Driving a bus back home in the Philippines was an ordinary job for Marygold Cez, but she is turning heads in Dubai after becoming one of the first female public bus drivers in the region.
Ms Cez, 33, was one of three women recently hired by the Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) to drive a public bus.
The trio are the first female drivers throughout the Middle East.
After spending nearly a week on the road, two of them spoke to The National about their experiences so far.
“People are surprised to see us, but they are very welcoming. They ask us ‘are you really driving the bus?’ The drivers on the road and at the intersection look surprised when they see me,” said Ms Cez.
“I worked as a school bus driver for three years in the Philippines, so I had some experience of driving a bus.”
Ms Cez moved to Dubai more than a year ago and worked in sales at a mall. When she heard about RTA’s initiative to hire the region’s first female bus drivers, she wanted to be part of it.
She lives in the emirate with her husband and has a five-year-old daughter and a teenage son in the Philippines.
“They are proud and were excited to hear the news. I feel like I’ve helped my country be part of history. This shows that women can do anything men can.”
The profession is a male-dominated one in the region. In Dubai, RTA employs 165 female taxi drivers, 41 limousine chauffeurs and one school bus driver.
More women public drivers are expected to be hired in the near future.
Ailen Lean, 45, used to own a minibus back home in the Philippines and was interested in becoming a public bus driver when she heard about the job opening.
She moved to Dubai five years ago and held a few different jobs.
“Some are shocked to see that a female is driving a 12-feet-long bus,” said Ms Lean, a mother-of-two.
“People are supportive and are welcoming us. I think it sends a good message that men and women are equal.”
Meanwhile, Ahmed Bahrozyan, chief executive of RTA’s Public Transport Agency, said that the new move will help create job opportunities for women in a field that is dominated by men.
The three women will be responsible for covering three routes in the city. They are:
Circular Route 77 linking Baniyas, Deira City Centre and Terminals 1 and 3 of Dubai International Airport;
Route F36 – a metro link service between Mall of the Emirates, Dubai Science Park and Al Barsha South;
Route F70 – a metro link service in Bur Dubai running between BurJuman mall and Al Fahidi heritage district.