The arid lands of Tharparkar and the Thar desert are unlikely places to find women engaged in potentially revolutionary activity. Communities are poor, poorly educated and deeply conservative. Opportunities for employment beyond arid agriculture are few and far between but change is in the air. Beneath the ochre topsoil there is coal, coal which can be fed into Pakistan’s ongoing energy crisis. It may be of poor quality and globally the move is away from fossil fuels to greener energy solutions, but 175 billion tons of coal is there and waiting to be taken from the ground, and it is in the taking out that the women of Tharparkar find themselves having a very unexpected career option. Dumper truck driver.
Big truck driving the world over has always been a man’s job. Even in the emancipated developed nations it is not common for women to be truckers. The work is physically hard, and even with sophisticated modern vehicles that have power steering and other adjuncts to the quality of working life — it’s tough. But a 25 year-old mother of three is today driving a 60 ton dumper truck, earning what by local standards is a substantial wage and she is being joined by a growing number of other women.
The glass ceiling for women in the jobs market is set low. Merely by standing up they may bump their head against it. Now there are 30 women being trained as truck drivers by the Sindh Engro Coal Mining Company (SECMC), and they may earn up to Rs40,000 a month. The company currently has 125 trucks working on the vast open-cast pit but says it is going to need 400, and the work extends into a long future. If it can be done in Tharparkar, it can be done elsewhere. Traditional male chauvinist attitudes can be overcome, and women really can challenge stereotypes and break barriers. The women truckers of Tharparkar may be little more than a quirky headline today but they are also harbingers of change. Pakistan? Women truckers? Yes and why not. Step forward and take the wheel, ladies.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 1st, 2017.
Source: Tribune News
Original Post: Women in the driving seat