Teaching refugee women to drive goes beyond just reaching their destination

In the vast expanse of a deserted parking lot on the outskirts of Atlanta, a scene unfolds that speaks volumes about empowerment, resilience, and the transformative power of education.

Behind the wheel of a car, a 30-year-old Syrian refugee woman navigates her way through the intricacies of driving, guided by the patient instructions of Nancy Gobran, the driving instructor and founder of Safety Driving School.

This poignant moment encapsulates the essence of Women Behind the Wheel, a pioneering program in Georgia that offers free drivers’ education to refugee and immigrant women, aiming to break down barriers and foster independence.

The journey of these women, many hailing from countries where societal norms restrict their mobility and autonomy, is a testament to the courage and determination that define their pursuit of a better life in a new land.

Women Behind the Wheel stands as a beacon of hope, providing not just practical skills but also a sense of empowerment and agency that transcends the confines of cultural expectations.

Driving instructor Nancy Gobran, with her unwavering dedication and compassionate approach, embodies the spirit of mentorship and empowerment that lies at the heart of the program.

For nearly five years, she has been instrumental in guiding these women through the complexities of driving, instilling in them the confidence to take control of their own destinies.

As she gently encourages her students to turn the wheel and accelerate, she symbolizes the transformative impact of education and support in shaping lives.

The genesis of Women Behind the Wheel can be traced back to Ethaar, a nonprofit organization in the Atlanta area that supports refugee families in their resettlement journey.

Through initiatives like Women Behind the Wheel, Ethaar seeks to bridge the gap created by cultural differences and empower women who have long been marginalized and dependent on others for their mobility and livelihood.

The program’s name, meaning altruism and affection in Arabic, reflects the ethos of compassion and support that underpins its mission.

Mona Megahed, co-founder of Ethaar and the visionary behind Women Behind the Wheel, recognized the pressing need to empower female refugees by equipping them with the essential skill of driving.

In a society where women’s independence is often constrained by societal norms and gender roles, the program serves as a catalyst for change, offering a pathway to self-sufficiency and empowerment.

By providing free drivers’ education and fostering a supportive environment, Women Behind the Wheel not only imparts practical skills but also instills a sense of confidence and autonomy in its participants.

The impact of Women Behind the Wheel extends far beyond the confines of the driving lessons. It is a testament to the resilience and strength of refugee women who, despite facing numerous challenges and obstacles, continue to strive for a better future for themselves and their families.

Through the program, these women not only gain the ability to drive a car but also acquire a newfound sense of freedom, independence, and empowerment that transcends the boundaries of cultural norms and societal expectations.

In conclusion, Women Behind the Wheel stands as a shining example of the transformative power of education, empowerment, and community support in the lives of refugee and immigrant women.

Through the dedication of individuals like Nancy Gobran and the vision of organizations like Ethaar, these women are given the tools and the confidence to navigate the road to independence and self-sufficiency.

As they take the wheel and chart their own course, they embody the resilience, courage, and determination that define their journey towards a brighter and more empowered future.

In the midst of the bustling city of Atlanta, a quiet revolution is taking place, one that is reshaping the lives of refugee women.

These women, hailing from diverse backgrounds such as Afghanistan, Burma, Syria, Sudan, Somalia, Pakistan, Iraq, and Eritrea, have found themselves in a new land, seeking to rebuild their lives in the face of adversity.

However, their journey is not without its challenges, as they grapple with the barriers of transportation and employment, compounded by cultural norms that impede their ability to drive and work.

This essay delves into the profound impact of these challenges on refugee women and the transformative role of programs aimed at empowering them to achieve self-sufficiency.

The poignant narrative of Ethaar, an organization dedicated to aiding refugee families in their resettlement, sheds light on the multifaceted struggles faced by these women.

Executive Director Sarah Karim articulates the profound impact of transportation limitations, stating, “Most of the time because of lack of access to transportation, it’s hard for them to get to their jobs. It’s hard for them to go study anywhere except for what is close by, and there aren’t that many options, unfortunately.”

This resonates deeply with the experiences of many refugee women, who are confronted with the stark reality of limited mobility and its far-reaching consequences on their ability to access education and employment opportunities.

The testimonies of these resilient women, as recounted by Ethaar’s instructors and advocates, reveal the transformative power of initiatives aimed at empowering them.

The driving program, a pivotal component of their journey towards self-reliance, stands as a beacon of hope, enabling refugee women to transcend the barriers of transportation and gain the independence to pursue employment opportunities.

Dorian Crosby, an expert in refugee migration, underscores the significance of driving and obtaining a license, emphasizing that it is “critical to refugee women reaching that level of self-reliance.”

This sentiment encapsulates the profound impact of such initiatives, not merely in meeting governmental regulations, but in fostering emotional resilience and empowerment among refugee women.

The program’s impact extends beyond the acquisition of practical skills; it represents a symbolic milestone in the journey of these women towards integration and self-sufficiency.

The act of learning to drive transcends the mundane realm of transportation; it symbolizes the empowerment of these women to navigate and thrive in their new home.

As instructor Gobran aptly expresses, “This is their new home, and they have to understand how this country works.

It starts with the very little thing as driving to build a future.” This sentiment encapsulates the profound significance of initiatives that equip refugee women with the tools to navigate and contribute to their newfound communities.

The narrative of empowerment and resilience embodied by these women serves as a testament to the transformative potential of initiatives aimed at addressing the multifaceted challenges faced by refugee women.

Beyond the practical implications of transportation and employment, these programs foster a sense of agency and independence, enabling refugee women to carve out a new narrative of hope and self-reliance.

As the stories of these women unfold, they stand as a testament to the enduring spirit of resilience and the transformative power of initiatives aimed at empowering them to overcome barriers and build a brighter future.

In conclusion, the journey of refugee women in Atlanta, and indeed in many regions across the globe, serves as a poignant reminder of the transformative impact of initiatives aimed at empowering them to achieve self-reliance.

The challenges of transportation and employment, compounded by cultural norms, stand as formidable barriers, yet through programs such as the driving initiative, refugee women are forging a new path towards independence and integration.

Their stories, marked by resilience and determination, serve as a testament to the profound impact of initiatives that empower them to navigate and thrive in their new homes.

As we bear witness to their journey, we are reminded of the enduring strength of the human spirit and the transformative potential of initiatives aimed at fostering empowerment and resilience among refugee women.