For Naela Abu Jibba, a mother of five who lives and works in the Gaza Strip, taking the road less travelled has become a way of life.
The 39-year-old has become the first woman taxi driver in the besieged Palestinian territory, according to Reuters.
“Some say this is a job for men, others say we [women] cause accidents, when the fact is, women are calmer and more careful drivers than men,” she told Reuters. “I get lots of offensive [social media] comments, but the encouraging comments are far greater,” she added.
Many of her female passengers, who must book her service in advance, feel calmer too being driven by her than by men.
“When a woman exits a hairdresser shop, going to a party dressed and wearing makeup she feels better riding with a woman,” Abu Jibba said. Client Sousan Abu Ateila, 28, agreed: “We feel more comfortable.”
Abu Jibba, who has a degree in community service, started her taxi business after failing to find work. Gaza’s unemployment rate stands at 49 per cent, with hardship deepened by restrictions caused by the Israeli blockade imposed on the coastal enclave since 2007.
Wearing a headscarf and a COVID-19 mask, Abu Jibba drives an off-white Kia and wears a vest with her Al-Mukhtara (Chieftain) taxi service’s livery. She hopes to expand her business once the pandemic, which has caused Gaza residents to cut down on their travel and social activities, ends.
The territory of two million people has reported more than 12,000 cases and 56 deaths.
“My dream is to have an Al-Mukhtara fleet,” Abu Jibba said.