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This 24-year-old female car mechanic is driving change in Multan

Updated October 16, 2018

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In this picture taken on September 1, 2018, motor mechanic Uzma Nawaz fixes a car at an auto workshop in Multan. — AFP
In this picture taken on September 1, 2018, motor mechanic Uzma Nawaz fixes a car at an auto workshop in Multan. — AFP

Since picking up a wrench as one of the first female car mechanics in Pakistan, Uzma Nawaz has faced two common reactions: shock and surprise, and then a bit of respect.

Mechanic Uzma Nawaz, 24, fixes a car at an auto workshop in Multan. — AFP
Mechanic Uzma Nawaz, 24, fixes a car at an auto workshop in Multan. — AFP

The 24-year-old spent years overcoming entrenched gender stereotypes and financial hurdles en route to earning a mechanical engineering degree and getting a job with an auto repairs garage in Multan.

"I took it up as a challenge against all odds and the meagre financial resources of my family," Nawaz told AFP.

"When they see me doing this type of work they are really surprised."

Hailing from the small, impoverished town of Dunyapur in Punjab, Nawaz relied on scholarships and often skipped meals when she was broke while pursuing her degree.

Her achievements are rare.

Women have long struggled for their rights in Pakistan and, especially in rural areas, are often encouraged to marry young and devote themselves entirely to family over career.

"No hardship could break my will and motivation," she says proudly.

Uzma helps her father prepare food for cattle at their home in Duniyapur, Multan. — AFP
Uzma helps her father prepare food for cattle at their home in Duniyapur, Multan. — AFP

The sacrifices cleared the way for steady work at a Toyota dealership in Multan following graduation, she adds.

Just a year into the job, and promoted to general repairs, Nawaz moves with the ease of a seasoned pro around the dealership's garage, removing tyres from raised vehicles, inspecting engines and handling a variety of tools — a sight that initially jolted some customers.

"I was shocked to see a young girl lifting heavy spare tyres and then putting them back on vehicles after repairs," customer Arshad Ahmad told AFP.

But Nawaz's drive and expertise have impressed colleagues, who say she can more than hold her own.

"Whatever task we give her she does it like a man with hard work and dedication," said coworker M Attaullah.

Uzma sits with her parents at their home in Duniyapur. ─ AFP
Uzma sits with her parents at their home in Duniyapur. ─ AFP

She has also convinced some of 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."