Breaking stereotypes and driving through gender-based obstacles, Shamim Akhtar from Rawalpindi is Pakistan's first female truck driver.
The 53-year-old single mother said "Nothing is too difficult if you have the will, however if women make themselves believe that they can't do certain tasks then nothing works for them."
Driving cars for many years, Akhtar decided to step out of Pakistan's traditional domestic rule which requires women to stay home, when she saw her family going through financial hardship.
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Therefore, in order to support two children at home and to cover the cost of her three eldest daughters' weddings, Akhtar set off to take driving lessons for heavy vehicles.
"My son tells me not to drive too far, it's dangerous but I told him that we have to earn a living. We only eat when we earn," Akhtar said as she prepared herself to transport a load of 7000 bricks from a factory in Rawalpindi to Azad Jammu and Kashmir, a gruelling 200 kilometres trip.
An inspiration for many, she was issued a public service vehicle license, a first for a Pakistani woman- allowing her to pull trailers, drive trucks and tractors.
"Whatever I am today, it is because of the Islamabad Traffic Police training course," Akhtar said humbly.
Further, while most Pakistani male drivers lack formal driving lessons for heavy vehicles, Akhtar seems to have an edge over the men which she uses to teach a novice.
And among many of her colleagues, her student Usman Ali too, has a lot of respect for Akhtar.
"She behaves well, and treats us like her sons. We too treat her as a mother and that is how our relationship is," one of Akhtar's colleagues said for her.
However, despite the love and respect from all her coworkers, Akhtar still faces discrimination in Pakistan. Regardless of passing the driving test for Islamabad's new bus line, she was told there would be no jobs for women.
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When that too, did not seem to break her down, she gave a message to her fellow Pakistani women, "Women, try to do something all the time, don't make yourselves lazy or believe that you are weak and can't achieve such milestones. We can do everything. We are capable enough, by the grace of God."
Further, Akhtar hopes her drive and determination will inspire other Pakistani women to follow her down the road to equality.
This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty
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