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South African Organization Offers Free Drivers Ed for Women

Over 500 women in Tafelsig in Cape Town, South Africa responded to an invitation by Mitchells Plain Impact Association (MPIA) for free learner’s and driver’s license classes. MPIA founder Joanie Fredericks discussed her vision for female empowerment through this initiative. The organization set up various Whatsapp groups for 4 different drivers ed classes and opened the sessions to women over the age of 18.

We want to empower an entire province and the women here will be empowered,” said Fredericks.

A Facebook post from the organization describes how, through projects like this, women can now take on jobs that weren’t previously available because many employers require drivers licenses for even the smallest positions.

“This is more than just a project; this is a life-altering opportunity for many, many women. This is the beginning of a new lease on life, the regaining of dignity and the opening of new doors to previously thought impossible career opportunities,” the post says.

About 49 women enrolled in the first class on Monday, January 22nd.  A Facebook page recapping this day explains how Fredericks wishes the group began this project earlier due to the tremendous results they’ve seen.

“Listening to some stories of the women makes it clear that if they had this opportunity earlier, maybe just maybe some of them would have been much more advanced in their careers or perhaps even in a complete different field altogether,” the Facebook post says.

Women could also bring their children along for childcare, which helped those who couldn’t get away from home for the day take part in an opportunity they may not have enjoyed otherwise.

MPIA held these classes in conjunction with instructor Jameela Liedeman, who witnessed driving schools exploit underprivileged people first-hand because they trained people only for the traffic department, leaving them unemployable as drivers. Liedeman was a former instructor for Golden Arrow and the company’s first female instructor. She hopes to help women who cannot afford driving lessons and help create safe streets.

Fredericks explained how this project indirectly helps women who have faced violence in their lives because it gives each women independence and freedom by driving themselves instead of relying on men. Residents expressed gratitude for these lessons and their newfound freedom. Fredericks believes true empowerment doesn’t occur without this privilege.

‘Women must have the freedom to do as they please, go where they want, and be able to drive themselves there as well,” said Fredericks.

One woman, 29-year-old Olivia Saunders, explained how she couldn’t obtain her license for many years and appreciates the help she has received.

“I can’t even count the number of times I have tried for my license. I have been looking for help and now I have the opportunity because of this amazing initiative,” said Saunders.

Although women must first pass the driving tests to obtain licenses, these classes have provided the means necessary for that privilege and have already helped several women, even though the project remains in its pilot stage. As more women attend the classes and this project continues, economic opportunities for women in Tafelsig are bound to rise.

Featured Image by Portland Seminary on Flickr

Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0)

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