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A tale of a woman making history behind the wheel

Achieving Woman
 Photo: Courtesy

When Gladys Nyawira became pregnant in form two, she was determined to make something of her life and became the first female PSV driver in Nyeri.

My name is Gladys Nyawira, 39, the third born in a family of six. I was born and brought up in Kambwe village Ruring’u area in the outskirts of Nyeri town.

Life was not a bed of roses for us when we were growing up. My mother was a peasant farmer and had to go the extra mile just to give us all that we needed.

I completed my KCPE in 1992 and joined a nearby secondary school. A year later, in 1994, I got pregnant and had to drop out of school to fend for my child.

I ended up getting married to the man who impregnated me and even went on to give birth to our second born child. In 2002, when this child was enrolled in nursery school,  I went back to Temple Road Secondary School in Nyeri town to complete my studies.

At that time, my first born was a pupil at Temple Road Primary School, while the second born was a pupil at Temple Road Nursery School. To actualize my dreams, I had no other option but to humble myself and enroll in secondary school when my children were also learners.

Each morning, we left the house together and I would first take the last born to the nursery school before escorting the other one to the primary section and I would then go to the secondary school section.

I would carry packed food and during the lunch break would pick my sons from their classrooms and we would go to a secluded section in the schools’ complex where we would take lunch and then get back to class for the afternoon lessons.

I sat for my KCSE examination in 2005 and attained a D+ and this opened another door for me.

Throughout my childhood, I had a passion for driving and because this was still alive in me, I asked my husband to buy me a matatu so that I could get into the transport business.

He bought a pick up and had it fabricated so it could ferry passengers. I then hired a driver and worked as a conductor along the Nyeri-Kiandu market route.

The business did well and following introduction of the Michuki rules, most passengers started preferring the 14 seater matatus and we had to sell the pick up and move on to the new matatu.

I had enrolled into a driving school and got my driving license. After four years, I applied for a Passenger Service Vehicle (PSV) operation licence which gave me legal permission to drive a matatu.

This made me the first woman in Nyeri to drive a PSV vehicle. It is a job I love and that has worked well for me.

After a few more years, we sold the vehicle and bought a newer matatu which I also drove. It is this vehicle that introduced me to the longer Nyeri-Nairobi route and today I am a member of the Nyeri based Nyakati Sacco.

We recently bought another matatu which has proven to be quit popular among the youth as they now hire me to ferry them to various events.

Working in the matatu industry as a woman is challenging due to the notoriety of operators. It is a rough industry and one can easily get offended by the bad language used at the matatu termini. I have however, chosen to be hard and that is how I have managed to survive for the last ten years.

Also, the support I have received, and continue to receive, from my husband during this time has been immeasurable and this keeps me going. My passengers too also really encourage me in my work although most are surprised when they first see me get into the driver’s seat.

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