Brave woman tuk-tuk driver supports her family single-handedly in Burao

Asho Ahmed Nur, 37, is the only woman driving a tuk-tuk taxi in Burao city in Somaliland.
Asho Ahmed Nur, 37, is the only woman driving a tuk-tuk taxi in Burao city in Somaliland.

By: Radio Ergo

Aisha Ahmed Nur, 37, is the only woman driving a tuk-tuk taxi in Burao city in Somaliland. Although this has offered her a living, it has also presented unique challenges for her as it is known to be men’s work.

“When I get to the taxi stand and the other drivers in the queue are men, people ask who owns this bajaj? [tuk-tuk]. When they’re told it’s a female driver they say they will not board it! That has never stopped me, although when it happens a lot I think about quitting, but I also want to reach my dreams and not stop at anything,” Asho told Radio Ergo.

According to the local tuk-tuk operators’ association, there are 4,080 drivers in Burao – all men, except for Asho.

She makes $5-11 a day although her male counterparts make almost double. She only works during the day, fearing insecurity at night. She also avoids the queues at the roadside taxi stands and mostly deals with specific customers she knows.

“I work from six in the morning to noon, then take a break and resume work from four in the afternoon till dusk. Drivers earn better income at night but I don’t work at night because as a woman anything can happen to me at night so I choose to stay at home,” she said.

Tuk-tuks are the most common means of transport for people in Burao. Many parents have bought these three-wheeled vehicles to create opportunities for their sons to stop them migrating overseas to look for jobs.

Asho, however, was separated from her husband and left with her six children to support alone. She had the idea of operating a tuk-tuk to earn a living and bought a refurbished vehicle for $2,000 after selling off a piece of land she owned.

She has been offering the taxi services for about five months and says it has covered her family’s needs. Asho also takes care of her five younger siblings, the eldest aged 14.

“My siblings and children get a decent living that they can count on. Before I started working we didn’t have all this, because we didn’t have a stable source of income. Sometimes we would get sometimes and sometimes we wouldn’t. That’s what made me to sell of my piece of land and buy a bajaj,” she explained.

Asho moved out of Aqil Yare displacement camp on the outskirts of Burao where she had been living with her mother to an iron-sheet house in February, paying $30 rent a month. Her mother still lives in the camp, where the $75 cash aid they were receiving from World Vision stopped in January. They receive some support sent by their relatives.

“Our living conditions were tough previously, we used to get a little aid but now it has stopped. Now I am the one working and I leave my children with my mother and grandmother,” Asho said.

She is happy to have enrolled her children in a local primary and middle school where she pays $30 a month for their education. For now, she can’t put aside any savings so her plan to buy another tuk-tuk remains for the future.

“Whenever I have the money I pay the school and some months when I cannot pay the fees I ask the school to let my children continue with their studies as I try to pay up. I have taken up many roles in my family,” said Asho, who had not worked before.

Her husband worked in construction but decided to stop providing for her and the children after he got remarried.

“You will see people who encourage you and others that don’t, but that does not stop me. My objective is to support the 11 people living with me, I cover their needs including their education, health bills, rent, water and electricity bills,” said Asho.

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