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Posted on Monday, 24 March 2014 10:48

Day in the life of a female motorbike taxi driver

Alice Nana is a motorbike taxi driver in Cameroon's economic capital, Douala. She braves the insults of her male counterparts to put her kids through school.

 

I see it each and every day: the prying stares of surprise. But I don't care, and who are they to judge me? All I have at the back of my mind is how to feed and cater for my three kids.

Living with a jobless mother, we all knew from early on that we had to struggle to survive

I was born to a family of 13 girls in the West Region of Cameroon, and I lost my dad at a very tender age. I dropped out of primary school like most of my other sisters. Only three of them made it to university.

Living with a jobless mother, we all knew from early on that we had to struggle to survive, and so I followed my boyfriend to Douala a couple of years ago.

He ended up losing his job and finally travelled to Europe, abandoning me with the kids. I did not hear from him for six long years. In fact, I've still not heard from him, and I can neither tell if he's alive or dead.

So two years ago, I decided to get into the motorbike taxi business, and I don't regret a thing.

Where did I get the money from? I must be frank with you. I am still a beautiful girl, so I have had several boyfriends since David left me.

Some have been kind enough to support me in bringing up the kids, and I saved enough to buy this bike. That's close to 400,000 CFA francs ($825).

I am still saving, and I can beat my chest and say that today I am the proud owner of two bikes.

A ruthless jungle

Of course, it's a man's world and the challenges keep swelling on a daily basis. In Douala today, you can easily count 300,000 motorbike taxi drivers and even more.

It is a ruthless jungle where disrespect for the highway code is the norm. I witness fatal accidents every day, and look at my leg! I've been a victim of four accidents, but I survived.

Every day, I am served the most abominable curses by some of my male contemporaries who think I should be in the kitchen cooking for my family and bearing children. But that's life, and I know I must be courageous and bear it.

And the police officers are not making life any easier. They will go any length to squeeze a bribe out of your pockets, even if your documents are all in order.

My passengers are mostly men.

I criss-cross both urban and rural Douala on a daily basis, covering at least 200 kilometres every day and penetrating some the city's furthest enclaves.

Some of the men I transport seek me out of curiosity, while others come to try and seduce me. Others have tried to seize my bike by taking me to a bar to get me drunk.

But I know what I want and that's making as much money as possible for my kids and it takes tons of courage. I can boast of a day-to-day profit of about 7,000 CFA francs.

I'm not sure what the kids think, but I guess all they know is that their mum is a hard worker. They hardly go hungry, and their school fees are paid on time.

They dress well for an average woman like me and are all working hard at school. I'll not encourage any of them to engage in the motorbike business in future.

I want all of them to get the best education possible, and that's why I'll keep saving as much as I can.

How much I have in the bank? No. I cannot tell you that, it's like showing you my underwear. I can't. ●



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