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Women dump truck drivers of Tharparkar: inspiration and pride

PAGE (Pakistan and Gulf Economist) sought views of the women dump truck drivers of Tharparkar, Sindh namely Ms. Seeta from Mithi, Ms. Lata from Nagar Parker, Ms. Gulaba from Islamkot, Ms. Rukhsana from Nagar Parker, Ms. Dhano from Nagar Parker, Ms. Marvi Bheel from Nagar Parker, Ms. Ramoo from Islamkot, Ms. Saavitri from Nagar Parker and Ms. Daimey from Nagar Parker.

All these females get instructions about driving in a comfortable training room from 9am to 5pm everyday with a female instructor and they get a chance to drive a vehicle as well. They all praised their female instructor and told us that they get pick and drop and complimentary meals. Some of these females are unmarried and others are married having children. They all are being encouraged by their husbands, parents and other family members to do this job. Thari women are going to make history by driving 60-tonne dump trucks in coal fields. In a first in the country’s history, Thari women have been employed to drive dumper trucks at the Thar coalfields in Sindh.

Ms. Dhano from Nagar Parker told PAGE that she always wanted to drive and now her dream has come true. She was very excited about her job and told us that she wanted to brighten the name of Pakistan in the world.

Mr Shamsuddin Shaikh, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of SECMC said: “We had to come up with an out-of-the-box solution to help women benefit truly from the development taking place in Thar. It was difficult task and we faced a lot of skeptics, however, we were determined to make it work because the social and economic empowerment of Thari women is the only way to bring Tharis out of poverty. We are very happy with the overwhelming response for this project. “One of the major components of SECMC’s coal mining project is to provide livelihood opportunities to local communities.”

The Sindh Engro Coal Mining Company (SECMC), which has Government of Sindh as the major shareholder has received an overwhelming response for its Female Dump Truck Driver Program, which the company introduced near the town of Islamkot in Tharparkar. After a screening process, 35 women have already been shortlisted for different tests in the first phase. The women have been inducted and will formally begin their employment only after they complete one year of training. They will then be moved into a regular job, where they will receive all basic facilities.

Mr Shamsuddin Shaikh said when we started our project in Islamkot, we witnessed that Thari women were very strong and resilient and did a lot of arduous tasks. Since SECMC also strives to provide equal job opportunities to men and women, it was realized that a dedicated project to induct women in driving could work, and response we received from Thari women showed that we had stepped ahead in right direction by employing women as dump truck drivers.

 

When asked about the criterion of job given to these women, it was told that a total of 70 women applicants, especially from the low-income group, had been interviewed for the job, out of which 30 successful candidates would be inducted into the program. The second phase of the program had started and around 45 women were scheduled to be screened for the selection of another group of 25-30 women, who would undergo a one-year training program before driving Pakistan’s biggest 60-tonne dump truck. Transparent, merit-based scrutiny of applications was followed by interviews and finally, selection of successful candidates. The benefits of this game-changing project must be passed on to indigenous communities which are primary stakeholders of Thar Coal. And this project to train and induct women as dump truck drivers at coal mine is SECMC’s commitment towards empowering women of the area, to help them stand shoulder-to-shoulder with men when it comes to socioeconomic affairs and decision making at community level.

The SECMC will provide Rs15,000 as monthly stipend as well as pick-and-drop service to the trainees for the entire training period. One male family member of the selected woman candidate will also be offered a job, subject to company policies, an opportunity of taking up civil works training.The program has been envisioned to empower the Thari women and, by doing so, give them their due share in the socioeconomic affairs of the region, culminating in having them hold a say in the decision-making process at family as well community level.

Sindh Engro Coal Mining Company inked a contract with MCCT Associates to train selected Thari women drivers on professional grounds. Mining company announced this initiative to induct women in Pakistan’s biggest 60-tonne dump truck at coal mining site Thar Coal Block II in district Tharparkar. The contract was signed by SECMC’s chief executive officer Mr Shamsuddin Ahmad Shaikh and Mr Tanvir Gondal, MCCT’s senior consultant.

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