In PicturesReportGaza gets its first female bus driver

Gaza gets its first female bus driver

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This story by our blogger Asmaa Elkhaldi originally appeared on the website We Are Not Numbers. A version of the article appears below.


BY ASMAA ELKHALDI


After discovering the hard way that honest, friendly bus drivers for kindergarten children were in short supply, Salwa Srour made up her mind to drive the children herself. At the age of 63, the single woman became Gaza’s first female bus driver.

She and her sister, Sajeda, have run their own kindergarten for the past 10 years. Four years ago, her students’ parents began complaining about the male bus drivers, causing the sisters quite a “headache”. The women couldn’t risk losing their students, so Salwa became the driver.

Salwa is posing with her beloved bus in front of her house. Credit: Asmaa Elkhaldi/The Turban Times

Salwa is posing with her beloved bus in front of her house. Credit: Asmaa Elkhaldi/The Turban Times

At first, it was challenging for Salwa to navigate through Gaza’s often rough streets with the red bus. Likewise, she was met with many astonished, surprised stares from the conservative society. However, she has a strong sense of self-esteem and stuck with it. She believes that every new “phenomenon” is met with skepticism, but the people eventually get used to it and even accept it. She carries on driving and even sometimes gives explanatory talks.

According to Salwa, Palestinian men often seem stubborn and slow at understanding changes, but more often than not are helpful and supportive. For example, Gaza’s constant gas crises have helped her create friendships with other drivers; at the gas stations, they often let her get scarce fuel first, before them.

Salwa is orgnizing the kids' movment to the bus, in order to drive them home. Credit: Asmaa Elkhaldi/The Turban Times

Salwa is orgnizing the kids’ movment to the bus, in order to drive them home. Credit: Asmaa Elkhaldi/The Turban Times

Her new job has given her a very intimate relationship with her students, with plenty of time to chat on the drive. In addition, she has learned many new streets in Gaza, since she must get the children to their houses without getting lost.

Her dream now is to buy a larger bus, and thus be able to drive all of the students, without relying on anyone else.

Salwa is helping one of her students during a math final exam. She's also a teacher in the kindergarten. Credit: Asmaa Elkhaldi/The Turban Times

Salwa is helping one of her students during a math final exam. She’s also a teacher in the kindergarten. Credit: Asmaa Elkhaldi/The Turban Times

Salwa shares the breakfast with her fellow teachers in the kindergarten. Credit: Asmaa Elkhaldi/The Turban Times

Salwa shares the breakfast with her fellow teachers in the kindergarten. Credit: Asmaa Elkhaldi/The Turban Times

Salwa is asking Noman for a kiss, in a morning drive to the kindergarten. Credit: Asmaa Elkhaldi/The Turban Times

Salwa is asking Noman for a kiss, in a morning drive to the kindergarten. Credit: Asmaa Elkhaldi/The Turban Times

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20 year old Palestinian living in Gaza, studying Architecture at the Islamic University of Gaza. I’m a freelance photographer who documents the daily life of Gaza in addition to writing, particularly, about the positive, inspiring side of the place I live in. You’ll expect to see the unusual side of Gaza – the challenging and inspiring side through my writings!

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