‘A beautiful job’

How one woman in Jordan is finding ‘freedom’ from the ‘Middle Eastern mentality’

(REUTERS/Muhammad Hamed)

When Hiba al-Sharu became one of 10 women hired by Taxi al-Moumayaz to be among Jordan’s first female taxi drivers, she knew she was taking on a challenge. Her own father, she says, “is ashamed” of her due to cultural beliefs that conflate women spending time alone with men — even if it’s as their taxi driver — with promiscuous behavior. But for al-Sharu, a divorced mother of one who had struggled to find decent work, the job has proved to be more than worth the condemnation of her father and others, she told The Huffington Post.

“It’s a beautiful job because of the relationships you form and the freedom that comes with it,” explained al-Sharu. “I have a passion for driving cars.”

Unlike a normal taxi, the sign that sits atop al-Sharu’s cab is pink. Here, the “Middle Eastern mentality” that leads some to question al-Sharu’s repuation works in her favor — women taxi drivers are preferable for female riders, according to Taxi al-Moumayaz CEO Eid Abu al-Haj.

Jordan may be relatively progressive by Middle Eastern standards, but the culture there still suffers from limited legal rights for women and arguably even more constrictive social norms, said Salma Nims, secretary general of the Jordanian National Commission for Women. “We are raising a generation that sees women with very limited options in terms of jobs,” said Nims. “These stereotypes and judgments affect how young men and women see themselves and how they perceive the other and the role they play in society.”

And for al-Sharu, one of the best aspects of her job is that she gets to circumvent those same cultural expectations. “My advice to women is to break the stereotype,” said al-Sharu. “We’re not stealing; we’re not doing anything bad. We’re helping people and providing a service. Try us, and then say what you want.”

Read the full story at The Huffington Post.

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