By Beatrice Mokwunye
Sandra Aguebor is the first female mechanic in Nigeria and the founder of “The Lady Mechanic Initiative (LMI),” a non-governmental organisation dedicated to helping women “gain employment and skills” in automobile repair.
The Lady-mechanic has trained over a thousand women and girls across five states in Nigeria, gratis.
She has been a mechanic for over 32 years now and has been operating her own workshop for 22 years—since 1995.
At the age of 12, Sandra developed a strong affection for fixing dismantled auto parts. When she told her parents about her passion for mechanical engineering, they strongly objected—it was a taboo for a woman to venture into any of male-dominated jobs of which ‘mechanic’ is, strictly, considered “men only” skill.
But, she persisted and eventually gained her father’s approval. “When we went to the garage where he repairs his car,” She recalls, “I saw one big engine dismantled on the top of a table, dark engine oil running down the table, my spirit fell in love immediately with that dark oil.” From that moment, she enrolled into the male-dominated mechanic garage.
Sandra scheduled her time effectively for studies and apprenticeship: She would go to school with her oil-stained overall, neatly tucked inside her school bag. After school hour, she resumes training, at the workshop.
Having acquired the right skill and much experience in the field of auto-mechanics, Sandra opened her first workshop in Lagos, in 1995.
In 2004, She launched Lady Mechanic Initiative with the aim of empowering young women technically and above all, financially. Her target groups are victims of child and sex trafficking, young mothers, former sex workers, school dropouts, orphans and married women who want to acquire skills.
Within a space of 10 years, Lady Mechanic Initiative has trained over a thousand women across five states in Nigeria.
The Lady-mechanic’s Strategy
The Lady Mechanic Initiative trains women for free and links them up for employment, afterwards.
LESSONS FROM THE LADY MECHANIC
- Don’t be driven by immediate societal, economic nor environmental circumstances; be driven by your dream and hold on to it no matter the opposition–it’s possible
“I had this dream—Jesus teaching me how to fix cars. When I first mentioned it to my parent…they said ‘No, never! You can’t even dare it.’ I said, ‘But God has instructed me. This is what I’ll do for the rest of my life.’”
- You can thrive under any field or circumstances; all you need is three things: God, your guts and the ability to walk kilometres ahead of others.
“Men have been from generation to generation fixing cars…For me to become the first female mechanic in Nigeria; I need to work five times harder than men to prove myself.”
Whenever you start anything new, and different from the norms, people will see it as a ‘flash’ even your closest pals, but you must never give up. In a little while, the same sceptics will embrace your product.
”It took a long time for people to see that Lady mechanic was not a flash, that it was something that has come and is going to fade away, but right now, we are solid. I’ve been able to empower over a thousand female mechanics in Nigeria. ”
- The beginning is always tough, rough and lonely, but the ability to linger on and keep perfecting dreams opens doors to opportunities in the longer run.
“Initially, nobody wanted to support the initiative. It was until the US government funded her in 2004 and treated like a queen during a visit to America that Nigerians started to dole out praise.”