Nigerian Women blazing the trail in Men’s world

First China trained Female Train Driver, Fatima Abiola Isa

Fatima Abiola Isa made history as Nigeria’s first female train driver, blazing a trail in a male-dominated field after undergoing rigorous training in China.

Fatima Isa is one of the few Nigerians and the first female to be trained as a train driver in China.

While Fatima Abiola Isa was acknowledged to be the first female train driver that was trained in China, Serah Abiarah was trained in Zaria, Kaduna State. Serah was particularly trained to drive the electric train. It will be an understatement to say they are good. They are actually very good and up their professionalism in both locomotive and Electric trains and have proved their worths in the mail dominated profession as male train drivers.

Despite facing skepticism from her male counterparts, who mostly teased her that she would abandon the work within a year, but she persevered, stunning them by remaining dedicated to her role for four years.

Her journey began with humble beginnings, working as a domestic staff for the China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation. However, her fascination with trains, sparked during her childhood, as a 12-year-old in Ilorin, Kwara State, drove her ambition to become a train driver.

In an interview on BBC pidgin, in Kano, Isa said, ‘’My aspiration to drive train started when I was young and went out with my grandfather, then I saw a train passed in my town, Ilorin. I then asked him, what was that? The old man told me it was a big long car, then I told him I would like to drive it when I grow up, he then laughed.
So after my secondary education, I joined a company, China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation as domestic staff”.

Through determination and the support of her employer, Fatima received training in China, where she honed her skills as both a driver and an assistant.
According to her, “I got admission in to a higher institution and I became confused on what to do, but surprisingly, the company (CCECC) then gave me the opportunity to go to school in the morning and come to the office in the evening after closing from school”.

She received two-year training in China and also worked as a driver’s assistant for another two years, also in China. Her dedication and passion caught the attention of her superiors, leading to her formal training as a train driver.

Despite initial doubts about her commitment, Fatima proved her detractors wrong, displaying exceptional skill and professionalism in her role. Her achievements garnered recognition, including a meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari during the commissioning of the Abuja light rail in July, 2018.

Fluent in Chinese and driven by a desire to inspire other women, Fatima aims to train more than 100 females in the art of driving trains. She recognizes the importance of female representation in the transportation industry, particularly in the evolving landscape of rail transport.

With her sights set on excellence and empowerment, Fatima dreams of creating a legacy as one of the world’s best-trained drivers and a mentor to aspiring female train drivers across Nigeria.

In her quest, and as the 1st China-trained and woman trained driver in Nigeria, Abiola Isa joins the ranks of pioneering Nigerian women like Funmilayo Ransome Kuti and Chinyere Kalu, who shattered barriers in their respective fields.

She couldn’t hide her joy and revealed that “I am mostly happy whenever people are staring at me with admiration as if I am a white man”.
Talking about her challenges, Isa noted that her major challenge is time because if a minute late, it will affect her schedule as a train driver.

Breaking Barriers: Serah Abiarah, Pioneering Nigeria’s Female Electric Train Driver

Originally envisioning a career as a top engineer at the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN), Serah Abiara’s path took an unexpected turn when she became Nigeria’s first female electric train driver.

Graduating with a degree in Electrical Electronics Engineering from the Federal Polytechnic, Mubi, Yola, Serah stumbled into the role after applying for a job at the Nigerian Railway Corporation

Despite initial surprise upon receiving the offer, she embraced the opportunity and underwent four months of rigorous training in Zaria, Kaduna State, before her posting to Ibadan, where she was mentored by a seasoned senior driver who encouraged her to take the reins during her first trip.

Overcoming initial apprehensions and challenges, Serah successfully navigated the journey, marking the beginning of her groundbreaking career as she found joy and fulfillment in her role, especially as it aligned with her love for traveling.

Born in a male-dominated environment as well as navigating a male-dominated profession, Serah acknowledged both the encouragement and challenges she faces. And despite the risks involved, she finds happiness in her work, viewing it as an adventure that allows her to explore new places and meet people.

Her story sheds light on the resilience and determination required to break gender barriers in traditionally male-dominated fields. Serah’s journey serves as an inspiration, showing that with determination, courage and perseverance, one can defy expectations and pursue their passion, regardless of gender.

As a matter of fact, her dedication to her work is matched only by her commitment to her family, whom she credits for her unwavering support.

Her pioneering spirit and dedication to her craft have earned her recognition as a role model for aspiring female professionals.

Despite the inherent challenges of working in a male-dominated field, Serah finds fulfillment in her role, viewing it as an opportunity to pursue her passion for travel.

Beyond her professional achievements, Serah’s story is a testament to the power of determination and resilience in overcoming obstacles. As she continues to break barriers and inspire others, Serah Abiara remains a shining example of courage and perseverance in pursuit of one’s dreams

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