DHAKA: Breaking gender stereotypes in a male-dominated society, 33-year-old Rabeya Sultana Rabbi works as Bangladesh’s first female motor mechanic at the Care Bangladesh aid agency in Dhaka.
Having dropped out of school at grade 10 because she could not afford an exam fee of $15, Rabbi currently makes $550 per month.
She said her salary can comfortably provide for her husband, their 4-year-old son and her parents. Rabbi is seen as an inspiration by many of her fellow countrywomen.
“Initially, I got training as a driver with some other girls. But I was afraid of driving on highways, so I decided to take up my career as a motor mechanic,” she told Arab News. “Girls in our country hardly come to this profession.”
Rabbi was born in a village in Dinajpur district to poor vegetable vendor Abdul Aziz Farazi, and was the youngest of six siblings.
“My father’s little daily income allowed only one cooked meal per day. We had to sleep with half-filled bellies as my mother needed to save food for the next day,” Rabbi said.
“During my childhood, I had to watch my mother starving for days … My father had to go through hardships to make ends meet. It was at that time that I vowed to improve our family’s condition.”
Rabbi said her husband Ekramul Haque fully supported her career choice. “He agreed to babysit our only child so I could follow my dream,” she added.
Rabbi lauded the approach, attitude, kindness and consideration of her male colleagues. “It’s extremely challenging work for a woman in a country like Bangladesh, but I overcame all the obstacles and became what I am today. All you need is determination, talent and tolerance,” she said.
Selim Sheikh, manager for transport at Care Bangladesh, said: “Rabbi is a quick learner and adopted motor mechanical knowledge in a short period of time. She has never refused any hard work. We’re proud of her.”
Prof. Ishrat Shamim of Dhaka University said: “It’s an eye opener. Apart from the success of women in the ready-made garments sector, a career as a female motor mechanic may open up a new vista of opportunity for courageous women like Rabbi in the future.”
Shamim, who is also president of the Center for Women and Children’s Studies, added that there should be motor workshops fully run by women to encourage more females to enter the profession and contribute to the country’s economy. “Such efforts can ensure better earnings for women and boost socioeconomic development,” Shamim said.
Rabbi said her dream is to have her own motor workshop when she is financially able to do so.