Many people at times dream and aspire to be different by attaining their wildest dreams, but at times motivation comes in short supply.
In such cases, they end up settling for the bare minimum. But the story of Eunice Matola is different.
In her world, there was just too much to motivate her to pursue her dream.
Now, at just the age of 24, she boasts of a five-year experience as a truck driver.
“I went into this profession because of my family background. My late grandfather was a truck driver and my father is a truck driver too. It always used to fascinate me when I saw them driving those big vehicles. I started seeing myself in their shoes eventually,” she said.
Although she initially appeared as if she would take a different career path, but her fate was sealed before she even realised it.
After completing her Malawi School Certificate of Education, Eunice went to study drafting and designing in South Africa.
That qualification was not enough to dissuade her from her youthful dream and before long, she was lured into the transport trade.
So far, Eunice has worked with three transport companies namely; Sigale Logistics, Taulo Brothers and Simso Oil and Transport Company where she has been working until recently.
She said as part of her job, she is responsible for transporting goods, loading the vehicles, abiding by traffic laws, ensuring safe unloading of goods and delivery at different stations locally.
“The driver also has to inspect the mechanical state of the vehicle and perform preventive maintenance work. Additionally, we are also required to plan on routes we use so that we can get to our destinations safely and fast,” she said.
Eunice was quick to praise the lucrative nature of the job, its security, countless opportunities and competitive benefits.
The youthful truck driver also said having an updated knowledge is crucial.
She said that calls for attending regular trainings to have the capacity to tackle certain problems they encounter on the road such as vehicle break downs.
But how does she get on the stride in such unfamiliar territory as young woman?
Eunice said the world has taken a tilt on how they perceive things and it is encouraging to see that women are being given their space on the table.
She said so far, the experience has been amazing and she feels good to be among the champions of breaking the barriers and stereotypes that have held back the womenfolk for long.
She said: “Women have been part of this industry for long, but they were being overlooked and undervalued. I am excited because now the industry is putting our voices out there and people are ready to hear our stories.”
The Blantyre-based driver said because the field has opened up to women, with many now developing aspirations to try their luck in the trade.
“It is not just a man’s game anymore. We are also here to claim our stake,” she said.
Despite progress the transport industry has achieved in accommodating women, Eunice said there are other challenges that need to be addressed to thoroughly make the environment smooth sailing.
She cited safety threats, harassment, gender discrimination from both male workmates and employers and unfair criticism as being top among the challenges she encounters in her line of work.
Eunice said: “Women, just like anybody else, want to be safe and secure in the working environment, but sadly the industry does not guarantee that at the moment.”
She said on the roads, safety awareness is key to ensuring their safety.
The driver said they are required to be conscious where they park their vehicles to minimise security threats.
She carries personal security items such as pepper spray.
“I usually just do local trips because of the same security issues. There are a lot of reported rape cases and hijacks. As a precaution, I confine myself in Malawi rather than crossing the borders,” she said.
Maybe because of her family background, she enjoys undivided support from her parents which has made it easy for her to settle in her career.
“When I made the decision to become a transporter, they were never shocked. They knew I always wanted to join the field. They have been very supportive throughout,” she said.
Her mother Thokozani Sigale said she was not shocked when Eunice decided to follow her father’s footsteps.
“She grew up exposed to truck drivers almost all her life. Her late grandfather and father used to take her on board when going to offload in certain districts during holidays at a very young age,” she said.
Sigale said her daughter is determined, dedicated and never gives up on following her dream.
She added; “We used to follow her whereabouts in the past, but now,since she has gained more experience and matured, we let her do what pleases her.
“Right now my duty is just to support her mentally when it comes to her personal life and not anything concerning her career because she handles it perfectly.”
The young female driver said so far, she has only met one fellow woman, Hanna Jere at Simso Oil and Transport Company in Lilongwe.
Inspiration to young girls
Eunice said the career path she took should act as a statement to a lot of young girls and a reminder that they can do anything a man can do.
“We should always be strong when fighting for what we want. Do not let anyone look down on 0you unless they are admiring your shoes. Don’t become what you are because you failed school or you have some limitations. Be what you are because that is what you want,” she said.