In Somalia, a female taxi driver defies convention

Being a woman taxi driver in Somalia

Video Transcript

- In Somalia's capital Mogadishu, 19-year-old Asha Mohamed had to find a way to support her two children when she divorced her husband a year ago. So she turned her passion for video game racing into a job. She became a taxi driver.

ASHA MOHAMED: [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]

- When I was little, I was passionate about cars. I wanted to become a pilot one day. I didn't think of becoming a taxi driver in the beginning. But when the taxi company Rikaab was started last year, I decided to join them, especially because there weren't any women drivers at the time. I saw an opportunity.

- Women face an uphill battle for equal rights in conservative Somalia. The most recent data in 2012 showed the country among the four lowest on a United Nations Gender Equality Index. Divorce is frowned upon. Married at 16, Asha already took a courageous step in leaving her husband. Driving a taxi breaks another stereotype in a male-dominated sector. But her employer, the Rikaab taxi company was willing to break the mold when it launched last year.

ILHAM ABDULLAHI ALI: [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]

- The number of women taxi drivers was very low because of safety concerns. But since we launched the company, we are recruiting more women.

- Somalia has been plunged into chaos for 30 years. The fall of Siad Barre's military regime in 1991 saw clan wars and the rise of radical Islamist group Al-Shabaab. Taxi driving is a risky job. Attackers regularly set off car bombs at intersections and security checkpoints. 2,000 Rikaab taxis ply Mogadishu's streets. Three drivers are women. Clients are getting used to having a woman driver. After initial unease, university students Sadiq Dahir says his feelings have changed.

[NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]

SADIQ DAHIR: These past months, I often use this taxi company. And even if usually it's a man's job, today I prefer women drivers. They are always on time and drive much more carefully.

- Mohamed lives with her mother who looks after the grandchildren while she works. Her job brings in $40 a day, enough to care for her family. Little by little, she makes her way for the future-- for herself, but also for other Somali women.