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Breaking barriers: Kericho woman operating heavy earth moving equipment

The advent of modern technology is now giving women opportunities to work in the previously male dominated occupations.

Subsequently, the society is currently witnessing a new crop of women with big dreams and determination to break all stereotypes as well as old fashioned traditions hampering women from engaging in progressive nation building.

Such is the story of 37-year-old, Emma Saina, a mother of one from Sotik Sub-county in Bomet, who opted to follow her passion to operate an Ecolog Forwarder Machine, a job widely perceived to be a preserve for men, due to its energy sapping nature.

A Forwarder is a forestry vehicle that carries big felled logs from the stump to a roadside landing.

Saina is a Forwarder Operator with the James Finlay Company Limited, Forestry Department, after securing the job in 2010.

As you watch her drive the Sh70 million Ecolog Forwarder Machine with ease as she keenly moves the sized logs to the stacking site, one can only marvel at the strength of women in growing the country’s economy.

Saina took the tough choice of pursuing her passion of driving earth moving machines and ensuring the tree trunks are neatly put into a pile of 25 cubic metres high, after she graduated from Kenya Forestry Service College, upon taking a three-year diploma course in forestry from 2007-2010.

With her passion and an interest in forest conservation, the forester signed on for training as an Ecology Forwarder in 2014 and completed the two-year training and exams at the James Finlay Company Limited that offered a women empowerment program.

And upon graduation she was transferred from the Mensuration Department where she worked as a clerk at the company’s Forestry Department before moving to the Logging Unit.

“My previous background in forestry gave me a solid foundation in driving my passion. The Forestry Department at the Company protects the 10,000 hectares under trees from the time they are planted until when they are harvested. I am happy that the two-year training equipped me with relevant skills and knowledge on how to operate heavy earth moving machines and I don’t regret the move,” said Saina.

Saina told KNA, Wednesday, that she had always wanted to pursue a career in operating earth movers and was inspired to venture into the field traditionally a preserved for men from watching her father plough the family’s shamba using his tractor.

“As a child growing up, I loved anything mechanical due to the fact that I grew up watching my father use his tractor to plough our shamba and when he would complete the job, he would leave it parked at our homestead. I would then climb and sit on the chair and play with all its gears” she said.

She hopes women countrywide will continue to debunk myriad of stereotypes placed on their way and embark on laying greater emphasis on the education of girls who want to pursue careers in science and technology.

“My work starts very early in the morning by first checking my machine grease, other possible defaults and using the checklist I log to note everything down before commencing with my work at 6.30am until 1.30pm.

This has always been my passion. When you have the right attitude, you will go far. As women need to believe more in ourselves and our abilities. At the place of work, we are only two women against six operators but we endeavor to work as a team,” said Saina.

Her full-time job enables Saina to fend for herself and take care of her teenage daughter as well as her other family members back home.

The Company General Manager Corporate Affairs, Sammy Kirui, reiterated that they seek to support women as they too are capable of doing jobs once reserved for men.

“The women plant operators are now fully conversant even with the very complicated machines through our gender empowerment programs started in 2014”, added Kirui.

However, Saina acknowledges that working in a male dominated field comes with its own unique challenges that requires one to embrace certain principles to survive.

Nonetheless, with valuable work experience attained over the last five years at the current job, Saina who has a 400 tree seedlings nursery of both exotic and indigenous trees at her Sotik Home, Bomet County says passion is the secret ingredient that drives hard work and excellence in every sector.

Girls with dreams become visionary women. Aspire to make a difference in everything you do and with the right attitude you will definitely excel,” reiterated the enthusiastic ecology forwarder.

By Sarah Njagi

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