Uzma Nawaz is one of the first female car mechanics in conservative Pakistan. The 24-year-old women spent most of her life overcoming entrenched gender stereotypes as well as financial hurdles en route to earning a mechanical engineering degree and receiving a job with an auto repairs garage located in the eastern city Multan.
Nawaz told AFP: “I took it up as a challenge against all odds and the meagre financial resources of my family.”
“When they see me doing this type of work they are really surprised.”
Growing up in the small town of Dunyapur in eastern Pakistan’s Punjab province, Uzma Nawaz relied on scholarships and often skipped meals when she was broke while pursuing her degree.
Throughout Pakistan, women have struggled for their rights, especially in rural areas, where women are encouraged to marry young and devote themselves entirely to family over career.
“No hardship could break my will and motivation,” she says proudly.
Nawaz made several sacrifices which led her to work at a Toyota dealership in Multan, following her graduation.
After a year of working at the Toyota dealership, Nawaz was promoted to general repairs. She moved up with the ease of a seasoned pro around the dealership’s garage, where she removed tyres and raised vehicles, handled a variety of tools and inspected various engines.
One customer called Arshad Ahmad said: “I was shocked to see a young girl lifting heavy spare tyres and then putting them back on vehicles after repairs.”
“Whatever task we give her she does it like a man with hard work and dedication.” said co-worker M. Attaullah.
Nawaz has also managed to convince those who doubted her ability to make it in a male-dominated work environment, including members of her own family.
“There is no need in our society for girls to work at workshops, it doesn’t seem nice, but it is her passion.” said her father, Muhammad Nawaz.
“She can now set up the machinery and can work properly. I too am very happy.”