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Women succeed in operating road construction machines

When Ruth Majimbo hinted to her father of her interest to pursue a career in driving heavy trucks and other heavy duty vehicles, he declined.

The Father, Willy Ndiwa Kapkara who stays in Trans Nzoia knew very well his daughter wouldn’t make it. To him such careers were a reserve for men. He became hesitant.

He tried to change the mindset of his daughter to seek alternative careers to no avail. Majimbo was ready to offer men a challenge and change the status quo.

Determined, Majimbo, now 34, enrolled for a driving course at the Kenya Institute of Highways and Building Technology that was back in 2015.The institution is located in Ngong Nairobi.

Although her dream was to drive heavy duty vehicles, she says she is satisfied to have trained and ended up operating a motor grader.

On a daily routine, Majimbo spends her days on road construction sites. If that could not be the case, today she will be crossing borders delivering goods to other countries using trucks.

“While still young I was interested in driving as a career and my aim was to drive heavy duty vehicles. But I think God planned for me to operate road construction machines, When I told my father he said the work is for men I won’t make it,” she says.

Majimbo says despite the fact that her father was hesitant at first, he left her to pursue the career after noticing she was not going to look back.

Now her father has accepted and together with her mother Lucy Chebet Andrea, keep encouraging her and praying for her to succeed in whatever she does.

The motor grader is believed to be driven by men only. She says most believe that women can only make it in driving Rollers and excavators but she is determined to work hard and make it.

“In this field, we have many machines like the Rollers, excavators which many believe can be operated by women. Motor grader became the hardest job that many people shy away from including some men, only a few took the task while most women shied from it,” she explained.

She says after finishing her training in May 2015, she secured industrial attachment on the Kitale-Webuye road which was being constructed by the Zhongmei Engineering Construction Company. She says the company mentored her with proper skills to succeed in the career.

After the industrial attachment, she got placed at another Chinese company which was constructing the Iten-Nyaru road.

Majimbo noted that the job has got its share of challenges especially because the majority of the workers are men, a reason why she calls for other women to train to operate the road construction machines as she promises to mentor as many as possible.

Currently she works with Tai Enterprises Company that is constructing the Mumias-Musanda 16Kilometer road. She joined the company in 2018.

She says that whatever she earns is enough to feed her family and take care of her needs. Her husband also accepted and allowed her to work despite the fact that she travels a lot working in different places.

“I urge the president to continue opening up opportunities in the informal sector since the majority of youth have now trained in polytechnics hence they have the skills. Opening up opportunities will employ the majority of them,” she noted.

For one to succeed as a motor grader operator, she says, they need to be sober minded, avoid drinking alcohol, understand oneself and rely on God.

Until now, Majimbo has mentored three other girls, two are working in Lodwar while her other student is working in Busia with different construction companies.

About 30 miles from her working site, we get another 30-year-old woman, Maryann Nafula Simiyu who is not shy from operating a roller.

The mother of two, works as a plant operator with Thelmax International Company that is constructing Sango-Mawe Tatu road in Kakamega County.

She also trained at Kenya Institute of Highways and Building Technology (KIHBT) in Ngong Nairobi, by then there were only three women out of 120 students in her class   .

She says this is her seventh year since she started working, having worked with various companies and travelled through different places.

Simiyu who comes from Kabras says, after her studies, she worked with the Kakamega County government for her industrial attachment before coming to Thelmax International Company.

She said she was passionate about pursuing a career in operating construction machines after she saw one woman operating the same in Nairobi. She then inquired where she could train and was directed to KIHBT.

With her passion, she says she has mentored two other ladies, one working in Busia while she is currently mentoring another one who schooled at the Sensei Institute of Technology, who came a long way from the coast to Kakamega for her industrial attachment.

“I am happy when I construct a road and I see it perfectly done. When you pass by that road you are encouraged. I thank the president for initiating the construction of Mapera Sango road which has created many jobs for the youth and opened the area for residents,” she pointed out.

Kakamega County Commissioner John Ondego recognised efforts made by women and appreciated contractors for considering women in their contracts.

“The projects have also provided some jobs for youth and women and have boosted the economy of the locals,” he noted.

The President’s Delivery Unit Coordinator for Western Region Ochengo Onguso said President Uhuru Kenyatta is determined to ensure youth and women get opportunities in all sectors including construction that were previously dominated by men.

In Kakamega, The National Government has already completed upgrading 135 Kilometers of roads to bitumen standards out of the contracted 240Kilometers. By the end of the contracts the government will have spent Sh. 10.2billion.

The remaining works are ongoing, most of them will be completed before the end of this financial year while the rest will be completed by the start of the coming financial year.

Ochengo noted that the Government contracted eight road projects in Kakamega under KeRRA with two of them already complete.

Among the complete road networks are the Sigalagala-Butere road a stretch of 34 Kilometers and the Butere-Sidindi-Sigombe-Ugunja road a stretch of 57Kilometers. Both were upgraded to bitumen standard.

Other roads which are undergoing construction are the Lunza-Shiraha-Akatsa road a 37Kilometer road in Ikonyero,  Malava-Kimangeti-Ikoli road a 13Kilometer road,Lukusi-Sango-Mawe Tatu a 10Kilometer road.

The others are Kakamega-Navakholo-Musikoma 45Kilometer road which links Kakamega and Bungoma counties, Ibokolo-Indangalasia-Shianda-Nambacha market a 26 Kilometer road and the Mumias-Musanda a 16Kilometer road.

Apart from the eight KeRRA roads, the government through Kenya National Highway Authority (KeNHA) is also undertaking construction of highways passing through Kakamega.

Among the projects is the Kisumu-Kakamega highway, a Sh7.9billion project and the Sh 5.2billion Kakamega-Webuye Highway.

By Moses Wekesa

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