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Building the Future: A Female Plant Operator

It is through hope, ambition and inner strength that women can tap into everyday power to leave a mark in the society by demonstrating their skills and expertise in doing something with men.

Born of a father who is a truck driver, Sarah Kaguongo got inspired to venture into a field traditionally perceived as a preserve for men.

Kaguongo is a plant operator working with the West Pokot County government after securing the job in 2014 where she battles it out with men in operating bulldozers, wheel shovels and excavators.

She said she developed her passion for becoming a plant operator from his father and in 2013 she enrolled with the Kenya Institute of Highway and Building Technology, a government college under the ministry of transport, infrastructure, housing, urban development, and public works whose mission is to ease the provision of high-quality infrastructure through training of its citizens.

Kaguongo acquired a three-month training in the institute and graduated as a plant operator ready to pursue her dream of operating bulldozers, wheel shovel and excavators.

“To be a plant operator, you must have relevant skills and knowledge which is mainly acquired at a college through training on how to run the heavy earth- moving machines and lifting equipment” she advises.

She holds that her inspiration came from her father who a truck driver is dealing with the large truck motor vehicle.

“My father told me that I could also make it like him as a truck driver or as a plant operator since the same is about interest and willingness to learn. He advised me that one way of succeeding in any given career is through handwork and persistence,” noted the plant operator.

Kaguongo said she enjoys the job she got after seeking a further three months’ practical attachment after her graduation in 2013.

“Work experience is essential to gaining employment within the transport and infrastructure industry because the employer will always be pleased to see your resume if indeed you have relevant skills for the job, passion and interest in doing it,” she poses.

What started as a passion is now a full time job that has made Kaguongo earn a salary which enables her to fend for herself, child, and sibling and support her aging parents.

“The challenges of balancing career, motherhood and working in a male-dominated environment poses a threat but I am focused as a woman to doing my job to the best of my abilities, knowledge and skills,” emphasises Kaguongo.

She holds that the issue of male counterparts dominating in most jobs is in the mind set but not practical as the same will soon be overcome with a change in culture, a focus in tightening female networks and increasing men and women mentorship programmes.

She encourages fellow women to join her in playing a leading role in nation building by helping themselves through doing things that will help them put food on their tables and generate income.

“Women should not give up if they want to get a better life. Women should challenge men with their skills and abilities in making it happen by encouraging teamwork towards achieving a common goal for success,” said Kaguongo

West Pokot government encourages gender diversity in work places and Kaguongo is a good example, and since she secured the job, she has been challenging other women with talents and skills not to shy away from seeking government jobs when advertised.

“Jobless women should think outside the box and come out of their comfort zones to pursue dreams and passion of their choices without fear or intimidation from anyone since they are protected by existing labour laws,” she insisted.

Kaguongo prohibits gender stereotypes that discriminate against men and women in all spheres of their lives.

“Women have over the years been made to play roles of homemaking and caring for the young ones, an ancient belief that discouraged them from doing certain jobs perceived as a preserve for men,” poses the female plant operator.

And with now her eight years of valuable work experience as a Plant Operator, Kaguongo ended her career story with a quote from Dr Sheila Murray Bethel who is a global leadership and change expert, “One of the most courageous things you can do is identify yourself, know who you are, what you believe in and where you want to go’’.

By Anthony Melly and Richard Muhambe

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