CNA – As it prepares to expand to serve a population exceeding 20 million, the Cairo metro has recruited Egypt’s first female train drivers, a novelty in a country where few women have formal jobs.
Since April, commuters on the network’s newest line have seen women take the controls in the driver’s cab, with reactions ranging from raised eyebrows to outright disapproval, according to the two pioneers.
Egyptian women have had the right to vote and stand for office since 1956, but patriarchal legislation and a male-dominated culture have severely limited personal rights. The Cairo metro itself provides reserved carriages for women who do not wish to ride with men in an attempt to provide protection against sexual harassment.
Business graduate and mother of two, Hind Omar said she had rushed to apply to be a train driver, eager to be a pioneer in a country where only 14.3 per cent of women are in formal employment, according to 2020 figures.
“I have several thousand lives in my hands every day,” the 30-year-old told media, proudly wearing a fluorescent jacket emblazoned with the RATP-Dev logo of the foreign operations arm of the Paris metro beneath her black and white headscarf.
Omar acknowledged that she had been lucky to have her family’s support.
“My parents found it strange at first but they ended up supporting me,” she said. “My husband was enthusiastic from the start and encouraged me.”
A key factor had been the exemption from night shifts offered to women drivers, she said.
Omar said the tests had been gruelling, requiring candidates to demonstrate their “endurance”.
She said drivers had to remain “extremely vigilant for long hours” during a six-day working week.