Long-serving Great North Transport (GNT) female driver, Mmatlou Mary Mokonyane is urging women to venture into uncharted territories and fight the scourge of poverty and the alarming high rate of unemployment.
The 53-year-old business management graduate, joined GNT seven years ago after failing to secure employment in the corporate world and says women need to leverage on opportunities in the transport sector.
She says there are women with good driving skills but they are scared of breaking the boundaries and many societal beliefs. “Women are gifted and skilled but they are afraid to showcase their skills. After I graduated I found myself in sixes and sevens. I could not get employment in the corporate world and that was terrifying. It was a stressful period for me. I applied at many companies but my efforts were futile. I saw the vacancy at Great North Transport that they were looking for female drivers, and I applied. I was called for an interview and I met all the requirements.
I also participated in their learning programme where they sharpened our driving skills and taught us advanced driving methods.” She says during her first months passengers were sceptical to board her bus, but they eventually got used to her being in the driving seat. “They were scared and surprised at the same time but as time progressed they got used to it. We are a family now and they respect my driving.”
Mokonyane further pointed out that she wants to leave a legacy in a male-dominated industry. “I am proud of the strides I made in the industry. Traditionally only men were allowed to drive buses and other heavy load transport. I want to change that perception. The transport industry is inclusive. I want to change the narrative, I want to see women holding down the fort and taking the lead.”
She emphasised that the duties and the logistics might seem difficult and strange to many but fulfilling to her. “I wake at 03:00 every morning for a 04:30 trip, and I am hardly at home. I transport commuters from Ga Mashashane, Jupitar village and surrounds every day.
I do the morning and the afternoon trips.It is a demanding job but the rewards are fulfilling. The money is also good. We are earning the same salaries as male drivers; there are no disparities.”
She stressed that she could not have given her children a better education if she was petty and picky.
“The high rate of unemployment affects everyone. There were no opportunities in my field of profession and I had to explore other avenues. With the salary I am receiving I was able to give my children tertiary education. I could not have done that if I had not explored other avenues.
I wanted a career in the business management world but I could not achieve that. My message to women is that they must not focus on one thing, but try other things. I want to see more female drivers. I love my work because there is no stress and pressure.
I manage myself and love what I am doing. I enjoy my trips with my passengers. I taught all my children how to drive and I am willing to share my skills with fellow women in my community.”
Story: Herbert Rachuene