Sandra Aguebor’s job as a mechanic presents difficult challenges, but her goal to inspire is one skill that comes naturally. After being discovered as the first female mechanic in Nigeria, Aguebor is putting her exposure to good use with her Lady Mechanic Initiative.
Highlighted by Great Big Story on Wednesday (Oct. 5), Aguebor discusses her love for cars and helping women tap their hidden potential. Aguebor has 30 years in the field and spent 22 operating her own garage, a dream that traces back to her her youth. “I had this dream — Jesus Christ teaching me how to fix cars,” she told NPR in 2013. “When I first mentioned it to my parents, it was a big taboo. They said, ‘No never, you can’t even dare it.’ I said, ‘But God has instructed me. This is what I’ll do for the rest of my life.’ “
After perfecting her career in Lagos, the businesswoman launched “Lady Mechanic Initiative” in 2004, with hopes of helping women gain employment and skills to better their life paths. The women in the program are comprised of victims of sex trafficking, orphans and young mothers. Receiving Aguebor’s lessons as a paid apprentice, over a thousand young women have graduated between five states in Nigeria.
Aguebor’s journey didn’t come without a few hiccups. Gender roles and experience almost prevented the engineer from reaching the top. “Men have been there from generation to generation, fixing cars,” she said. “When I came in, they said, ‘Excuse me?, Are you okay? Do you need to see a doctor?’ But no, I knew what I was doing. For me to become the first female Nigerian mechanic, I had to work five times harder than men to prove myself. Now, many people don’t know my name, it’s ‘Lady Mechanic’ everywhere I go.”
With additional incentives like after school programs, financial planning and summer school classes, Aguebor knows just how important the program is to the community. “A lot of girls want to come to Nigeria to learn how to fix cars,” she said. “It’s the best job in the world for any woman, I say.”
Check out Aguebor’s mission in the video below.