Eighteen year-old Nasra Ibrahim is said to be Somalia’s first and only female auto mechanic, an especially amazing accomplishment as only 25% of the female population is reported to be literate and unemployment is at an all time high. Growing up in Hiiraan, as the second-eldest of six children, Ms. Ibrahim says that every day was a struggle. Hiiraan is a region in south-central Somalia where the extremist group al-Shabaab thrives. According to PRI, “The militants forced children to fight, they take over and shutter schools and rape and force girls to marry fighters… those who [didn’t] obey faced execution by stoning.”
At a young age, Ms. Ibrahim worked as a farmer and street vendor. She was forced to leave home as a teen and find work, hitching a ride to the Somali capital, Mogadishu. Along the way, she experienced car problems and eventually found a local garage where mechanics taught her their trade. Soon she landed an apprenticeship and worked her way up to the coveted job as a mechanic. She now works six days a week, and sends the majority of her paycheck back home to her family.
The star mechanic says that working as Somalia’s only female mechanic brings its share of hurdles. Some customers say she is too free, others that she is not be trusted. But Ms. Ibrahim says her work speaks for itself. “I have proved to them that I can make it so they have more respect for me than before.” As a result, she has become well known. “When people come to the garage they say ‘we hear there is a girl mechanic. Is that her?’ … I think lack of confidence is what keeps most women from doing jobs that are different.”