Rwanda: Sylvie Abagayire, car mechanic

Sylvie Abagayire, car mechanic in Rwanda

Sylvie Abagayire is a young car electrician in a successful car repair shop in Rwanda’s capital Kigali. As the only female technician at her workplace in a leadership position, she encourages other women to pursue a similar career. Between 2010 and 2013, GIZ on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development organised short-term courses for graduates and young professionals. These courses provided around 6,600 participants with technical and vocational skills to succeed on the labour market.

How is life in Rwanda?

Rwanda is a small country in Africa. It is densely populated and developing quickly. I love Kigali because it is such a clean city. But the cost of living is very high. Fortunately I have a job.

How come you like to work on cars?

I chose this profession because it is a modern one, and it is well paid. I’m a motoring enthusiast and I love driving – even though I cannot afford my own car yet. I like working on automotive electronics. It’s not just a profession for men. That is also what I keep telling other women and girls: we, too, can perform well in technical professions!

What did you want to be when you were a child?

When I was a child I never wanted to be a mechanic. There were moments during my training when I wanted to give up and find myself a job that was more feminine: nurse, secretary or accountant. But now I love what I am doing and my family, colleagues and friends appreciate it.

What made them change their attitude?

I am the only woman working at our repair shop – and I am doing a good job. Whatever preconceptions others had about me never affected my work. I studied hard during my training, gained a lot of practical experience and got promoted to the head of the electronics department. I convinced my boss and the customers of my abilities.

What do you expect from the future?

My ambition is to go for further studies and increase my experience in car technology and electronics. In the future I would like to have my own business in the car industry. This would allow me to earn more money, so that I can provide for my future and help out others.


        
    
Sylvie Abagayire’s workplace is in Kigali, the hilly capital city of Rwanda. Like Sylvie, two thirds of Rwandans are younger than 25 years old. Photos: Alena Gärtner
Sylvie Abagayire’s workplace is in Kigali, the hilly capital city of Rwanda. Like Sylvie, two thirds of Rwandans are younger than 25 years old. Photos: Alena Gärtner

        
    
Like many other businesses in Rwanda, the ATECAR repair shop relies on qualified workers – but often there is a lack of technical skills.
Like many other businesses in Rwanda, the ATECAR repair shop relies on qualified workers – but often there is a lack of technical skills.

        
    
For the young mechanic, good training is very important. She participated in the GIZ initiative ‘Upgrade your skills’, where she impressed her future boss.
For the young mechanic, good training is very important. She participated in the GIZ initiative ‘Upgrade your skills’, where she impressed her future boss.

        
    
Sanding, cutting, soldering … everything revolves around cars. Noise and dirty hands are part of the routine. This job is not for the squeamish.
Sanding, cutting, soldering … everything revolves around cars. Noise and dirty hands are part of the routine. This job is not for the squeamish.

        
    
ATECAR has 50 employees. Male jobseekers in particular are attracted to technical jobs involving car mechanics.
ATECAR has 50 employees. Male jobseekers in particular are attracted to technical jobs involving car mechanics.

        
    
Sylvie Abagayire is the only woman in the technical department. The good service she provides has earned her a promotion as head of electronics at ATECAR.
Sylvie Abagayire is the only woman in the technical department. The good service she provides has earned her a promotion as head of electronics at ATECAR.

        
    
Ruanda’s youth need professional prospects. Vocational education and employment help prevent conflicts in the country.
Ruanda’s youth need professional prospects. Vocational education and employment help prevent conflicts in the country.

        
    
Her job gives Sylvie independence and secure income. The now experienced car mechanic is respected by clients and colleagues alike.
Her job gives Sylvie independence and secure income. The now experienced car mechanic is respected by clients and colleagues alike.

        
    
The modern city dweller is content with her life – if only it wasn’t so expensive. Kigali is a city with a high cost of living.
The modern city dweller is content with her life – if only it wasn’t so expensive. Kigali is a city with a high cost of living.

        
    
After a hard day’s work, Sylvie sometimes enjoys spending time with other women. Here she is relaxing in a café with a friend.
After a hard day’s work, Sylvie sometimes enjoys spending time with other women. Here she is relaxing in a café with a friend.