Driving Off Gender Inequalities

Bangladesh – As the first female driver in the IOM Mission in Bangladesh, Masuma Shemu has paved the way for other women to break into male dominated professions and help strike down gender discrimination in the work place.

“More women should take this challenging job; more women should come forward, I encourage them to join me. It will change the outlook and society will thus understand our problems and become more supportive towards us,” says Masuma.

After her father’s death five years ago, Masuma was committed to supporting her family in the midst of a financial crisis. The second youngest of 8 children, she started her career in IOM culminating in her becoming the mission’s first female driver and achieving her dreams.

“I find the job very interesting. I have learned how to communicate and negotiate with people.  And it also requires some sort of responsibility.”

Masuma’s daily routines are no different to those performed by male drivers. However, in her case, as a woman in a male dominated profession she cannot avoid being noticed.

“Most people are surprised. Sometimes they comment that a woman is driving but it’s mostly other drivers who do that.” She adds, “My colleagues encourage me. They are very helpful and appreciate that I took up this challenge.”

After five years Masuma has mastered her profession and has shared her experience to encourage other women also seriously consider driving as career.

“The biggest challenge is the driving job itself. Security is a concern when I am driving at night or going back home. Sometimes people make comments, other times they don’t give me way on the road. When I am on duty, when waiting outside with male drivers I can’t socialize with them so I just sit in the car. Also, sometimes there are no toilet facilities for women,” she says.

Married two years ago, Masuma is expecting her first child. As she will be the first driver to go on maternity leave, she hopes that her story inspires other women to fight for their dreams.