Sophie – one of few women mechanics
It’s not easy being a woman mechanic and workshop owner in Burkina Faso. 27-year-old Sophie Zoungrana has encountered scepticism and prejudice but still stands firm. “After all, they say that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,” says Sophie.
She’s one of few young women mechanics in the country and has become something of a role model when it comes to departing from traditional gender roles.
No problems getting customers
Just over six months ago, she started her own workshop in a garage in her hometown of Koudougou, and has already managed to employ an assistant and earn a small income.
“In the beginning a lot of people found it difficult to accept me and seemed to think it was just a question of time before I gave up, like the other girls I’d trained with,” says Sophie.
But it has gone well for her – she has no problems getting customers and she keeps the ones she gets.
“I encourage my fellow sisters to be stubborn and believe in themselves if they get the opportunity to work in a non-traditional area, such as being a mechanic,” says Sophie.
Learned how to troubleshoot
At the age of eleven, she was forced to quit school to start earning money for the family, which lived under very poor conditions. A few years later Sophie was able to take part in a two-year technical training programme arranged by Diakonia’s partner organization ATTOUS. The programme focused on two-wheeled vehicles, because motorcycles are the most common means of transport in Burkina Faso. Sophie learned to troubleshoot, maintain and repair motorcycles.
“It’s been great for me to learn technical skills and mechanics. Now I can really find the faults in my customers’ motorcycles and repair them,” she says.
Sophie has also attended courses in business administration and has received a small loan to start her own business. The loan made it possible for her to expand her workshop and invest in spare parts. She’s now also bought a high-pressure washer to clean the motorcycles, which she hopes will generate even more income.
And when she thinks of the future, Sophie dreams of building up her workshop so that she in turn can teach and supervise girls and women who want to train as mechanics – a means of contributing to greater equality between men and women.