Dubai's First Female Double-Decker Bus Drivers Team / Posted On - March 30th 2023
Marygoldcez Carolino Diwa De Castro (left), Gladys Jepkemoi Kiprotich (center) and Ailen Pueto Leaño Francisco (right)
Meet the trio of Marygoldcez Carolino Diwa De Castro, 36 years old, Ailen Pueto Leaño Francisco, 46 years old and Gladys Jepkemoi Kiprotich, 37 years old. They are the first female bus drivers in the emirate who are now driving the massive double-decker buses around the city of Dubai as the first female bus drivers in the emirate.
Two of them, Marygoldcez Carolino Diwa De Castro, 36 years old, and Ailen Pueto Leaño Francisco, 46 years old, are from the Philippines while the third one Gladys Jepkemoi Kiprotich, 37 years old, is from Kenya.
These women have expanded their professional roles as bus drivers and were first deployed by the emirate's Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) in the city’s internal bus network back in July 2020. They started their role as female drivers in the public double-decker buses on March 23.
Prior to being given longer routes, they used to manage shorter ones for Dubai Metro feeder buses, including Route 22 (Deira City Centre to Al Nahda), Route 53 (International City to Gold Souq), Route 55 (International City to Satwa), and Route 1 from Al Warsan to Al Nahda.
Marygoldcez Carolino Diwa De Castro (left) and and Ailen Pueto Leaño Francisco (right)
De Castro and Francisco told Khaleej Times, “Now, imagine someone like us – petite women who are a little over five feet driving a 40-foot long, 15-foot high and 6.5-foot wide two-storey bus that can carry around 120 passengers. It’s unprecedented, it’s like we have broken the glass ceiling and removed that so-called invisible barrier affecting women in advancing their careers. We have also proven that what men can do, we (women) can do too.”

Rewarding role

Such feelings of accomplishment and fulfilment are also felt by their passengers. Francisco described her pleasant meeting with a female traveller wearing an abaya last week in Karama. “She’s my kababayan (compatriot), and before coming off the bus, she approached me and said ‘thank you’.
Ailen Pueto Leaño Francisco, 46 years old
She added, "I also saw in her eyes that she almost tearing up with joy, and perhaps overwhelmed seeing a Filipina like her driving a massive bus, which is generally dominated by men. I really felt proud that day. I was not only representing the RTA, but I was also carrying the flag of my motherland, and waving the banner of every woman.”
“Men are also appreciative of our work – like those male passengers, mostly workers, in Ras Al Khor – many of them smiled at me before getting in and coming off the bus, Driving a bus and serving people is a valuable and rewarding role,” added De Castro, who posted earlier a shout-out on her Facebook account thanking her colleagues who helped in her career advancement. Double-decker bus duty unlocked - thank God! I enjoyed my first day of duty on Route F23, finishing the day safe and sound.”

Caring character

The trio takes pride in their record of driving safely. Francisco said, “It must be because of our caring character as mothers. We treat our passengers like our children and we want them to be safe always.”
Facts support their claims, Thomas Edelmann, the founder and managing director of RoadSafetyUAE told, “They have been less involved in road accidents than male drivers in the last eight years,” he noted.
Ahmed Hashim Bahrozyan, CEO of RTA’s Public Transport Agency, meanwhile, said, “This pioneering effort of employing female bus drivers is compatible with RTA’s principle of empowering women and achieving gender balance across various jobs. It creates job opportunities for women in a field dominated by men and promotes the culture of using public transport.”

‘Inspiration to our daughters’

In addition to providing for her family, Kiprotich's role as a female bus driver serves as an example for her daughter Tiffany, 14, who is a high school student in Kenya. De Castro is also a mother of two girls and Francisco is a widow and mother to two adult children.

Kiprotich said, “I have really inspired my daughter to do well in life and in school. I’ve shown her how to be courageous and persevering. I’ve failed twice before securing the bus driver’s licence. I did not give up and continued the rigorous training. And even when I was already driving a bus, I took further training, and now I’m driving a really big bus.”

De Castro, a mother of two girls, added, “I think the message that we are driving is that women should never doubt themselves. On the road, we have proven that men and women are equal. And we hope to see more women become trailblazers in their own right."
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