In a first in the country's history, Thari women will be employed to drive dumper trucks at the Thar coalfields.
The Sindh Engro Coal Mining Company (SECMC) has reportedly received an overwhelming response for their Female Dump Truck Driver Programme, which the company introduced near the town of Islamkot in Thar.
After a screening process, 35 women have already been shortlisted for different tests in the first phase. The women have been inducted, but will formally begun their employment only after they complete one year of training.
They will then be moved into a regular job, where they will receive "all basic facilities", SECMC said.
“I know it was a difficult decision, but my husband encouraged me to go for it and that’s why I am here," Sawitri, a female candidate who came for the interview, said. Sawitri, 25, is a new mother. She is optimistic about getting selected for the job.
Ganga, another hopeful from Nangarparkar, was of the view that women can do everything.
“Thari women are very hard working. When they can already do stone-breaking for under-construction roads, dump trucks should not give them much trouble,” she said.
When contacted, SECMC chief Shamsuddin Shaikh said: "We had to come up with an out-of-the-box solution to help women benefit truly from the development taking place in Thar."
"It was difficult — we had a lot of skeptics — but we will make it work because the social and economic empowerment of Thari women is the only way to bring Thar out of poverty," Shaikh added.
"We did not expect female candidates to turn up in such large numbers," he confessed.
Sharing further details of the programme, Jahan Ara, an official steering the SECMC programme, said: “A total of 70 women applicants, especially from the low-income group, were interviewed for the job, out of which 30 successful candidates will be inducted into the programme.
"The second phase of the programme has started and around 45 women are scheduled to be screened for the selection of another group of 25-30 women, who will undergo a one-year training program before driving Pakistan’s biggest 60-tonne dump truck."