'I abandoned Switzerland visa for lady mechanic job'
By Simon Ebegbulem, Benin-City
Mrs Sandra Aguebor-Ekperuoh is founder,
Lady Mechanic Initiative. History was made, last week, in Benin City,
Edo State, when the First Lady, Dame Patience Jonathan, laid the
foundation stone of the Lady Mechanic workshop.
event followed the graduation ceremony of about 50 lady mechanics.
Sunday Vanguard spoke to Mrs Aguebor-Ekperuoh who was, last year,
honoured by the Presidency for her doggedness in the fight for the
upliftment of women. The Edo-born Sandra has been a mechanic for 30
years. She is also the Chief Executive Officer of Sandex Car Care in
Abuja and Lagos. Excerpts:
I attended Ivbiotor Primary School, Benin-City, before I proceeded to
St. Maria Goretti Girls Secondary School and I started my mechanic job
from there. When I finished my secondary school education, I went to the
Benin Technical College where I studied automobile in the automobile
department vocational studies for three years.
there I went to Auchi Polytechnic. When I finished from there, I got
employment with Bendel Transport Company, now Edo Line, where I started
receiving salary of N950 per month; that was in the 90s. When I left
there after two years, I got another employment at the Nigeria Railway
Corporation in Lagos where I stayed for another two years, but because
of the non-payment of salaries, I decided to pull out.
wanted to travel abroad for greener pastures. I actually got visa to go
to Switzerland. I was about traveling when the dream came to me to buy
tools and start up in a virgin land. That is how I found myself being a
lady mechanic. I also attended Pan Atlantic University where I did
management studies. I am married with six children.
want to tell every woman out there, especially the married ones, do not
think because you are married and have children, life has ended. You
can still acquire skills, go to the Lady Mechanic website and talk to
us. We have a 49-year-old woman that is running her own gas station in
Lagos. She is the one who is doing the quick service and servicing the
car. We need to start doing a lot of things so that our children as they
are growing up will emulate us.
What is the Lady Mechanic Initiative all about?
The Lady Mechanic Initiative is empowering women through free mechanic
profession and wealth creation for sustainable livelihood. We empower
them to be skilled auto mechanics, female generator repairers, female
household water pump machine repairer and installation, female mechanic
drivers, as well as female boat engine repairers in the coastal area.I
started what I am doing in 2004, but I have had my own workshop for
about 20 years now called Sandex Car Care Garage since 1994.
I am not just starting what I am doing, I started at the age of 13
through dreams. Over the years, since 2004, we have been able to empower
close to 700 female mechanics with about 500 alumni members who will be
inaugurated into the Association of Lady Automobile Technicians of
Nigeria in September when we are celebrating our 10th anniversary.
It was through dreams. It was ordained that this is what I would do and
that is why I started going to the mechanic workshop at the age of 13.
Seeing girls work in different car companies in Nigeria,
year-in-year-out; seeing girls setting up their own garages and training
other women, people think it is easy, but it was not a bed of roses to
break the yoke to become the first female mechanic in Nigeria, and to be
honoured by the Federal Government with a National Merit Award in
Productivity. The award gave me encouragement that my country is
recognizing me and what I am doing. Also the centenary book of 100 years
of women where I am listed gives me a lot encouragement.
was also a panellist at the opening of the centenary last year. The
challenges are just too much but I see them as a stepping stone, I see
them as opportunity. I never waited for government. In 2004, outside my
own workshop, I started the Lady Mechanic Initiative without going to
government to say this is what I wanted.
Oshiomhole, Edo girls and prostitutes
CNN came to us in 2001 and came back in 2010. By 2010, we have had so
many girls and we have been on CNN for like four times. We have been on
BBC telling the world that Nigeria women are strong and they can do
better, but that is not the way they see it especially from where I came
from, Benin-City, Edo State. Benin girls are prostitutes, they go
abroad, they are in Spain, they are in Italy.
I say to people, Benin girls are very strong, they need mentorship,
they need somebody to counsel them to change their mindset so that they
will know that going abroad or crossing the desert to Libya is not the
right thing to do. When you acquire a skill, it takes you a long way
into progressing in future and your generation will see it. So the Lady
Mechanic Initiative is trying to reduce social vices in Nigeria,
reducing poverty among women and creating economic independence for
I have been able on my
own with funding from different organizations to be able to create,
empower and graduate about 700 female mechanics for the past 10 years;
now is time for government to do their own. I am here to support
government; I am here to assist the Comrade Governor's administration.
I speak, there is no car company where you do not find an Edo or Esan
girl. So, I am appealing to the Edo government that the Lady Mechanic
Initiative is here to assist his uncommon transformation; to assist him
in creating employment for youths. It is very important that Adams Aliyu
Oshiomhole's administration should call on me now.
have been writing I don't know if he has been getting my letters but I
am from this state and I want to help in his uncommon transformation.
Lady mechanic is not only in Edo and I am not just calling on Adams
Oshiomhole's administration. I am calling on the Federal Government to
assist us because we need a permanent site. The First Lady has been very
helpful on this cause; she invited us to the State House, celebrated us
and told me this initiative is close to her heart and wants to be part
That is why she was the
one that laid the foundation stone in Benin City alongside the
graduation ceremony of the second batch of female mechanics in Edo. Lady
Mechanics Initiative graduates can work in gas station, lube bay, car
company, even parts shop. We are bringing women into this initiative
because we know that it will create wealth for them, not struggling with
men but supporting men at home.
are not stopping here, it is a case of the trainee becoming the
trainer. We want to move to other parts of the country, but without
funding we can't do that because these girls are paid to learn.
SOS to FG
Our youngest CEO is 22 years and in Abuja; she is currently training
three girls in her workshop. I am telling the world that if the Female
Mechanics Initiative can train over 200 women in Lagos, 100 in
Edo, Kaduna and now we are in Kano, we can do more. We recently got
funding from McCarthy Foundation in the US, sponsoring 20 female
mechanics, 20 generator repairers, 20 female water pump repairers and
installation technicians and 20 professional drivers in Kano.
believe that as far as the manufacturers of motor vehicles continue to
manufacture vehicles year in, year out, there must be job for female
mechanics. We are appealing to the government that September is the 10th
year of the Lady Mechanic Initiative; we are celebrating and also
launching for the first time in the world the Lady Automobile
Technicians of Nigeria.
the FG and the state government buying into the initiative because it is
one way that they can reduce poverty, create employment and eradicate
insurgency and social vices.