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LOWAN Supports Female Drivers in Nigeria

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By Mercy Kelani

Rise in female drivers is attributed to the country’s deteriorating economy.

The association of women drivers, LOWAN, started with six women six years ago, but now it has expanded to include around 5,000 female commercial drivers in Nigeria, aged between 25 and 60. With their increasing numbers, their mutual support for each other continues to grow as well. According to founder Nkechi Abiola, LOWAN operates like a tightknit community where members care for and support each other, offering guidance on the road and sharing tips on various business prospects. Additionally, they offer Loan services to aid 60% of the members who have not yet purchased their own vehicles, and they support each other by participating in a consistent savings program.

Apart from operating vehicles, members are involved in advocating against gender-based violence and domestic abuse in order to bring attention to the challenges Women in Nigeria encounter. Recently, more and more women in Nigeria have started to take on roles in the commercial transport industry, operating as taxi drivers, danfo bus drivers, tricycle operators, and motorcycle taxi drivers. This rise is attributed to Nigeria’s deteriorating Economy, pushing women to seek higher incomes in order to provide for their families.

Nigeria still upholds traditional gender roles which affect female drivers.

As a result, many are entering sectors that have historically been male-dominated. According to Seyi Awojulugbe, a senior analyst at SBM Intelligence in Lagos, the rise in women working in Nigeria’s formal sector is a result of greater advocacy for female involvement. However, in the informal sector, the primary driving force behind the increase in female workers is economic necessity. Despite progress, Nigeria still upholds traditional gender roles, making it challenging for women who work as drivers.

Female drivers face discrimination from some passengers who refuse to ride with them simply because of their gender, believing the stereotype that women are not skilled drivers, according to LOWAN members. Abiola shared that women face resistance when it comes to driving, whether it be from males or females. The acceptance rate for female commercial drivers remains low and they continue to strive for equality in this field. In 2018, Abiola founded LOWAN after facing exclusion from her mixed-gender drivers’ forum. The lack of support from male members when women tried to contribute drove her to create a separate platform for female drivers.

Many female drivers reported experiencing various types of assault.

This is when she founded LOWAN as a space exclusively for women, allowing them to speak freely and, most importantly, offer encouragement to other female drivers in the industry. Numerous female drivers have reported experiencing various types of assault, denial, blackmail, bias, and coercion from riders, other drivers on the road, and even police officers. Abiola recounted encountering men who boldly touch women in the car, describing the prevalence of such incidents. She mentioned partnering with a foundation to ensure that perpetrators are reported and face consequences.

According to Awojulugbe from SBM, the varying treatment of female drivers can be attributed to society’s unfamiliarity with women in these positions and the unique demands of the role. LOWAN aids its members during difficult financial times by providing them with loans for the purpose of eventually owning a vehicle. Additionally, the organization offers support in non-driving circumstances, like during health emergencies or other crises, showing their commitment to member well-being beyond just transportation assistance. The group operates a traditional savings club known as ajo in the local community.

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Members make regular contributions of money on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis, which is then collected and shared among different members in a rotating Fashion. Members of LOWAN express their appreciation for the support they receive from the group of women. This assistance comes in two forms: the reassurance of knowing that Victoria Oyeyemi is available on the helpline during emergencies, and the financial help they receive when in need of a loan. However, there are numerous individuals who desire for the government to take further action.


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