I have always wondered why there are very few women in the transport industry, until I attended a Women in Transportation (WIT) Forum organized by Flone Initiative. During which PSV female operators shared their day to day experiences.
As I listened in keenly, I learnt that women really face a difficult time in this sector. As a result some are forced to give up within a few days and others after a few weeks. Each narrated their experiences and how they have to cope with the long working hours, harassment by the police, city council askaris, passengers and fellow crew, crude comments and stigmatization from friends and relatives to name but a few.
One lady said that no one at home knows exactly what she does for a living since working as a PSV conductor is believed to be the work of ladies with loose morals. Another interjected and said that she lost her husband and children after her in laws learnt that she was a PSV bus conductor. Sadly, some are even considered the rejects of the society and can never be involved in serious social development activities.
As I kept on listening I learnt that most of these ladies are very proud of their work in spite of the negative attitude that surrounds them on a daily basis. To some this is work like no other and has quite good returns on a good day. The ladies are able to take care of their families needs through their job as PSV drivers and conductors.
I wish to urge all of us who commute in PSV vehicles to acknowledge the work that this iron ladies do. Most of us can never stomach what they go through everyday but they continue to wake up every day and head to work. It is because of them that most of us are able to get to our “decent jobs”. It is high time that we treated them with the respect that they deserve and maybe then, they will also appreciate their work and enjoy it even more.
Additionally, not all of them are crude, uncultured and hostile; this is a cover they are forced to put on to survive in their industry. During my interaction with them, I have learnt they are great individuals with great hearts and great dreams in life, but as they say a lady got to do what a lady got to do.
I wish to give each of us a challenge, is it possible to appreciate them and the work they do each time we come across one. I believe it is up to each of us to make the Matatu Industry in Kenya better. I always imagine a situation where all of us will feel safe to leave our personal vehicles at home to use PSV vehicles due to their safety, affordability and convenience. Then, traffic jams would be a thing of the past, and this is my dream.
I wish to salute all PSV operators for your work!
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