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Thar coal power project empowers Thari women

Huge investment in the coalmines and power plants in Tharparker has empowered the impoverished women of this desert district by giving them an opportunity to put their potential to good use.

Engro and Thar Foundation are ensuring equal employment opportunities for both men and women in the Thar Coal Power Project in Islamkot tehsil of Tharparkar district as more than 50 women have been hired as dumper truck drivers.

Thar Foundation has been established to improve the quality of life of the people of Tharparkar through sustainable development initiatives.

In a remote and conservative region like Tharparkar, women driving trucks has been an extremely uncommon sight until recently. But now Thari women are being given vocational training to make them financially independent.

According to the project managers, there was a wrong perception before the hiring of women that their performance would be lower than men, but Thari women have proved it wrong. They play an important role in the project as they also go door to door to create awareness among women about this project.

Engro Thar Coal Power Project, also called Engro Thar Block II Power Plant, envisages mining of millions of tons of coal for generating electricity. More than 90% of employees of this project are residents of Thar, according to the project managers. The machinery used in the project has been procured from China and Japan.

Amina, 24, says that since she has no formal education, she had been jobless until the coal project was initiated. Now, she has been working as a dumper truck driver for the past two years. “In the first year, I was trained in driving a dumper,” Amina told The Express Tribune. “Now, I am bearing the education expenses of my siblings.”

Amina, who belongs to Mithi, had never seen a woman driving a car before, let alone a dumper truck. “When I decided to accept a job at this project, many in our conservative society tried to discourage me,” she said. However, the poor financial conditions of her family forced her to disregard the societal pressure.

Many Thari women came forward to follow in Amina’s footsteps to change the mindset of the society. “Now, many girls want to get employed in this project,” she said, adding that she would not quit the job even after her marriage. Amina, who is the youngest of all women drivers, advised other women to become financially independent by getting employed.

Sana, Officer Production at Sindh Engro Coal Mining Company (SECMC), said that the project aims to overcome energy shortage in Pakistan. Before the formal launch of the project, the management realized that Thari women were hard working but illiterate.

“Therefore, it was decided to hire Thari women and train them in driving dumper trucks. The management spoke to these women to find out if they would be interested in such a job,” Sana added.

“They not only showed interest but courage and determination too. Then the company enrolled more than 50 Thari women in a driving school to provide them basic education and training,” she added. “Currently, 25 women are working in the coal supply business.”

Sana regretted that a lot of women are still not allowed by their families to take up the jobs. “These women drivers have an eight-hour daily shift in the morning, so they don’t have to face difficulties at home.

Source: The News