One evening, while checking her WhatsApp contact’s status, Bukes Saliu encountered a post that would forever transform her life.
“I saw a picture of a lady standing beside a forklift machine. I loved it so much that I went out for inquiries”, Bukes said, smiling about her love-at-first-sight experience with the forklift machine.
In August 2022, within the same month she saw the photograph, she decided to pursue her newfound interest, leading to a sudden transition into a new career path. This marked a significant departure from her previous role as a Program Officer in a non-governmental organization.
Fortunately, the organization known as Bisedge Logistics and Infrastructure, a company specializing in forklift operations, invited women to acquire forklift skills for free. She enthusiastically embraced this opportunity and participated in the training.
Jobs are no longer Gender-Centric
Forklift operation refers to the skilled handling and use of forklift trucks and industrial vehicles equipped with pronged forks. Operators lift, transport, and stack materials, aiding in efficiently moving goods within warehouses, factories, and other industrial settings.
Jobs like forklift operations are often male-dominated due to the physical demands and energy required.
In 2020, Nigeria’sestimatedunemployed male population stood at approximately 3.69 million, while the female population without employment was lower, at around 2.36 million. The number of working-age individuals not in employment has significantly risen in Nigeria since 2010, when unemployed men and women totalled about 1.1 million and 930,000, respectively.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization, women in rural areas are primarily responsible for ensuring their children’s nutrition. Additionally, research has revealed that women allocate a more substantial portion of their household income, proportionally more than men, towards purchasing extra food for their families.
Women like Bukes are leading a transformation in traditionally male-dominated industries. This positively contributes to the ongoing fight against gender discrimination and the perception of women as second-class citizens, especially in Africa.
However, her new journey comes with its share of challenges. “As a woman, I have to work double or triple times to meet up with the other gender. We know that men have more speed and women want to be more careful. We can’t match their energy,” Bukes said.
But the organization I am with wants inclusion, so they balance everything. They don’t accept harassment or bullying of the female gender. So we start at the same time, close at the same time, the same pay, but some will always act wrongly. For instance, they might ask one to carry out a task when you say you are tired. They will respond with ‘no be you wan do man work’.
Describing the reactions to her operating the forklift, she mentioned they are a mix of positive and negative responses.”Some find it fascinating. ‘Wow, we’re witnessing a woman operating a forklift for the first time,’ they exclaim. Some openly admire you and cheer, while others may suggest you are defying traditional gender roles.“, she told Prime Progress.
The woman in her late 40s also discussed how her family members have been quite accepting of her new career choice, given her good health and the legitimacy of the job.
She added: “If you look at Nigeria today, women are now present in every field. So if you are doing legit work, it shouldn’t be a problem for any man or family.
Bukes, born and residing in Lagos, also mentioned that, apart from her forklift work, she owns a grocery store and occasionally works as a caterer when she has the time.
When this reporter asked if Bukes was earning more as a forklift operator than she did when she was an NGO’s Program Officer, she responded with a “no.” She emphasized that her driving force is her passion for operating the machine.
“Recently, I was promoted at my place of work. Now, I’m responsible for supervising the guys who operate the machines, but I still operate them myself.”