For most young women, vehicle engineering would be the last thing on their dream jobs list. Many would prefer working in ‘interesting’ fields such as health, banking, beauty and many others.
But this wasn’t the case for Kulthum Said, a 27-year-old mother of one, who works as an auto mechanic at Mwananchi Communications Ltd. It’s her daring spirit that led her to pursue a career in the male dominated field.
Kulthum, who is a Diploma holder in procurement and logistics from the Tanzania Institute of Accountancy (TIA), saw an advert in March last year of a sponsorship opportunity for vocational training for youth. She applied and was lucky to be among those selected to join vocational training in Dodoma.
“I gave it a try because I believed I could do something bigger than what I already had. They wanted form four and standard seven leavers and so I decided to apply using my form four certificates.”
Kulthum went to pick the application forms not knowing what course she wanted to apply for because the list of courses to choose from was long.
Kulthum chose motor vehicle mechanics because it was the only course that female applicants shunned.
“Was it a tough course? I wondered after I realised that very few female applicants had chosen it. I thought it would be interesting to face this monster that scared many and so I decided to apply for a course in this field.”
Kulthum managed to get a place and was sent to Dodoma in June last year to study Motor Vehicle Mechanics at Don Bosco Technical Institute. The government, through the Ministry of Labour, Youth, Employment and Persons with Disability was the sponsor.
“I worked hard to get good grades because I wasn’t sure what plans the government had for us,” explains Kulthum. Out of 109 students in her class, only ten were female.
What men can do, Kulthum can too
“Because it was a class with a few female students, during practical sessions some teachers used to be concerned about us and did not want us to do the tough work. Since I was determined to pursue a career in this field, I didn’t allow my gender to stop me from learning or even doing the tough tasks,’ she explains.
After a year of hard work, Kulthum completed training in July this year and applied for a mechanics job at Mwananchi Communications Limited. She had done her field attachment in the same company after she completed her Diploma course at the TIA.
Explaining why she decided to work with cars Kulthum says, “The procurement and logistics diploma I did helped me because logistics is part of the supply chain that handles transportation of materials. I also learnt about planning and how to handle vehicles and so working in the transport department here is related to what I learnt at TIA.”
The young woman says she enjoys her job especially because of the support and encouragement she gets from co-workers, all who are men. Regardless of her gender, she is assigned all types of work just like the rest of her colleagues. “This shows their confidence in me,” says Kulthum, a wide smile on her face.
While she enjoys working with grease and spanners, not everyone in her community, especially her family and friends were happy with her career choice.
“My father was shocked when I told him I was going to pursue the course. He told me that it was a tough course and advised me to do electrical engineering or a computer course instead.”
Her father’s disapproval didn’t stop Kulthum from doing what she had set her mind on. “I told my father that this was what I loved doing and even when he insisted that I change the course, I still went ahead and enrolled for the same course. My mother on the other hand was not against my decision because she understands me very well especially on how tough I can be when it comes to decision making.”
Getting where she is today was not easy. Things were a bit hard in the beginning. She recalls how she used to struggle fixing tyres.
“It was hard for me in the beginning but my colleagues showed me the best way to do it and with a few practicals, everything went well within a short period,” says Kulthum who is currently the mechanic responsible for changing tyres among her other duties.”
One thing that she is proud of is her gift of patience in life. She has patience towards everything that she does. This is why she believes that one day the government will realise “that there is someone out here doing what I do and they will be very proud of me. One of my biggest wishes is to see myself getting an opportunity to work with big companies like Isuzu so that I can get more experience.”
Kulthum believes God has a way of giving people the desires of their hearts. “There are times when you feel that you can’t do anything but he gives us the strength.”
Her advice to young women out there, “believe in yourself. Believe that you can do anything that men think you cannot do. You should also not feel ashamed of the choices you make in life so long as it makes you happy.”