SIDON, Lebanon: Working long hours filling up gas, Amani Muneimneh challenges gender stereotypes amid a scorching sun and long fuel queues.
"I do not differentiate between man or woman. Everyone must abide by their turn to fill their tanks. I treat everyone equally and I refuse any bribery to skip the long queue,” said 22-year-old Muneimneh.
In a country where working at a gas station is a profession reserved for men, Amani breaks the cycle.
Bypassing a "gender-appropriate" occupation, she works eight hours a day filling up cars in gas stations, hardly making LL700,000 a month, around $37.5 at the current market rate. Residing on the outskirts of Sidon, she is the only woman employed at the station.
“I encourage women to work, not only in the station but in any profession. It is not shameful for a woman to master a craft that is deemed for men by society. No profession is restricted to any sex,” she says.
Amani left her design career in 2017, finding herself thwarted into this profession as the fuel crisis unfurled. She adeptly resets the digital counter on the fuel pump with every upcoming customer, saying, “There is no job I revel in more than this. I haven’t been subject to harassment; my male colleagues are sympathetic and respectful.”
“The smell of gas follows me wherever I go, even to bed,” she adds.
Offering no special treatment to anyone, she receives customers gracefully with words that ease the weariness of long queues.
Amani and her family stand in solidarity with one another, especially in light of the difficult living circumstances. “You have to find a way to make things work,” Amani laughs.
Mired in a grim economic crisis alongside the COVID-19 pandemic, the Lebanese are struggling to grapple with fuel shortages. With the government slowly easing subsidies on fuel and half of the population falling below the poverty line, a social shift ensues as more women are hurled into working outside their expected occupations.
“The price of gasoline has increased exponentially as 20 liters verges LL80,000, and people endure outlandishly long-queues at gas stations. The situation is alarming,” Amani says.
Despite working under harsh conditions, she adds, “you have to be sympathetic, especially in this crisis, where one waits four hours or more under a searing sun to fill up the carwith fuel.”