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Rabbi Apa can fix anything

  • Published at 12:19 am July 5th, 2019
Rabeya Sultana-Mechanic-Mahmud Hossain Opu-Dhaka Tribune
Rabeya Sultana “Mechanic Rabbi Apa” at work Mahmud Hossain Opu/Dhaka Tribune

Mechanic Rabeya is the only female mechanic working for CARE Bangladesh

Rabeya Sultana Rabbi, better known as "Mechanic Rabbi Apa" in Dhaka's Panthapath area—where her garage is located—is one of the few female mechanics in the city challenging gender stereotypes in a largely male-dominated service sector.

Although she is working for the non-government organization CARE Bangladesh as an auto repair mechanic, Rabeya had initially wanted to work in the formal sector to support her family.

However, since she grew up in extreme poverty, Rabeya could not sit for her Secondary School Certificate (SSC) exam as she was unable afford the exam registration fees.

During her childhood, Rabeya's father, Abdul Aziz Farazy, had a hard time sustaining his eight-member family as a small-scale vegetable seller.

“I was born into poverty," she explained while recounting how as a child, Rabeya would see her mother only buying food after her father returned home with the little amount of money he had earned by selling vegetables that day.

"This poverty is what made me decide to become self-reliant."

When Rabeya heard about two training programs being offered on sewing and driving by CARE Bangladesh, she decided to go against the grain and choose driving.

Rabeya, now the mother of a four-year-old son, has been working as a mechanic for 11 years.

"Now I earn enough money to manage two families," Rabeya said. She now supports her parents as well as her husband—who is currently unemployed—and her son.

“When I visit my hometown, people criticize me be saying that I am doing a man's job, to which I respond: Women have the capability and determination to do all kinds of work,” she said.

CARE Bangladesh Transport Manager, Md Selim Sheikh, told Dhaka Tribune that they currently have about 12 female drivers and 1 female mechanic working for the organization.

Praising Rabeya, Selim said: "She is the only female mechanic here. She is very good at her job and can tell what is wrong with a vehicle just by putting her hand on the engine or wheels.”

When asked about her future plans, Rabeya said she dreams of opening her own garage in her hometown one day, although she does not have a land or any money for it at the moment.

"My son says he wants to become an aeronautical engineer. I hope to one day make this dream of his into reality."