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Last Updated: Monday, 1 August, 2005, 15:01 GMT 16:01 UK
Women's work: Nigerian mechanic
All this week, the BBC World Service's World Today programme is talking to women in jobs traditionally associated with men.

On Tuesday, the programme hears from Sandra Aguebor Edokpayi, who says she became Nigeria's first female mechanic when she began working with her father 20 years ago.

I am the first woman mechanic in Nigeria. I started when I was 14 years old. The idea came to me through dreams, and fortunately I was able to pursue it.

Sandra Aguebor Edokpayi
I fell in love with that black engine oil
Sandra Aguebor Edokpayi
I dreamt that God said: "Sandra, I want you to be a female mechanic." I told him I could not do it - but he said: "You can."

I told my dad about my dream. He said: "Go and sleep - that's not a dream, it's a nightmare."

He said I could not do it. But I started crying and told him it was what I wanted.

Then, when he travelled abroad, my father saw other female mechanics. When he came back, he said: "You know, your idea is actually very good." And he said that I could do it.

He took me to a garage where they used to fix cars. When I got there, there were a lot of customers. Some said: "Take her back home, she can't do it - she's a little girl, she should go home with her mother and learn how to cook."

I said no. I love this job.

In that workshop, I saw a big engine on a top of a table, dismantled, with black engine oil running down the table. I fell in love with that black engine oil.

I told my dad that I wasn't coming home with him, and that I was starting work that day.

Men wary

What I love about my profession is that you see a customer come into the workshop complaining, saying their car is breaking down in the road - are you able to fix this car, to make it work perfectly?

When I do, and they travel all over the nation with no complaint, I am so happy.

I have seen a lot of men worry about me throughout my career. They see me as a big challenge, and they know that I know what I am doing.

I started the "Lady Mechanic Initiative", a workshop where young girls are brought in and trained. Once they are trained, they can work as lady mechanics.

It is difficult to explain why, here in Nigeria, a whole lot of people feel being a mechanic is for men.

But the secret of the profession is that your motivation will carry you all the way.

I'm a big role model - not only in Nigeria but, I think, in the world.

I've been a mechanic for 20 years, and a lot of women have come to the Lady Mechanic Garage to learn as a trainee. I train them free of charge, give them an allowance every month, free overalls, free safety boots and a tool kit.

That is to encourage them - the parents do not have to pay a penny.

I have a big ambition for the future - to see these girls training other women to become mechanics.

Not only that, I want to see a lot of white people coming into Nigeria to start manufacturing vehicles with the Lady Mechanic Initiative - vehicles made in Nigeria by the lady mechanics!


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