How women in male dominated fields persevere, overcome hurdles

Despite the commendable strides Rwanda has made towards equality over the past years, many women remain underrepresented in some traditionally male dominated fields. Women Today’s Sharon Kantengwa had a chat with some women working in fields that have been labelled ‘for men’.
 Umuhoza in her taxi.
Umuhoza in her taxi.

Despite the commendable strides Rwanda has made towards equality over the past years, many women remain underrepresented in some traditionally male dominated fields. Women Today’s Sharon Kantengwa had a chat with some women working in fields that have been labelled ‘for men’.

Amina Umuhoza, Taxi driver

Society still hasn’t warmed up to the idea of a female taxi driver. 39-year-old Amina Umuhoza is one of the very few women in the taxi business in Kigali city, something she began about 10 years ago.

“I was curious to know why people said women could not work as taxi drivers. After learning how to drive, I ignored what people said and followed my heart to join the field.”

With only Rwf2, 000 in her bank account, Umuhoza set out to be self-employed, thanks to the Women’s Fund, she was able to secure a loan and buy car.

Looking back, Umuhoza reveals that she would not trade her current occupation for anything else. Having tried a hand at several kinds of jobs, she chose to settle for taxi driving because it was less tiresome.

“I also meet people from different walks of life and this experience alone has shaped my life. I’ve learned how to relate with people and I get double profit as I also get to tour my country while working for tourists,” she says.

Advice to women: “We are told that women working in male dominated fields are at risk because men will take advantage of us, but I believe that a woman can do anything if she sets her mind to it and will earn respect from everyone around her.

She encourages women to speak up against any discrimination.

She believes that she is destined for entrepreneurial success and plans to expand her business by setting up a transport company and employing other Rwandans.

Joyeux Uwineza, Miner

The 28-year-old has worked as a miner for more than four years.

She began working as a miner after completing her secondary school which was close to the mines.

Joyeux Uwineza at the mining grounds.

She has never regretted her decision. “Even if I studied biology, chemistry and mathematics I would have opted for a course in mining if the option was available. I enjoy my job, and from it, I have bought livestock, I can afford health insurance and I support my family.”

Her biggest challenge, however, was at the beginning of her career, doing heavy work and being interrupted by the rain but it became easier once she got used to it.

“The other challenge are the accidents that happen at the mines. They tend to scare us as our future is sometimes not guaranteed but thankfully, we are taught safety measures which has minimised the accidents,” she says.

She tells women that “there is no such thing as a male job because there is nothing that a woman cannot do.”

Sylvie Abigayire, Mechanic

Abigayire has always had a passion for cars and wanted a job that was related to the machine. That is how she ended up at ATECAR, an automobile repair shop on Muhima road, working as a mechanic.

“My job was a dream come true and I have not looked back since then. I was lucky that my colleagues have been very supportive of my work, teaching me new skills,” she says.

Sylvie Abigayire at her work station. 

Her biggest motivation is working on cars  with serious mechanised issues and getting them back on the road again.

“It’s also extremely surprising how people look at you differently based on your appearance and what you do. I believe that I have become a role model to many young girls out there,” she says.

Benisse Umuhoza, Security guard/Bodyguard

Her job is to ensure safety at events and protect celebrities from harm.

Umuhoza wanted to contribute to people’s safety, which is why she joined Bodyguards-Kigali, and is one of the very few females in the profession.

I feel good when everyone pictures me as a strong woman, but most of all, this is what I do for a living. My job connects me to different people from different places. I have also earned respect as one of the top female bodyguards in this country,” she says.

She, however, cites some challenges with her job which include stereotypes concerning certain jobs.

 Benisse Umuhoza serves as a body guard and security guard. 

“The first thing that clicks when they see me doing my job is that I am trying to act like a man, but they are wrong. We are professionally trained and the occupation needs women too. I hope that someday other women will understand how great this job is. I hope that the number of women in the field increases and people realise our capabilities.

“Today I’m an icon just by speaking up about my profession.  I will inspire others and things will get much better,” Umuhoza says.

Jeanne Uwamahoro, painter

Uwamahoro has been working as a house painter for 10 years now. Even though construction work has typically been a male-dominated field for years, Uwamahoro did not let this stop her from dipping her energy in the industry.

She pursued vocational training at CEFORMI in Gikondo, Kicukiro District when she dropped out of high school after she was impregnated.

She pursued a welding and painting course and was the only woman in a class of about 40 students.

Uwamahoro says that being so few in the field, working on big projects, or with a big firm, is always tricky.

 “Of course, I can do it, but there are people out there who do not believe in the ability of women to perform tasks commonly done by men. I love my job because it pays me but people don’t believe that I cannot efficiently do the job simply because of my gender and prefer to use men. Because we are women, we are sometimes given low pay,” she says.

Jeanne Uwamahoro paints a house.

Despite the challenges, painting has enabled the 35-year-old single mother of four to pay school fees for her kids and complete her house.

Uwamahoro says sometimes she is called to correct painting jobs previously done by men because she is known for perfection and to add to her skills, she always tries to get training from different paint-making firms in Rwanda.

She advises women to work hard and be resilient to prove their capabilities. She also hopes to buy painting machines to help ease her work.