Bamburi Cement’s ‘Women on wheels program’


December 18th, 2021 was a memorable day for women short- and long-distance drivers in the country. This is the day the Women On Wheels program, under the theme ‘getting women behind the wheels’ was formally launched by Bamburi Cement Plc in partnership with several companies and institutions at a Nairobi hotel.

Remarkably, the company manages at least 1500 trucks daily which transport raw materials from different sources and deliver cement and related construction materials to different customers on diverse roads all over eastern Africa.

The Women On Wheels program essentially seeks to get more female truck drivers on the road. Through the program, the women undergo comprehensive training & coaching with emphasis being on road safety in the operation of heavy goods vehicles. The women are later absorbed by Bamburi in its cement logistics operations to ensure safe, efficient and timely deliveries to customers.

With various partners who were described at the grand event as friends  of Women on Wheels and who currently include Isuzu East Africa, Kenya Transporters Association (KTA), Pioneer Road Safety Consultants Ltd, Diamond Defensive Driving Academy (DDDA), the Directorate of Occupational Safety & Health Services (DOSHS), the UN Global Compact and the National Transport & Safety Authority (NTSA), Bamburi ensures that the women undergo rigorous technical, soft skills and defensive driving training coupled with practical training sessions on the roads in addition to simulator exercises that expose the women to different driving techniques.

At recruitment by Bamburi transport partners, working conditions consider the women special needs such as having to keep close to families and assigning them to friendly routes. To join the program, the women may have or not have prior training and experience.

The program is also premised on Diversity, Equity and inclusion, and Health & Safety which are important pillars in Bamburi’s sustainability agenda. According to a recent Bamburi’s news bulletin, research has shown that female drivers are up to 4 times safer than their male counterparts, yet only a small percentage of track drivers are women with the launched program aiming to bridge this gap by recruiting more female truck drivers and welcoming them into the Bamburi family

Some of the beneficiaries of the ‘women on wheels program’

According to information provided at the event and quoting a 2020 Survey by the Flone Initiative, currently Kenyan women make up only 10 per cent of the public transport workforce with 85 per cent of them working as matatu operators in the Nairobi Metropolitan area.

Moreover, a 2020 World Bank & Ministry of Transport & Infrastructure Survey indicates barriers that stop women from joining the ranks as drivers to include the dominant masculinity culture and gender stereotypes, discrimination, unequal treatment at work, sexual harassment, exposure to violence on the roads and lack of work-life balance. The ‘care-trap’ also creates a working environment that fails to attract and retain women in the transport professions.

Bamburi Cement MD Seddiq Hassani, represented at the event by Moses Were Bamburi’s Supply Chain Director, said the program fits well with the company’s Diversity, Equity & Inclusion agenda. In December 2020, the company signed the Women’s Empowerment Principles (WEP) of the UN as part of its commitment to promoting gender equality and inclusion in its workplace and the Community.

“The gender gap is far from being closed but we’re 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 the markets that we serve,” added.

The company’s head of Health, Safety & Environment Jane Wangare explained that apart from offering training, the program shall also ensure job placement for women at Bamburi and among its logistics partners. “We intend and purpose to recruit at least 100 women every year into the program and increase the numbers going into the brighter future.”

Isuzu E Africa MD aand Bamburi Board Member Rita Kavashe as the chief guest commended Bamburi for raising the consciousness of women truck drivers and promoting their movement.

“We at Isuzu also believe in inclusivity and diversity and pioneered women truck driver training for our customers since they required high quality truck drivers. We still have a mismatch in the country with a high demand for good drivers and yet with many drivers who remain unemployed,” Kavashe observed.

She explained that driver behavior and work ethic and attitude are critical factors that employers consider in hiring drivers and more so for truck driving. She urged the women drivers who were represented by a score of truck drivers at the event to value and regard themselves as noble professionals.

In offering the truck drivers training Isuzu had come across many fake driving licenses and fake certificates of good conduct showing that the profession has been suffering from poor quality driving that perhaps explains the many fatal road accidents in the country. Kavashe urged employers to respect the drivers they employ.

Representatives from the KTA and the DDDA also provided interesting insights into driving as a career and also highlighted some of the challenges faced by women drivers such as intimidation and bullying on the roads.

It was revealed that many transporters are now keen to hire women drivers given their diligence, commitment to duty, cleanliness of trucks and low levels of accidents incidence.  Yet there is a shortage of women truck drivers with a long list of waiting transporters being held at both Isuzu and Bamburi Cement.

The KTA revealed that the trucks driven by women drivers have less dents, are cleaner and are better managed; and that women tend to do up 11 trips on average compared to 5 trips by men an indication of the hard work and diligence of the women drivers. The NTSA also indicated that it had recorded nil fatal accidents or incidents involving women truck drivers.

Virginia Wangechi, who hails from Limuru, Kiambu County and who has driven trucks for the last 11 years represented the drivers in a speech. She thanked Isuzu for the good training and also appreciated efforts of the DDDA.

“Defensive driving improves discipline. We have been taught to keep distance from other drivers. We are more obedient and adhere to instructions and we highly appreciate Bamburi for offering jobs to many of us,” she said. It was revealed that Bamburi employs over 43 truck drivers currently.

Wangechi said she doesn’t compete with male drivers, who often tend to intimidate and engage in speed battles on the road. “I just allow them to overtake and to speed on as I mind my driving business,” she said.


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