The motor vehicle with bold inscriptions ‘Qali Ladhan’ cruising on the rugged roads of Wajir town leaving behind plumes of dust is a rare spectacle.
But it is not the vehicle that is causing excitement. It is feminine figure of Ladhan Salat behind the wheel.
Necks crane as men, women and children argue amongst themselves over who they just saw behind the steering wheel.
Ladhan is alert to the commotion she is causing and occasionally waves to the dumbfounded residents as she speeds off to her destination.
The taxi business is usually stiff. But Salat has taken her competitors head-on in a county where women are generally expected to be home keepers and not eking out a living among aggressive business rivals.
She stands out as the only woman in the trade in the entire North Eastern region.
carved A NICHE
Yet despite not looking like your typical taxi operator, Salat has carved out a niche in the business that has swayed between good and bad times since 2013.
Despite the wider challenges still faced by women in this highly conservative community, and the impact of lingering insecurity, Salat’s taxi business has grown from strength to strength.
When she ventured into the male dominated business, Salat says, she did not face any hostility; only some initial puzzlement from male taxi operators and the community.
“Now the community is used to seeing me in the business, but at the beginning they were quite surprised,” she said.
Despite having no prior business experience, she decided to venture into the trade after pondering over her father’s vehicle that was parked in their backyard.
“I did not have job. So one day, I approached my father about venturing into the taxi business using his car.”
Surprisingly, her father had no problem with her requested. She immediately joined a driving school and after successful completion she went into business.
Her uncle had earlier operated the car as a taxi but he abandoned it after disagreeing with her father about profits. This made it easier for her as she did not have to change the car to a PSV.
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Her first operation area was Griftu, about 40km west of Wajir town.
Salat, the second born in a family of 12 siblings, was determined to succeed.
“This business supports my whole family. Business is good for me because I can make up to Sh10,000 on a good day. On a bad day, I make about Sh4,000 after deducting all expenses.”
Despite overtures from some of her male customers seeking her hand in marriage, she says she will think about marriage after she has acquired at least three more taxis.
A NEW TAXI
Already, she has bought another vehicle from her proceeds. It is the taxi she now drives.
Salat starts work as early as 4am and finishes as late as midnight. However, she responds to every call regardless of the time.
If you have passion for any kind of job, go for it; do not think that it is exclusively for men, she advises.