• 31 Dec - 06 Jan, 2023
  • Wajiha Jawaid
  • Feature

It is a wee hour of the day and young women, clad in blue uniforms, yellow caps, and black boots, all gear up to take the charge of dump truck drivers in the desert of Thar. “I'm no longer dependent on my spouse for financial support. When I asked one of them how her life had changed since gaining this work, she replied, "I can earn too and take care of my family's financial requirements. “My life got a 360-degree shift. Back in the day, I used to wake up early morning to collect wood to make food for my family or carry a water pot on my head. The situation is different now. I drive a gigantic truck as well as help meet [my family's] expenditures. Today, while I sit in the driver's seat, I am handling both the vehicle's gears and my life as well, Mohini told MAG.

She operates a dump truck at the flagship project of the Sindh Engro Coal Mining Company's corporate social responsibility division (SECMC). The goal of the project is to give local women financial independence by enrolling them in a training program to become dump truck drivers in the Thar coal operations.

Mohini joined Thar foundation’s Dump Truck Driver project a few years ago when her husband was ill and couldn’t take care of the family.

“My husband was ill and it was hard for us to make the ends meet. Somebody told me that Thar Coal Project is hiring local women so I approached them and started working here after getting trained in driving school,” said a 35-year-old woman who is now able to send her kids to private school thanks to the financial inclusion she gets while working at Thar Coal project.

When it comes to obtaining economic independence, Mohini is not alone. We met several other women whose lives were transformed by achieving financial stability.

"I was an introvert before joining the Thar Foundation. I lacked courage while approaching strangers. I didn't know how to treat the elderly. Another dump truck driver told us, "In addition to making money, I've learned how to treat people.”

Role Reversal in Relationship

In urban communities, it is relatively common for husbands and wives to switch between their customary roles and routines in the course of their daily activities, but this is unheard of in rural areas.

A real-life illustration of a role-reversal relationship in rural communities is Nusrat.

"My husband left me because I was poor. To take care of my children, I started working as a dump truck driver; once I achieved financial independence, he returned to me. But this time, I put a condition. I told him to either give Rs 50,000 a month or let me continue my duty,” she stated, "Now he looks after the kids and runs errands around the house while I go to work.”

Inspiring stories like Nusrat gives courage to thousands of women out there that by getting financial stability they can take the control of their lives in their hand. They are equal to any man in terms of power and accompany them through every phase of life.

Thar foundation has played a key role in giving financial autonomy to Thari women. Projects like women dump truck drivers, khushaal naari, Women Enterprise Development program and female RO plant operators have changed the lives of hundreds of Thari women. It has empowered them to live with dignity by earning their incomes.

When addressing the media on the initiatives of the Thar Foundation, mining engineer Sana Mohammad Afzal stated that their main goal was not only to conserve energy but also to give the residents of this region equal chances to flourish as a developing region.

“When we started the project we noticed that local women are very resilient, and determined and are doing different tasks in their day-to-day life. The main issue was that the local women lacked the literacy necessary to work in commerce, so we gave them skill-based initiatives instead,” Sana stated.

She further added, “Initially, around 50 women in the age bracket of 30-45 years were taken on board to get trained at a driving school. There are currently 25 women working in the sector among them. Some of them left us in search of better pastures, while others had to go because of domestic duties.”