Om Waleed is a taxi driver. In fact she is the only woman driving a taxi in Cairo. She has broken a huge taboo and put up with repeated harassment to pursue her ambition of doing the job she wants in order to support her family of three.
Euronews took a ride with her through the capital with the constant traffic jams creating more problems on her daily trips. Her skill has won her special standing among her male colleagues.
“At first I faced a lot of problems with other drivers, because they were surprised by the presence of a woman driving a taxi, and were wondering, asking me are you driving a taxi? I was frustrated at the beginning but I started to learn not to care about their comments, refusing to listen to what they were saying or to take heed of the words I heard in the streets,” she told euronews.
A petrol station in the city has become the first in the country to hire women attendants. Eight girls work during daylight hours. They went through a training course which focused on how to deal with male customers who are usually surprised to be served by a woman. But not everyone filling up is shocked – the girls also get admiring glances especially from women who are impressed to see them there.
“My father rejected the idea at the beginning, asking me how I could would work in an open place like this, and why are women working in mens jobs! But when I started, I found it very easy and simple not as my parents had told me, and they became convinced after that,” said one of the girls, Hadeel Ashraf.
Om Khada supports her family forging metal. It is a tough job but the only one she could find to earn an income. She has broken through many barriers but believes people now believe in her and she has shown she can be as productive as men.
She says her life experience should be a beacon for other Arab women to overcome social and psychological barriers.
“It was very strange for many people to see a woman working in such a job and dealing with men in the street, they were asking me why do you work? After some years they started to get used to my work, people started to get to know me very well, I can tell you it’s not a shame at all that a woman works in any kind of job as long as it’s not illegal,” she explained.
Euronews correspondent in Cairo Mohammed Shaikhibrahim said: “With these examples which still remain very few and rare in Arab society, Arab women are proving once again their ability to break the restrictions which have been imposed on them But their dreams do not stop at this point, as the gap between reality and ambition to achieve substantial equality is still big.”