MULTAN -- Since picking up a wrench as one of the first female car mechanics in Pakistan, Uzma Nawaz has faced two common reactions: shock and surprise.
And then a bit of respect.
The 24-year-old spent years overcoming entrenched gender stereotypes and financial hurdles as she struggled to earn a degree in mechanical engineering and netting a job with an auto repair garage in Multan District, Punjab Province.
"I took it up as a challenge against all odds and the meagre financial resources of my family," Nawaz told AFP.
"When the people see me doing this type of work, they are really surprised."
Hailing from the small, impoverished town of Dunyapur, Nawaz relied on scholarships and often skipped meals when she was broke while pursuing her degree.
Her achievements are rare. Women have long struggled for their rights in Pakistan, especially in rural areas, and are often pressured to marry young and to devote themselves to family over career.
Her sacrifices cleared the way for steady work at a Toyota dealership in Multan following graduation, she explained.
Refusing to give in
"No hardship could break my will and motivation," she said.
Nawaz was promoted to general repairs just a year into the job. She moves with the ease of a seasoned professional around the dealership's garage, removing tyres from raised vehicles, inspecting engines and handling a variety of tools -- a sight that initially jolted some customers.
"I was shocked to see a young girl lifting heavy spare tyres and then putting them back on vehicles after repairs," said customer Arshad Ahmad.
But Nawaz's drive and expertise have impressed her colleagues, who say she can more than hold her own.
"Whatever task we give her, she does it like a man with hard work and dedication," said M. Attaullah, one of Nawaz's co-workers.
She has also convinced some of those who doubted her ability to make it in a male-dominated work environment, including her own family members.
"There is no need in our society for girls to work at workshops; it doesn't seem nice, but it is her passion," said her father, Muhammad Nawaz.
"She can now set up the machinery and can work properly. I too am very happy."