Born in 1975, Clementine Gahongaire has grown into a shrewd woman making ends meet in a male-dominated trade. Driving a special hire taxi has always been known to be a business for men. Clementine Gahongaire chose to put such prejudices aside and jump into the business of driving a special hire taxi, and from her appearance and talk, she has really made it albeit in a modest way.
Gahongayire was born in a large family of nine children in Bicumbi village, Kigali Ngali, to Adrea Rutsimbira and Scholastica Musabyemungu, both of whom are deceased now. Growing up in rural Kigali’s Bicumbi village was never a bed of roses for Clémentine and her eight siblings. As such she had to drop out of school at an early age. After her primary education she never had an opportunity to pursue secondary and higher education.
Widowed at a young age
Gahongaire got married at an early age when she was still a teen and was later to lose her husband during the Genocide. “Many of my family members were killed during the Genocide. I am one of the few survivors in our family,” laments Clement.
Her early marriage blessed her with three children. Now all of them are deceased, so she has adopted some of her relatives’ children and orphans whom she looks after. The challenges associated with loosing a husband when she was still in her teenage years led her to mature at a rather young age.
After the 1994 Genocide, Gahongayire went into the construction business. She worked in Caritas-Rwanda and later branched into the taxi driving business, something she has come to love so passionately that she believes will be her life-long career.
Into taxi driving
As a widow of the Genocide era, she joined Avega the association that brings together women who lost their husbands during the 1994 Genocide in the country. As a member of Avega she was privileged to be one of the women daring enough to take on the duty of driving the associations’ vehicles. She later on worked as a driver for the Social Security Fund of Rwanda caise sociale.
After getting retrenched from government service Gahongayire went full time into special hire taxi driving. Ever since that time she has never looked back and as she testifies, she has come to enjoy her trade.
She is all praises for the order and sense of organisation that has been instilled into the special hire taxi business. At the stage where she works from near the caise sociale main office, there is an orderly way of handling clients. As such there is no haggling and negotiating for reduced fares since there is a standard price set.
Gahongayire is a member of one of the two registered special hire taxi organisations. She belongs to Codace, the other special hire taxi association being atavoka. Belonging to an association, means that she has to give one tenth of her daily income to the association. Gahongayire says that it is good to belong to an association because it brings order to the business which otherwise would have been chaotic.
As a special hire taxi driver Gahongayire in her own confession says that she has not had any particular problem with passengers. One would have expected that as a woman in a male dominated business, she would have faced a great deal of problems with the passengers who are used to dealing with rough edged men. She also attributes this to the fact that most of her clients are government workers who are more civilised.
However at the beginning she admits to having faced some problems dealing with people who were already in the field. At that time she talks of facing problems with the issue of parking. “We were many people driving taxis and there was little organisation at that time, so parking space was a problem to some of us who were not used to the competition” says Gahongayire.
Though Gahongayire does not drive her own car she has an amicable understanding with the owner of the car. As such no one feels cheated or used. However she looks forward to a day when she will own her own car. Most of the time, Gahongayire is sure to earn between Rw.FRW 10,000 and 15,000 on any normal working day.
Gahongayire’s day starts at 7.00 am when she leaves home in Gisozi-Kigali to go to work and ordinarily she will have completed her days work by 4.00 pm or sometime by 6.00pm in exceptional cases.
She has a personal policy, she does not work at night. After work she will be visiting friends and ever since she got remarried recently she will be home early to be with her new man.
Advice to other women
Gahongayire advises other women to take up driving because she believes it is an honourable profession. “When you are a woman, and you are in this business you are respected”. Stresses Gahongayire.
She belives that this is a good job and makes ladies have their own income instead of relying on men or their husbands for upkeep. More so the money she earns from this trade is good for her and caters for her needs in addition to caring for children of her departed relatives.
Gahongayire believes in being self reliant and as such she thinks all women should strive towards achieving that even if they do not have a lot of education like herself.