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.
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.
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.