- Team in Aso-Rock
The First Lady, Dame Patience Jonathan got a set of spanners as gifts from a 40-man delegation of Lady Mechanics Initiative led by the founder, Mrs. Sandra Aguebor-Ekperuoh, at the conference hall of the First Lady and she remarkably demanded for a crash hands-on programme for her and the states First Ladies across the country so that, “I can fix the car of my sister, the wife of the Vice President.” Abayomi Adeshida of our Abuja Bureau captured the event.
The golden conference hall of the First Lady was filled to the brim when the 40-lady enterpreneurs visited the First Lady, Dame Patience Jonathan.
The visitors were warmly received by their host, supported by the wife of the Vice President, Hajia Amina Sambo; wives of Service Chiefs; wives of Ministers; and wives of some federal legislators.
The founder of the Lady Mechanics Initiative, Aguebor-Ekperuoh, held her audience spell-bound as she told the story of her humble beginning where she had to fight stereotype minds when she declared her vision to be a mechanic.
After scaling several hurdles to actualize her dream of fixing cars by combining auto-mechanic apprenticeship with her education, Lady Sandra, as she’s popularly known, said, “We are in four states (Lagos, Benin, Kaduna and Abuja) now and we have trained more than 700 female mechanics who work in auto companies and have other ladies training under them.
”I started out in 1985, got my workshop in 1993 and decided to train out-of-school girls, orphans, commercial sex workers and other vulnerable girls.
”I will like to advise other young girls that your success is not in Europe. You can make it if you learn a skill and you don’t have to depend on anyone before you feed”. The mother of six children went on: “I have been a lady mechanic for 29 years, we pay those under training N10,000 monthly.
“Many of the lady mechanics were brought in by their husbands and today most of them have their own workshops, while others are working with all the big name – car corporations you know in Nigeria. This is giving them hope and future.
”In a garage you are learning skill which can make you a better wife and a proud mother to your children”.
Lady Sandra said handiwork opened doors for her.
“This job has taken me to the Department of State, to the White House, and I was given the opportunity to visit seven American states with an escort from Washington DC to acquire more skills in capacity building in 2004”, she stated.
”Your success is in you, not in Europe. Intimidation and description made me stronger. I have put my hands down to lift up those without hope.
“Many of the lady mechanics will tell you their experiences, some of them came to do industrial attachment while others wanted the practical knowledge of what they were being taught in school.
“Some of the customers when they come in and find out that a lady mechanic will fix their cars, they are usually skeptical but when they see a job well done honestly and professionally, they come back next time they need their cars fixed.
”I am like a locomotive that cannot be stopped. We have been invited to Liberia and Benin and Republic to replicate what we are doing in Nigeria.
”We are making Nigeria proud, I have been doing this on my own. We now want to partner with government agencies to create jobs for our young girls. We are all government and so we need to help government.
”We now have female mechanics repairing speed boats who we are sending to the Niger Delta. It is about economic empowerment.
”Many parents have insisted that their sons learn under me because they believe as a woman and a mother they will listen to me more and come out as well groomed professionals”.
Aguebor-Ekperouh said through funding from MTN Foundation, 50 girls were trained in 2009 while Coca-Cola Nigeria Ltd/Nigeria Bottling Company is sponsoring 100 girls that would graduate in Edo State next year.
She said 200 female mechanics had been trained by the Lady Mechanic Initiative with 80 per cent programme completion rate recorded, and 100 per cent of graduate trainees either in gainful employment or in their own businesses.
Aguebor-Ekperouh appreciated the publicity which her dream has enjoyed in the global media as the LMI has featured on various local and international media including CNN in 2001 and 2011, SABC South Africa, African Journals, BBC World News, New York Times, Voices of Africa and Del Spiegen.
Dame Jonathan accepted to be their Grand Matron. noting that the initiative is reducing the number of idle single ladies and married women.