Halimat Alhassan is a widow and a mother of three. She is one of the female truck drivers at Dangote Cement Company in Obajana, Kogi state. In this interview with OYIBO SALIHU, she discusses her career as a driver, her plan to establish a truck driving training school to bring more women into the trade dominated by men.
What is your background and how is life as truck driver?
My is Halimat Alhassan, I am 41-years-old a native of Shendam local government area of Plateau state. I attended primary school but could not complete my secondary school education. I am a widow with three children; two boys and a girl.
There is no much difference in my life as truck driver. I was inspired into the career by Hajia Rabiat Abubakar who was the first truck driver in the country.
I was a food seller at Dangote Cement Company at Obajana when she came to the company for driving test as part of her job application with the company. I was so impressed by her performance and since that day I began to develop interest to be a female trailer driver.
So, I continued my business as a food vendor in the company until one day I approached Hajia Rabiat to teach me the skill of driving truck.
She asked me three time if truly I have interest for the trade and I said yes. She then advises me to seek the permission and the blessing of my parents.
I was very sure that if I go directly to my father he will out rightly, he will reject my proposal, so I went straight to Bauchi state to meet my uncle, who gave me the nod and talked to my father on my behalf. My parents later gave me the go ahead and cautioned me to be very careful so that I can last on the job.
Having got the go ahead, I met Hajia Rabiat who took me to the company’s Chief Driver, Alhaji Uba Zaria, and he handed me over to one of the truck drivers, Alhaji Ishaku Paskere, who taught me the nitty-gritty of driving trailer. That was how I learned the job within one and half years and I obtained my driving licence.
I have been driving Dangote truck in the last four years without any incident or accident and my life has really changed for better. As female truck drivers the company gave us some consideration that made our work easy. If we have family issues to tackle the company allowed us to go and attend to it because we are special drivers.
How do you cope with the hazards of the job?
Honestly, there are a lot of danger in truck driving but if as a driver one takes precautions and don’t manage the bad condition of a truck to embark on a journey, I am sure that you will not be confronted with any difficulty.
I always insist that my truck is in good condition before I load cement and if I am on a journey I took every necessary precaution to avert any mishaps.
Also, we embark on night journey because of the long distances we have to cover, I thank God that I have not encountered any difficult or faced major problems while on journey.
How do you combine your job with responsibilities in the family?
As I have mentioned earlier, I am a widow with three children to cater for, and it is always in my prayer to ensure that I give them the best out of my daily struggles.
And through this my career I have been training the children in the area of Western education. My first child is reading medicine and surgery at University of Jos; while the other two are in secondary school. They live with my mother in Jos.
In this job we have liberty of time and I utilise the time to attend to my family. Also, my major route is Lokoja to Jos, so I have ample opportunity to see them from time to time.
How do your male colleagues relate to you?
The relationship is not cordial at all because most of them see the female drivers as threat to their career in the company. They don’t want us and they have been showing it to us through their actions.
The male drivers are always jealous of us and we have to developed thick-skin since we are in a male-dominated environment in order to be able to withstand the male drivers’ banter.
Though few of them are good to us, they tell us what we needed to know to enhance the job, but some openly show us that they don’t welcome us at all but we don’t allow that to distract or discourage us. So, whatever they say we assume it is mere jokes and we laugh over it.
Since you acknowledge that truck driving is a male dominated profession, do you have plans to bring more female drivers into the company?
Of course, we the female drivers in Dangote Group are making concerted effort to bring more women into the career. We are planning to establish truck driving training school for women, where they can acquire skills as diesel engine mechanics; rewiring; vulcanizing; and driving among others to keep them busy and reduce social vices that are associated with women folk.
We are appealing to government, religious and corporate organisations to support us so that we can succeed in bring more women who have interest into the trade.