Amina, one of the four women taxi drivers in Kigali

Amina Umuhoza,
*1978, Taxidriver

Amina is one of the four women Taxi drivers in Kigali.

I: Why did you become a Taxidriver?

A: That’s a long story!

I: We have time!

A: OK, so let me tell you my story.

I was five years old, when I lost my father and ten years old when my mother died. I then lived with my sister and her family. But she did not want to pay my school fees. So she decided that I should get married. I never got the opportunity to go to secondary school, you know. I was thirteen when I got married. The man they chose for me was 35 years old. I was his second wife. But he was not a good man. He often beat me. He did not take care of me. There was often no food, he did not give me money to buy food or clothes. He was a sad man. He always got in fights with his neighbours, with visitors. He often got angry with me and beat me. It was hell. I was very sad there. I love to laugh and I like people and I like to be happy and I was very unhappy there. Also, because I was not free. I had no degree no opportunity to earn my own money, to be independent.

I also was very young and stupid. I did not know how not to get pregnant. I got my first son when I was seventeen. When I was pregnant for the second time, I tried to kill myself. I did not want to be in this world anymore. I drank the poison you use to kill mice. But it did not work. They brought me to a hospital and helped me. I stayed there for two months. I went through very hard times, dear. Now I am very happy, that my second son did not die with me and I regret so much, that I endangered his life. He is my best friend now! He always waits for me even when I have to drive somebody late in the night, he sits in the livingroom and waits for me, to make sure that I made it home safe. Also he often cooks for me, when I have to work a lot.

So, I wanted to become independent, to be able to leave this house of my husband that had brought me so much despair. First, I sold fruits and vegetables on the street to have my own income. But that was not sufficient. Then I tried tailoring, but that did not work as well. I also did a cooking course, to work for a caterer, I can make Lasagna and Cannelloni now! I did many things. In the end I decided to get a driving licence to become independent. A friend of mine lend me the money to do it. When I finished the driving school and got my licence I applied for jobs as taxi driver, but I did not get the chance to get a job.

Then I found another way. The women fund of the National Bank of Rwanda helps women to start their own business. My bank gave me al loan and they gave me the guarantee for it, which was half of the amount. Like this I could get a credit of five million Rwandan francs (5000€). And a friend gave me another 500.000 RWF (500 €) so I could afford that car. (smiles very proud and makes a gesture to show her car) I have been a Taxi driver for ten years now. I knew: after I had payed back my debts I would be able to move out. It took me three years to pay back my debts. Then I took my sons and moved out. Of course, my husband got very angry. He died last year and although he was not good to me I felt very sorry and mercy for him. I took care of him the last two months in the hospital. When he died, I inherited his house. I built it myself, with my own hands, but I want to sell it. I can’t even go there anymore. I was so sad there.

I live in another house, that I rented for me and my boys. I am happy and independent. My sons are 21, 19 and sixteen now. Two have finished secondary school, one is already studying, one is still in secondary two. I am very proud of them. They are my everything. I could never be without them. I love them so much. They are decent, kind and well educated, they help me a lot, in the household they know every task.

In the same time, it is very hard to earn enough to pay for a house and school fees. The business is bad now, there are too many Taxi drivers. Back, when I started, there were clients that I drove to the national parks. There I earned enough to be able to pay the school fees. Now there are big enterprises, who offer the transport. But I never give up.

I like to share my story. Too many women in Africa are dependent on their man, have no education, have to wait to get married with a man who earns a lot. That is not good. We have to encourage each other, give our knowledge and women power to each other. I really love girls and women! I would have loved to have a daughter. Now I have three boys. That is why I love to be with women, to exchange with women and share knowledge and empower. I helped another woman to become taxi driver. She worked as a conductor of a bus and only was payed 2000 RWF a day (2€). One day I called her and told her that I have an idea for her and we have to talk. I explained her how to get the credit to buy a car and she liked the idea. Now she has a car herself and works as a Taxi driver.

That is my life. I have grown up sons now. I was in a bad marriage for too long. But I found a way to become independent. I made it. I have my own life now. Girls, I am already forty years now.

I: You don’t look like that. I would have thought you are not older than 31!

A: I really like to take care of my skin and body. I completely rely on natural products. I do never use products that contain chemicals. When I have time, I really like to prepare myself a mask and creams and to give my body a treat.

You have to try this! It makes your skin shimmer and shine for a whole week.

You use one egg, honey, lemon and Aloe Vera. You make a mask out of it and let it on your face for half an hour. Then you wash it off without soap. It is perfect before you go to bed. The next day your skin looks fresh and shines like of a young girl. And the effect lasts for long time!

We women have to stick together and exchange our knowledge and power!


Interview: Anne Gerstenberg

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