In Pakistan coal country, women are doing jobs they never imagined doing

Gulaban, a 25-year old mother of three, adjusts a fan before driving a 60-tonne truck, during a training session of the Female Dump Truck Driver Programme, introduced by the Sindh Engro Coal Mining Company (SECMC), in Islamkot, Tharparkar, Pakistan September 21, 2017. Picture taken September 21, 2017. REUTERS/Akhtar Soomro

ISLAMKOT, Pakistan (BY: SYED RAZA HASSAN, REUTERS) – As Pakistan bets on cheap coal in the Thar desert to resolve its energy crisis, a select group of women is eyeing a road out of poverty by snapping up truck-driving jobs that once only went to men.

Such work is seen as life-changing in this dusty southern region bordering India, where sand dunes cover estimated coal reserves of 175 billion tonnes and yellow dumper trucks swarm like bees around Pakistan’s largest open-pit mine.

The imposing 60-tonne trucks initially daunted Gulaban, 25, a housewife and mother of three from Thar’s Hindu community inside the staunchly conservative and mainly-Muslim nation of 208 million people.

“At the beginning I was a bit nervous but now it’s normal to drive this dumper,” said Gulaban, clad in a pink saree, a traditional cloth worn by Hindu women across South Asia.

Gulaban – who hopes such jobs can help empower other women facing grim employment prospects – is among 30 women being trained to be truck drivers by Sindh Engro Coal Mining Company (SECMC), a Pakistani firm digging up low-grade coal under the rolling Thar sand dunes.

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