In Pakistan’s coal rush, some women drivers break cultural barriers | Pakistan

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Gulaban, a 25-year previous mom of three, adjusts a fan earlier than driving a 60-tonne truck, throughout a coaching session of the Feminine Dump Truck Driver Programme, launched by the Sindh Engro Coal Mining Firm (SECMC), in Islamkot, Tharparkar, Pakistan September 21, 2017. Image taken September 21, 2017. REUTERS

ISLAMKOT: As Pakistan bets on low-cost coal within the Thar desert to resolve its power disaster, a choose group of girls is eyeing a highway out of poverty by snapping up truck-driving jobs that after solely went to males.

Such work is seen as life-changing on this dusty southern area bordering India, the place sand dunes cowl estimated coal reserves of 175 billion tonnes and yellow dumper vehicles swarm like bees round Pakistan’s largest open-pit mine.

The imposing 60-tonne vehicles initially daunted Gulaban, 25, a housewife and mom of three from Thar’s Hindu group contained in the mainly-Muslim nation of 208 million individuals.

“Initially I used to be a bit nervous however now it’s regular to drive this dumper,” mentioned Gulaban, clad in a pink saree, a standard fabric worn by Hindu girls throughout South Asia.

Gulaban – who hopes such jobs may help empower different girls going through grim employment prospects – is amongst 30 girls being skilled to be truck drivers by Sindh Engro Coal Mining Firm (SECMC), a Pakistani agency digging up low-grade coal below the rolling Thar sand dunes.

Gulaban has stolen the march on her fellow trainees as a result of she was the one lady who knew tips on how to drive a automobile earlier than coaching to be a truck driver. She is an inspiration to her fellow college students.

Gulaban, 25, mom of three, climbs right into a 60-tonne truck, throughout a coaching session of the Feminine Dump Truck Driver Programme, held by the Sindh Engro Coal Mining Firm (SECMC), in Islamkot, Tharparkar, Pakistan September 21, 2017. Image taken September 21, 2017. REUTERS

“If Gulaban can drive a dump truck then why not we? All we have to do is be taught and drive rapidly like her,” mentioned Ramu, 29, a mom of six, standing beside the 40-tonne truck.

Till just lately, power specialists have been unsure that Pakistan’s ample however poor-quality coal might be used to fireside up energy vegetation.

That view started to vary with new expertise and Chinese language funding as a part of the China-Pakistan Financial Hall (CPEC), a key department of Beijing’s Belt and Street initiative to attach Asia with Europe and Africa.

Now coal, together with hydro and liquefied pure gasoline, is on the coronary heart of Pakistan’s power plans.

SECMC, which has about 125 dump vehicles ferrying earth out of the pit mine, estimates it’s going to want 300-400 vehicles as soon as they burrow deep sufficient to achieve the coal.

Drivers can earn as much as 40,000 rupees ($380) a month.

Girls aspiring to those jobs are overcoming cultural obstacles in a society the place girls are restricted to primarily working the fields and cooking and cleansing for the household. Solely this week in Saudi Arabia, an in depth ally of Pakistan, girls have been granted permission to drive for the primary time ever, ending a ban that was supported by conservative clerics however seen by rights activists as an emblem of suppression.

Gulaban’s husband, Harjilal, recalled how individuals in Thar would taunt him when his “illiterate” spouse drove their small automobile.

“Once I sit within the passenger seat with my spouse driving, individuals used to chuckle at me,” mentioned Harjilal, who like the general public locally solely has one identify.

However Gulaban, searching for to throw stereotypes out of the window, is just targeted on the alternatives forward.

“As I can see our different feminine trainees getting paid and their life is altering,” Gulaban added. “I hope…for a greater future.”

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