• Ilorin woman vulcanizer shares her assault experience from men
From Layi Olanrewaju, Ilorin
the reflection of life and its challenges played on Mrs. Bililis Olaitan, a mother of four children. She who was an apprentice hairdresser for 10 years but ended becoming a woman vulcanizer within six months and got married to her vulcanizer boss.
She spoke with Daily Sun in her shop along Oke Andi, Sango-UITH Road, Ilorin, Kwara State.
She is from a polygamous home as such her parents’ inability to fund her education led her to selling “pure” water and soft drinks in garages and on the streets to support her mother. She was an apprentice in Lokoja, Kogi State, under her elder sister:
“I never believed I would go into vulcanizing work as a woman. But when I came back from Lokoja where I had served under my sister, I met a man who is my current husband and he introduced the work to me.”
She developed interest in vulcanizing and accepted to learn the act. This took her just six months to be perfect compared to hairdressing that took her almost a decade to learn. Throughout the period in which she was learning the trade, she did not pay any money to Aremu Rafiu Olaitan, her trainer:
“Then, I used to observe how my husband do his work. I used to see how many motorists used to patronise him in which I later developed interest for the job.
“I approached him if I could be under him, and I even thought that he would scold me. He accepted me and encouraged me not knowing that he would later become the father of my children. As I start my vulcanizing apprenticeship, my father never bothered what I was doing, but my mother vehemently opposed it because it wasn’t a profession for women.
“My father has many wives, so he does not care about anyone. But my mother was against this job when I started as she claimed that the work is meant for men.
“The third day I started learning this work, an incident occurred that was enough to scare me. I had a serious cut in my left hand when I was trying to remove a tyre from the rim. It took me almost three weeks before the wound could heal up.
“After recuperating, I told my mother that I would go back to vulcanizing work. To my surprise, she agreed since that was what I wanted. After a while, I decided to start the vulcanizing work at the front of the house where she and her husband lives and she revealed that she never regretted learning the work.
“When I started this work on my own on full time basis, people were asking me why I decided to be a vulcanizer. What I told them was I wanted something different as a woman. There are so many ladies who are into tailoring, hairdressing and so on. I thought this work would bring a lot of sales for me considering my status as a woman.
“I am happy up till now because I make close to Five thousand naira everyday from this job except now of recession that things are not as before. Even my husband who also has his own shop does not make the sales I use to make here. For the past six years that I started this work, I have never had any cause to regret doing the job.”
When asked if she would love any of her children to also go into vulcanizing, she said: “I and my husband are using the money we are making to send our children to school since we never had the chance to go. All our children will also know how to do this job but it is not necessary that they practice it.”
Talking on challenges on the job in view of male dominated profession and assault by men. She confessed some male customers do assault her sexually. Some men would seek for her phone numbers after she might have done the job brought to her. Sometimes, she would receive strange calls to come over to hotel.
“There was a man who collected my phone number after I had repaired his car tyres. He later called me to come over to meet him in a hotel. I realised he was into another thing, and I told him never to call me for such act. I earn enough from my job, I told him. That is one of the challenges I do receive on this job, but I am not bothered because life itself is a challenge.”
Olaitan earns N5,000 on a daily basis before the recession, but now it fluctuates: “I still thank God. Despite the fluctuation, I made little profits and some of the funds were normally used to take care of my children, savings and to attend to other needs.
“I am happy doing this job because I use to make at least N5,000 daily which is alright for me rather than going into hard daily labour job that could attract assault and other hazards.”
Her husband said his wife has been a fortress: “Some people do abuse me that she is doing the job so that I cannot marry a second wife. I thank God that we are able to cater for our children, plan ahead for our family.
“Today, I have two motorcycles and I do not care what people are saying again. After all, I am able to discharge my responsibilities as husband in my extended family and I have never owed anyone. Every morning, I use to go to my own stand, and my wife would be at home to do her work and also to cater for the children and prepare our home needs, I support her chosen career, and I am happy she is doing well for herself and the family.”
A motorist, Ajide Olatunde, said he was surprised when he saw that women can remove car tyres, repair them and fix without any stress: “This show that what a man can do, a woman can do even better. I believe that there are many people that would share the same views with me on this.”
Another customer, Rahmat Alao, said she felt challenged when she saw Bilkis for the first time doing the work supposedly reserved for men: “Since the first day I saw her, I have been patronising her anytime I have trouble with my tyres so as to appreciate her for what she does. Even I do tell people about her.”
Rev. Aromalase Joshua said there is nothing unusual in what Bilikis is doing: “What matters most is that the job she is doing must be legitimate in which people can associate with in our community. We have seen women who assist their husbands in robbery, crimes, selling hemps and at the end of the day they endanger lives of their children. I believe she is not doing what is wrong.”
Bilikis said she is contented with her business: “No stress and I am happy with myself and my chosen career. I am also working for myself whatever a man can do a woman can also do better.”