Women revolutionizing Istanbul’s public transportation

Fatma Aksu – ISTANBUL

Women are putting their mark on Istanbul’s public transportation, as the number of women drivers working at the Istanbul Metro has risen to 99 out of the total 772.

Carrying commuters all day and working underground in different shifts, women metro drivers strictly oppose being called “vatman,” a word of French origin, which means tram drivers, representing male workers.

“The era of vatman has finished. The era of vatwoman has begun,” said 30-year-old Burcu Kasap, a female metro driver.

“I have graduated from Kocaeli University’s Human Resources Faculty. I previously worked as a digger operator for a construction company and am now working at the Istanbul Metro,” Kasap added.

Stating that she graduated from Anadolu University’s Public Administration Faculty and is now working as a tram driver at the Istanbul Metro, 37-year-old Havva Çakmak said she works four days a week.

“I am the ruler of this big tram,” she said.

Hande Nur Gülek, who controls the Üsküdar-Çekmeköy line, said that it was her dream to work in a metro.

When asked how men react when they see a women metro driver working, 26-year-old Kübra Sucu, who controls the Yenikapı-Hacıosman line, said, “Even my father could not believe it.”

“I took graphic design training in my university. When I applied for this job, even my father opposed me, saying that it was a man’s job,” she said, adding that her father got surprised when she passed exams and became a driver.

Kasap also faced people disagreeing with her choice of profession, questing her capability if she could do such a job.

“Some of my friends said that I was a ‘puny plaza girl.’ They did not find the job [of a tram driver] suitable for me,” Kasap said.

Noting that her mother has been her mentor who encouraged her greatly, she said, “My mother supported and encouraged me to become a metro driver. She is so proud of me that she calls everybody and tells them about my job.”

When asked whether the job is hard for her to do or not, Sucu said, “It is easier than driving a vehicle on roads or highways. There is no traffic problem here, underground. Because commuters are sitting inside, the metro vehicle drives automatically.”

The drivers only have to drive trams manually in emergencies, she added.

Noting that, of course, every job has its difficulties, and even though she is newly married and has to stay away from home due to shifts, Kasap said that she loves her job anyway.

“My husband usually has to wait for me at home, as due to my shifts, I have to work late sometimes. But anyway, I love my job,” she stated.

The Istanbul Metro, which started service in 1989 with only one line, now has 89 stations in service with 50 more under construction.

Out of the 89 operating stations, 73 are fully underground, five are elevated stations, nine are embankment tube stations and two are partially underground.

The metro operates from 6 a.m. until midnight every six to 10 minutes.

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