Maïmouna Sall, or “Maïmouna the mechanic”, is a 26-year-old married and mother of one, but what makes her stand out in this Fulbe and Muslim ultra-conservative society is her career choice, a car mechanic. Maimouna graduated from a vocational high school “Lycée Technique” in Nouakchott. After her graduation, she went to work in a mechanic shop in the Mellah neighborhood, a district of the commune of Arafat, in the southern suburbs of the Mauritanian capital, Nouakchott.
Originally from Bababé, a town in the valley of the Senegal River, Maimouna’s career had already aroused a lot of curiosity in her community because of her uncommon choice. A mechanic is a “men’s job” people would say, but for Maimouna, this was a calling: “I love cars and I love to work on them”, she says. Recently she was featured in a news report by a Moroccan online news site, le360 Afrique.ma. Retracing her career, in that interview posted on YouTube, Maimouna explains the reasons for this unusual professional and social choice for a woman, particularly in Mauritania. She talks about her love for this fascinating job, which leads her to operate several vehicles and work on distinct types of engines, as well as her relationships with customers. She also talks about the challenges of being a married woman and raising a little kid while doing these kinds of physical work. Both her father and her husband, she says, are incredibly supportive of her choice. Her mother, however, still can’t fathom her decision to choose men’s work instead of pursuing an education that would give her the opportunity to find an office or other government work.
For some young Fulani and Mauritanian women, Maimouna is a trailblazer and role model. Djelika Kelly is one of them. A friend of Maïmouna Sall, trained in building electricity, another field where women are just as rare, says she was inspired by her friend in choosing her profession. She praises her example and invites Mauritanian and African women to break down the barriers, and fight the stigma, that certain jobs are exclusively reserved for men.