"Everyone said I couldn't be a mechanic, but I can be whatever I want" - deconstructing gender roles in Mozambique

With the support of the Spotlight Initiative, Dulce Santos challenged professional gender roles and trained as a mechanic. Today she shares her workspace with five other colleagues, pays for her studies and supports the family finances. Photo: UNICEF Mozambique/ Lara Longle
October 11, 2022

ANGOCHE, Mozambique - Dulce Santos, 18, is a student and the first female mechanic in Angoche, northern Mozambique. Today, with the income from her business, she pays for her studies and supports her family. But until she managed to set up her motorcycle workshop, Dulce faced many limiting beliefs about gender roles.

“Here, they say there are men's and women's professions. And I never wanted any profession that they said were the ´right´ ones for women," Dulce explains. "I always liked motorbikes and wanted to know how to fix them."

"I wanted to prove to all men, but especially women, that we could do what we like". - Dulce Santos, the first female mechanic in Angoche

In Mozambique, the agriculture sector employs 90 per cent of working-age women and girls (Fórum Mulher, 2019). From an early age, girls are involved in domestic chores and farming the family crops. With the support of Livaningo, one of the Civil Society Organizations partnering with the Spotlight Initiative on economic empowerment interventions and increasing financial literacy, Dulce was able to select a different path. She had access to training in mechanics and the materials she needed to start her business.

"I felt strong, I finally had the opportunity to choose, and get the training and materials I needed to be a mechanic. I wanted to prove to all men, but especially women, that we could do what we like. Everyone said I couldn't be a mechanic, but I can be anything I want," Dulce says proudly.

At first, Dulce didn't have many customers. But as time went by, and with the support of her motorcycle workshop colleagues, her work was recognised. Photo: UNICEF/Lara Longle

In 2021 alone, the Spotlight Initiative partnered with more than 20 civil society organizations to help more than 9,000 girls and women learn new trades and how to run businesses.

Dulce works in the morning in her motorcycle workshop, which she shares with five other colleagues, and studies in the afternoon. Being a woman, she was initially discriminated against in her profession, and only with time and her colleagues' support has she managed to establish her business.

"In the beginning, I had almost no clients. They said they didn't want a woman fixing their bikes, that it wouldn't look good. I decided to be patient. Over time, clients began to arrive, and today it makes no difference to them that I am a woman. They have seen my work and realized that we are just like men: we know how to fix motorbikes," she says.

In her day-to-day work, the two services most requested in the motorcycle workshop are tyre repairs and changing the spark plugs of motorbikes. With the profits from her work, Dulce wants to continue her studies and become a police officer. Photo: UNICEF/Lara Longle

The risk of violence and gender inequality is often associated with economic vulnerability. By accessing training and economic opportunities, women are able to support themselves, study and become financially independent instead of having to rely on their partners. During the past year, awareness-raising sessions on Gender-Based Violence, Sexual and Reproductive Rights and Positive Masculinities, carried out by the Spotlight Initiative partners, have reached over 400,000 girls and boys in Manica, Gaza and Nampula, provinces where the Spotlight Initiative is implemented.

"Because of my business, I can do many things. At home, we are only women, three sisters and my mother. We don't have a father to help. With the income from my work, I can buy my school materials and help my mother with food for the house. Our life has improved a lot," says Dulce.

After finishing her studies, Dulce has another dream to fulfil: becoming a policewoman.

"My job gives me the opportunity to continue studying to become a police officer. I want to be a policewoman. There are already some women in this profession, but they are few. And if someone tells me it's not a suitable profession for me, I'll tell them what happened when the Spotlight Initiative came here and showed me that I could be a mechanic," says Dulce, between laughs

The Spotlight Initiative is a global initiative of the United Nations which has received generous support from the European Union. It aims to eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls. In Mozambique, the Spotlight Initiative is led by the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Action (MGCAS) in partnership with the United Nations and civil society organizations (CSOs).

By Lara Longle

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