A Syrian refugee in Sweden has defied the stereotypes of Arab women to work as a heavy truck driver and overcame all restrictions that still prevent many women in the Arab world from achieving their dreams.
Diaa al-Hajji, originally from Aleppo’s northern countryside, had worked as a hairdresser for 17 years, before moving with her husband to Sweden in 2013, overcoming the obstacles of language and assimilation with ease.
Hajji explained that it was difficult to put her experience as a hairdresser to work, with the community’s biased ideas about veiled women, as well as needing a certificate from a specialized center. A friend of the family advised her to enrol in a training course for truck driving, especially as her Swedish had improved and the opportunities in this field were in demand in the labor market. She was able to get a loan from the bank to pay the costs of the training, and to buy a house that would provide a suitable environment for her autistic daughter.
While applying for a license to drive trucks was easy enough, Diaa found the first training lessons difficult, as she was anxious and scared due to the size of the vehicle. However, she soon became accustomed, and within 13 lessons, she was able to drive trucks with practiced ease. The course allowed her to learn to drive all large trucks, and she recently obtained a license to drive forklifts.
Despite having a license for automatic and manual trucks, Diaa was unable to secure a job, even after writing to several companies and sending her CV. She is still waiting to find an opportunity especially since she has to pay her house installments and since work opportunities in Sweden are rare for those who do not have experience or certificates in the field.
Diaa has been encouraged by her husband, Mohamed Korg, who has a civil engineering degree from the American University of Dubai. Korg explained the process through which Diaa had to go to get her training, which, according to him, demanded a lot of time, effort and money.
The truck driving is taught like a university course with books and private lessons and with different types of theoretical examination, he added.
In addition to understanding the laws, directions, safety measures, and methods of loading and unloading trucks, etc., the trainee must be fully understand with the mechanics of these huge machineries in order to pass the practical examination.
In Sweden, truck driving is one of the most popular occupations in the country, along with cooking, accounting, elderly care, cleaners and nurses.
This article was edited by The Syrian Observer. The Syrian Observer has not verified the content of this story. Responsibility for the information and views set out in this article lies entirely with the author.