Sunday, February 14, 2010
Whenever 27-year-old Folakemi Shodiya gets behind the wheels of her new refuse disposal truck, she has a broad smile, an indication of her satisfaction with her new job.
“I really have interest in driving, and when I saw that LAWMA (Lagos Waste Management Agency) was advertising for women drivers, I grabbed the chance,” she said. “I used to be a make-up artist, but I am now happy that whenever people see me driving, they are very surprised and also pleased that a woman is behind the wheels.”
Ms. Shodiya is among the first batch of 15 women who were trained by the waste management agency to drive the mini skip trucks recently acquired by the organisation. The women were also trained to act as health instructors.
Why the mini?
According to the managing director of the waste management agency, Ola Oresanya, the mini trucks were bought to take care of litter bins distributed in selected areas of the metropolis, and also assist the larger skip trucks by moving into narrow streets where big trucks find it difficult to access.
“The mini trucks are mainly to take care of the litter bins,” said Mr. Oresanya. “These ladies have a specific assignment of emptying the litter bins, and also intervene in areas like inner narrow streets where the bigger trucks cannot access. People accord these ladies respect, and it is adding value to the image of the organisation. These ladies also double as health educators, and people listen to them.”
Mr. Oresanya reveals that the policy was adopted with the aim of maintaining staff welfare, adding that this has served as the driving force behind the dedication of the agency personnel.
“We felt that there shouldn’t be any type of gender discrimination, and because we believe in being fair to all at LAWMA,” he said. “When you look at our core values at LAWMA, we believe in the welfare of our workers. If you do not care for your workers, how do you care for other people?
“We look at our differences in gender, and see it as strength. The secret to the high sense of dedication noticed in our workers is because we care more than other organisations. Let me tell you; the average Nigerian worker is very special; he can work in almost any condition. And so we aim to encourage our workers. Go to the streets as early as 5am, and you see our workers. Nigerians are ready to work; some work as much as three shifts. The policy thrust in LAWMA is to constantly encourage our workers. We allow our workers to set their agenda. We feel very happy that our workers are very dedicated to the agency’s objectives of keeping the city clean.”
The sight of the smartly attired ladies behind the wheels of the skip trucks has a curious mellow effect on the characteristic aggressive Lagos citizen. Most respondents agreed that they respond better to the women drivers, and urged that more women be given such opportunities.
“I have always wondered why the LAWMA road sweepers are more of women, while the truck drivers are men,” said Bukola Johnson, a resident of Apapa, which falls under Ms. Shodiya’s jurisdiction.
“Now, I must say that the LAWMA people have really done a great job by allocating those trucks to women. I have noticed that people, especially men, are more courteous towards them than the men drivers. When they stop to carry the litter bins, you will actually see people coming to help them.”
Another respondent, Ime Nsikan, gives kudos to the waste management agency, and urges other government bodies to follow suit.
“For me, LAWMA is one of the most successful government parastatals under (the state governor) Fashola, and I believe other ones like LASTMA and BRT should be copying them,” she said. “Why can’t we see female BRT (bus) drivers? I believe that it is all about training and commitment; and such policies will always work well.”
For Ms. Shodiya, the policy is definitely working well, as evident in the enthusiasm she exhibits whenever she is behind the wheels of her truck.
“When people see me and start shouting ‘Omo Fashola,’ I feel happy because it shows that they appreciate me; and I also feel happy that I am showing that women too can drive big trucks very well,” she said.
By Chinedu Ozordi
February 13, 2010 11:08PM