The Sunday Mail
Ever since she was a young girl, Rumbidzai Amana had a passion for male-dominated fields.
Not surprisingly, she would be enchanted at the sight of a mechanic covered in grease or at the sound of a welding machine.
However, more than anything else, it was haulage trucks that captured her heart.
Not even marriage vows would separate her from the love of haulage trucks.
Currently, she drives fully loaded multi-trailered trucks to South Africa, Tanzania, and Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
And she does not regret the decision.
Clad in a blue work-suit trousers, black safety shoes and black T-shirt, the 37-year-old dread locked woman oozed with confidence and poured out her story to The Sunday Mail.
“My name is Rumbi. I love haulage trucks. They are a part of me and I fluently speak trucking language,” she said.
“It is who I am and it is what I love. Unfortunately, my marriage could not withstand my love for trucks.”
Born in 1982 in the mining town of Shurugwi (Midlands province), Rumbidzai was always fascinated by the testosterone-dominated field of trucking, which almost always attracted more men than women.
Despite enrolling for a number of courses such as secretarial and Islamic studies, a little voice from within would often tell her the courses were not for her.
Her passion for trucks was rekindled in 2016 when she visited a relative in South Africa.
“I remember standing at a bus stop in Johannesburg when something caught my attention,” she explained.
“It was a woman driving a haulage truck, a two-trailer haulage truck for that matter. I could not believe it.
“In those few minutes I had watched her turning the steering wheel, I had been inspired, something in me was awakened.
“I followed and asked her how she had done it. She told me her story and the moment I came back to Zimbabwe, I started processing the paper work.”
However, family and friends could not understand why she craved to be a truck driver.
According to them, haulage-truck driving was not for ‘morally upright’ women.
They encouraged her to join the teaching profession or the police.
But the young Rumbidzai was stubbornly determined to follow her passion.
When she got her driver’s licence, she ironically lost her marriage of 16 years.
“My husband could not stomach having a haulage-truck driver as a wife,” she added softly.
“We divorced and I was left with two daughters. At first I was hurt and lost, but with time I knew I had to go on and this brought me closer to my passion.”
Rumbidzai’s eldest daughter is now studying at Africa University, while her youngest is doing Form One.
She says her daughters are very supportive of her career and during the holidays, they accompany her on road trips around and beyond Zimbabwe.
However, she has learnt that just like society, the professional world is also not supportive.
To her, the world and Zimbabwe in particular have not yet accepted truck driving to be a profession for women.
‘Women are not physically and mentally strong to be in the profession; hence, they cannot be employed,’ she has been told on several occasions.
“One of the challenges we are facing as women truckers is the unequal opportunities in the industry,” she further explained.
“Companies need experience. However, we do not have anywhere to train. Companies which offer training demand a training fee of $800 for only 10 days and thereafter, you are released. This is not enough for a company to employ you.
“Inadequate training and experience causes women to make unnecessary mistakes, creating a lot misconceptions.
“On the other hand, in South Africa, there is a female drivers’ learners’ course, which runs for six to 12 months and offering an allowance of about R4000 a month, and after that period, you will be guaranteed of permanent employment — something we do not have in Zimbabwe.
“On many occasions, companies say they cannot employ female truckers because they do not have the rest rooms and bathrooms for females, which shows inherent prejudice by employers.
“Female drivers are given small trucks when they are employed; this is done to test their ability, they say. However, when a male driver is employed, he is given a truck without going through the various stages that women are subjected to.
“In addition, this means the salary and benefits are different despite both of them having the same academic and professional qualifications.
“It is a clear sign of prejudice towards women.
“There is need to also educate the male truck drivers in Zimbabwe. Most of them do not take us seriously, they think we have sinister motives.
“There are times when you travel as an assistant driver. You travel with a male counterpart who ends up sexually harassing you. So at times women end up giving up on the profession.
“We are immensely contributing to the economy through transportation, it is my hope that Government comes up with a policy that ensures there are equal opportunities for every woman in Zimbabwe, in particular those in the trucking profession.”
Rumbidzai joins the rest of women across the globe who celebrated International Women’s Day on Friday.
Her message is being echoed by billions of women who want change.
This year’s theme #balanceforbetter calls for gender equality, a greater awareness of discrimination and a celebration of women’s achievements.
Rumbidzai says it is time women’s talents and achievements are celebrated.
She, however, said it is important for women to first believe in themselves.
“Behind every successful woman are other women,” she said.
“Women belong in all places. There should not be a place that is said to be reserved for men only, and I am working to recruit more women in the trucking industry.”
As she drives off, she sounds her truck horn as she waves to some of her male colleagues who are in the same industry.
In turn, they obligingly wave back, a sign they might be starting to accept female drivers in the profession.