For Dorah Mabaso, being in the first cohort of Women Inspiring Women to Lead in Transport (WIWIT) students, an initiative to train women truck drivers, was “life-changing – and it still is”.
“I’ve met with my best career ever,” says Mabaso, who drives for UD Trucks out of Boksburg, on Johannesburg’s East Rand. Driving trucks and seeing our country is, she says enthusiastically, “a beautiful experience”.
WIWIT is an initiative of the Commercial Transport Academy that is sponsored by Hollard, USAID, Volvo South Africa, Ctrack, Standard Bank, Afrit, UD Trucks, CTU and Onelogix/Trucklogix. A training programme especially for women, it is equipping hundreds of women with the essential hard and soft skills they need in the overwhelmingly male-dominated world of truck driving.
WIWIT participants receive theoretical and practical driver training, are supported to upgrade their driving licences from code 8 to code 10 or 14, undergo advanced truck and trailer training, and get practical experience through workplace hosting. Because their training is holistic, they also learn soft skills such as financial literacy, time management and HIV/Aids awareness. In addition, the trainees have been mentored by women from Hollard Trucking.
So far, 128 women (27 in Cape Town and 101 in Johannesburg) have completed their WIWIT training, of whom 65% have already found work. Eighty-seven more (37 in Cape Town and 50 in Johannesburg) are currently in training, and 22 are due to begin training in September.
Helping to create a better future for all WIWIT graduates, present and future, is why Hollard has come on board as a sponsor, says Nash Omar, CEO of Hollard Insure, the Hollard group’s short-term insurance division.
“As a matter of fact, Hollard’s business purpose is called Better Futures. It holds every Hollardite, as we call our staff, to create and secure better futures for more people in everything we do, and how we do it.
“What this means is that we must create social dividends along with financial profit, and not only in selling insurance. Everything Hollard touches, such as through our support for WIWIT, must have a positive social outcome,” says Omar.
For Elka du Piesanie, one of a team of women from Hollard Trucking who have played leading roles in WIWIT, the programme addresses a long-standing challenge in the trucking and logistics sector: gender transformation.
“We’re very proud of our first groups of WIWIT graduates. These women are the vanguard of gender transformation in trucking, who will open the way for thousands more to take up truck driving as their career of choice. They have a tough job ahead of them, but they have our confidence and respect,” she says.
Training women to be truck drivers is a strong start, Du Piesanie continues, but more remains to be done in achieving gender transformation in trucking.
“We’re getting wonderful support from fleet owners for employing women drivers, but not everyone is on board yet. So we have work to do in changing attitudes. And there is also the matter of providing safe facilities along our highways for women, as the current ones mostly cater to male drivers. As more women become truck drivers, this need will have to be addressed by the trucking industry,” she says.
Olivia Kumalo, Key Account Manager at Hollard Trucking, says there are high hopes for the WIWIT graduates in Hollard Highway Heroes, the annual competition to identify South Africa’s best truck drivers.
“We’ve never had a woman enter Hollard Highway Heroes before, most likely because there are so few female truck drivers. At least until now,” says Kumalo. “We’re hoping that one or more of our 2023 Highway Heroes will be a woman – proving that not only are women more than up to the task of driving large trucks, they’re up there with the best of them.”
Mabaso says male drivers were scathing at first about having female colleagues, with some even pretending to take an interest in women drivers and then backbiting them later. But the verbal abuse and sexism merely made her more determined to succeed in her new career.
“In the beginning it was very intimidating. You feel very belittled,” she says of the insults to which she was subjected. But seeing the displeasure of her male counterparts worked to her advantage, too.
“That’s the one thing that kept me going, seeing their faces,” she laughs. “You have to be strong in the face of these insults … (But) it is better now, because there are more of us (women truck drivers).”