With the scholarships pledged by the MAW Foundation, twelve women have set their foot forward to explore non-traditional male-dominated sectors such as heavy equipment operation and mechanics. Accessible to needy women, the scholarship has enabled women to create a pathway to better job opportunities based on their ability.
The trail of Anjila Devi, our first female trainee from the Mandal community in Janakpur and the first recipient of the MAW Foundation scholarship, is followed by eleven other equally enthusiastic women. All of our women trainees come from various backgrounds but have the same motive – to challenge the stereotypical, gendered construction occupation and hone a life-enhancing skill.
“I always had a dream of becoming an operator because I think there’s nothing a woman cannot do that a man can. I used to drive an e-rickshaw and was looking for an opportunity to up-skill. With the Foundation’s and my family support, I am determined I can become a heavy equipment operator and instructor one day”, remarked our newly enrolled trainee, Dipa Adhikari. Manju Rai, another scholarship recipient, claims, “Operating the machine requires mental strength, and not physical strength” when asked about how challenging it is to step into the machine as an operator.
The well-equipped facilities and the expertise of the instructors have helped our women trainees, 10 in Bhaktapur and one each at Janakpur and Nepalgunj, to hone their skills and aided them in becoming confident. “If we are skilled, we will earn and provide for ourselves and our families. We do not have to rely on anyone to fulfill our needs”, stated Indira K. Ghising during our brief conversation on a field visit.
These affirmations echo how far our women trainees have come in terms of breaking gender barriers. While we celebrate their courage, we must not forget these celebrations should not last long. Seeing a woman operator should not fascinate us. Talking to one should not chill our spine. On the contrary, it should feel as normal as talking to any other person. It should be as mundane as seeing a man driving a cab.