In Pakistan, gender roles run deep. Women work jobs that are “for women” such as teaching, cooking, cleaning, designing and tailoring to name a few.
The downsides are that these jobs aren’t exactly “easy’, they’ve just been termed “appropriate for women” and women are told that they’re all the should aspire to because “their own household duties come first” and secondly that they don’t pay very well for the amount of effort they require.
Shamim Akhtar decided she was going to leave all she’s ever been told behind and do something else instead. She went to the Islamabad Traffic Police offices and signed up to learn how to drive a Heavy Transport Vehicle.
She joined the profession that has been dominated by men for decades.
Shamim is known as “Shamim Bhai,” or Brother Shamim by her fellow drivers – a sign that she has gained their respect and a place in their circle. Although she admitted that it took some time for them to accept her.
Male drivers have a lot of respect for me because I am the only woman among them
She’s the sole earner of her household. By switching professions to truck driving she’s able to earn a more steady income and can bring home more money than she could if she stuck with the common “womanly” odd jobs. Saying that
“Meine apni zindagi badalni hai, mein haar naahin manu gi, mein laru gi, ab wapis mur ke nahin dekhna”
“I have to change my own life, I will not accept defeat, I will fight, I won’t look back now”
She says she’s received a lot of support from men in this field too. Adding that women need to get up and work ahead to remove the barriers they face themselves, push through and they’ll eventually find themselves at a point where they have had proven themselves.
She’s inspiring many other women to look into this profession along with many others that we traditionally wouldn’t even give a second thought to.