•Bamburi Cement has partnered with Isuzu East Africa, Kenya Transporters Association and four other organizations to launch 'Women on Wheels'.
•This is a female-centered training and recruitment program seeking to encourage women into the trucking industry.
Bamburi Cement is leading a drive to have more women take up truck driving as a career.
On Thursday, the company in partnership with Isuzu East Africa, Kenya Transporters Association and four other organizations, launched 'Women on Wheels', a female-centered training and recruitment program seeking to encourage women into the trucking industry.
The program brings together key players in the transport industry who are keen on eliminating the entrenched male culture, improving working conditions, and ensuring safe workplaces.
Other partners include Pioneer Road Safety Consultants Ltd, Diamond Defensive Driving Academy and North Star Alliance.
Through the program, the women undergo a rigorous technical truck operation and defensive driving training where they are equipped with skills on how to operate heavy trucks, including simulator exercises that expose them to different truck driving techniques, road safety and soft skills training and coaching.
Kenyan women currently make up only 10 per cent of the public transport workforce; 85 per cent of them work as matatu operators in the Nairobi Metropolitan area – according to a 2020 survey by Flone Initiative.
Another 2020 study by World Bank and the Ministry of Transport and Infrastructure shows that barriers such as the dominant culture of masculinity and gender stereotypes, discrimination, unequal treatment at work and sexual harassment affect women.
Exposure to violence while on the road and lack of work-life balance, and ‘the care trap’ also create a working environment that fails to attract and retain women in the transport professions.
Speaking during the launch of the program, Bamburi Cement’s Country Head of Health, Safety and Environment Jane Wangari said: “Beyond the training initiatives, Women on Wheels program will also ensure job placement for the women with Bamburi and its logistics partners. We are set to recruit at least 100 women annually into the program, and grow going forward.”
Bamburi Cement Managing Director Seddiq Hassani said: “This programs fits quite well within our diversity, equity and inclusion agenda as a company."
In December last year, Bamburi signed the Women’s Empowerment Principles (WEP) as part of its commitment to promoting gender equality and inclusion in the workplace and the community.
"The gender gap is far from closed, however, we are determined to increase the proportion of women in every aspect of our operations. We continue to find more opportunities and partnerships to further entrench and influence equity among our customers, suppliers and communities across markets that we serve,”Hassani said.
Isuzu East Africa Managing Director Rita Kavashe noted that the program will include experienced women drivers ready for employment, license holders with no truck driving experience, as well as freshers who have not yet acquired a driving license.
"As Isuzu EA, we strongly believe in building relationships and partnerships for the long term because that has enabled us to grow and build Isuzu to become the market leader,” said Kavashe.
Kenya Transporters Association Chief Operating Officer Mercy Ireri observed that the trucking industry is rife with hurdles which make the transport sector unattractive for women to work in.
"Fleet managers, owners, as a well as players in the logistics value chain as a whole, have a responsibility to shift stereotypes, embrace diversity, and adapt their recruiting, hiring, and training to reflect the growing presence of women in industries that have traditionally been male-dominated,"Ireri said.
Diamond Defensive Driving Academy’s Lydia Mwaniki said: “Women have so much to offer to this industry. From our experience, not only are women less likely than men to be involved in a crash, women tend to be easier to train, and have superior customer service and paperwork skills.”
Challenges experienced by most female truck drivers go deeper than bias.
Safety is a key concern that encompasses everything from poor vehicle maintenance to dangerous or poorly lit loading docks to pushing workers to drive for long hours.
Lengthy hours away from family for days or weeks at a time also discourages many women from joining the field as long-haul drivers.
“We plan to address these concerns by ensuring that the drivers move in convoys and encouraging the transporters to allocate them shorter and safer routes. So our priorities are to ensure their wellbeing and to find ways of minimizing these obstacles,” said Wangari.
Partnerships with organizations like Pioneer Road Safety who have checkpoints for drivers, and North Star Alliance who provide safe and secure rest areas for drivers ensures that when in danger, the drivers can be easily located and assisted.
The Women on Wheels program is part of Bamburi Cement’s Sustainability programs – under Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI), and Health, Safety and Environment pillars.