cars. Yemen Times has met some of these women to ask them about the kind of difficulties they face while driving on our cities’ dangerous roads:
Mrs. Kamla Al-Khayat, 44, is married and works at the National Institute for Administration Sciences. She said: “I’ve been driving my car since 1984. Nobody in my family was against my wish to drive. It took my husband two weeks to teach me before I was able to do that. When I started to go to work driving my car, some drivers teased me and tried to frighten me by blocking my way with their cars.
“I never exceed 40 kph when I drive, so I’ve never been in an accident and I was never fined. I always observe the traffic rules and regulations.
“It happened once that I parked my car and someone then smashed into it and I had to go with him to the police station. There, he was obliged to pay me the whole expense necessary to repair my car.
“I encourage women to drive because driving is better than taking taxis or going by public transportation. For that, I taught my daughter to drive. By experience, I learned by myself to do things like changing spark plugs, changing oil, checking the filter and the battery, etc. I have no problem with the mechanics for I take my car to only one mechanic. I drive any time all day long. But, I don’t drive in the evening unless it is necessary such as taking a patient to the hospital, etc.”

Mrs. Om Akram, 24, works in a foreign company operating in Yemen. She said: “I began to drive when I was 18 years old. My friend encouraged me to do so. Nobody was against me when I decided to drive. Like any other driving woman, I’m teased by some drivers who sometimes cut me off suddenly. It happened only once that I smashed into a shop window in Al-Tahreer. I went to the police station with the shop owner, and had to pay him a penalty of YR6000. Repairing the car cost me YR10,000.
“I encourage all women to drive because it is much easier, better and safer.
“I am a do-it-yourself person when it is necessary. I can change the wheels and the car oil and I can also check the battery. If my car needs a check, I ask my husband to take it to a mechanic. I don’t like to do that myself because mechanics often exploit women and ask them to pay more money.
“I go alone in my car during the whole day until 9 PM. I might be late until 10 or 11 o’clock if I have a wedding party or if I receive someone at the airport.”

Mrs. Om Adel, 32, a housewife and mother of 5 children, said: “I’ve been driving a car for 3 years. My sisters encouraged me to do that and my 18-year-old son is the one who taught me how to drive. No one from the family had an objection to that.
“People in the streets tease me both by words and acts. They sometimes hit the car with their hands to frighten me. I’ve never gone to a police station. Because I drive very carefully, I have never had a traffic accident. I once made a simple traffic mistake but the traffic policeman was very nice and let me go.
“I drive mainly for my daughters’ sake. Since their father is dead, I take the responsibility of taking them to school or to any other place they want to go to.”
“If there is something wrong with the car, I can change the oil and the water, and I can check the battery and the windshield wipers. I don’t have any problems with the mechanic because my son takes the car there. I drive the car any time from the morning until 10 o’clock in the evening. When I have to be late (wedding, sickness, traveling), I accompany my daughters and my son.”

Ms. Najeeba, 34, a single professional woman, said: “I’ve been driving for 12 years. I feel more comfortable when I go in my own car. It is much better than the crowd and troubles of the public transportation. “Most of the problems that I face are because some people do not obey the traffic rules. Still people do not accept the idea of women driving cars. They always try to tease them and cause problems for them. I’ve had three accidents and I was taken to the police station after each of them. I paid fines twice.””I encourage all women to drive if they have cars. It is better for them to save time and to avoid the problems in the public transportation. I can check simple things in my car but if it needs it, I take it to the mechanic. I drive my car any time of the day, in the morning and in the afternoon.”

Ms. Nada Ahmed, 26, single professional woman, said: “I have been driving for nearly 11 months. Since I have to work in several places, I decided to have my own car. Thereby, I can save time and avoid public transportation troubles.
“Until now, I’ve been involved in three accidents and the last one was serious. I was driving when the driver of the car in front of me stopped suddenly and I smashed into his car. My car is now in the mechanic workshop and it will cost me at least YR50,000 to repair it. I’ve never been to a police station or had to pay a fine.
“I face problems because people always try to tease me.
Till now, I do not know much about car equipment. I can just check the water and the oil filters of the car. ”
“I encourage all women to drive if they can. Driving makes you more confident and independent and, despite everything, helps to overcome many obstacles.”

By: Khairiya Al-Shibeebi