Faridah Salim Khamis: The only Muslim lady, behind the wheels of Uber
She is 34 years old, married and a mother of four children, three girls and a boy.
Faridah Salim Khamis who was brought up in Kambi Muru in Nairobi says that she is a hard working mother who was taught very early in life to be independent.
Since childhood, hers has not been an easy life, a fact that she says has made to her the strong woman she is today.
“I have come a long way. I first started by selling mitumba (second hand clothes) in Gikomba market. I later decided
to venture into communication when mobile phones were new in the market. Back then, ‘Simu ya Jamii’ (community pay phone) was the only way most people could access and use mobile phones.
“The Motorola T28 was the popular phone back then but it was very expensive unlike nowadays where you can get a phone for a thousand shillings. To have an edge over other businesses, I also sold homemade snacks popularly known back then as sinachuki; peanuts cooked or mixed with hot sugar syrup,” recalls Khamis.
As the size of Khamis family grew, her expenditure grew as well. She decided to put her passion and nine years driving experience into a more lucrative venture — taxi. Since Uber had become popular in Nairobi, she decided to venture into the field in February 2017.
Although Uber has a few female drivers, none is Muslim and Khamis prides herself as the only Muslim lady driver. She says she would love to drive a high profile customer who can appreciate what women do to put food on the table.
“I don’t feel different because I am a Muslim lady driver. I believe what a man can do, a woman can do better. My dream is to carry Her Excellency the First Lady Margret Kenyatta in my taxi. I want to drive her around and even bring her to Kibera,” says Khamis with a smile.
As with every business, taxi driving has its best and worst moments. For Khamis, her best moments are when she
has guaranteed clients that she can pick and drop on a regular basis. However, her worst moments are when she has to deal with stressful clients.
“I have to work hard to earn my commissions just like everyone else. No employer wants a lazy person,” explains Khamis.
She says taxi drivers in Kenya are not well paid compared to those in the western countries. “I would love to work for the United Nations, which pays well,” she says hopefully.
The fact that Khamis had difficulties during her childhood, she still made it and her mother remains her hero. She is inspired by the Muslim women who are out there making a difference and challenging the status quo.
She always feels inspired when she sees successful Muslim women. Khamis salutes Ilhan Omar, who contested and won the Minnesota House of Representative seat, the first American Somalia lawmaker; Naru Asia, the first hijab covered girl Ambassador; Ginnela Masssa, also the first hijab covered newscaster in Canada.
“I am proud of them and myself. Muslims are not selfish or lazy, they can change the world too,” Khamis explains.
Despite not driving her own car, Khamis believes that as long as she continues working, she will one day own a fleet of cars. She remains focused and calls for change where every woman takes up the challenge in the society to start doing something rather than depending on men.
“If you can drive, join the taxi industry which neither discriminates on the basis of gender nor religion. Actually in the world today, you cannot depend on anyone. Women should wake up and get out. It is not all about going to an office in a huge building,” says Khamis adding: “My car is the office which I use to earn a living.”
As we celebrate this year’s International Women’s Day, we celebrate her as she is bold enough to bring change in women’s lives.
“Women have to wear so many hats and endure a lot of social and economic pressures, but if as a woman you have the passion for something, just get up and do it,” Khamis says adding that she has also opened the first cultural shop in Kibra Constituency, in addition to being a good caterer. She adds: “It’s not all about driving, do something for yourself. You can even start a small business.”