Connect with us

Feature News

Changing gears: Female truck drivers growing in Ghana

The transport sector is a big employer in Ghana but is dominated by men.

News Central

Published

on

Ghana female truck drivers
Abigail Asumadu-Amoah, one of Ladybird Logistics' 21 female employees, drives a tanker truck to the Ghanstock depot in Takoradi, western Ghana. (Photo by CRISTINA ALDEHUELA / AFP)

Rumbling along the rutted roads of Ghana at the wheel of her giant truck, Abigail Asumadu-Amoah turns heads but keeps her focus.

She is one of 21 drivers working for Ladybird Logistics, a company that claims to be “the first company globally to employ only female drivers.”

In a tough industry dominated by men, the women are changing attitudes.

“What men can do, women can also do,” said Asumadu-Amoah, who hopes other women will be inspired by their achievement. “It’s (a question of) determination.”

Ladybird’s all-women team drive 47,000-litre trucks, delivering fuel to Ghana’s gold mines.

But for Asumadu-Amoah, 44, the biggest challenges she faces are the state of the pot-holed roads in the West African country.

“Drive defensively and carefully,” Asumadu-Amoah said, of her approach to her work, as she waited for her tanker to fill with fuel from a depot in the coastal port of Takoradi, some 225 kilometres (140 miles) west of Ghana’s capital, Accra.

The transport sector is a big employer in Ghana but is dominated by men.

Nearly eight percent of men in Ghana work in the transport and storage sector, according to government figures, compared to only 0.3 percent of women.

But there was a problem, said William Tewiah, managing director of Ghana’s Zen Petroleum, a major fuel transport company delivering supplies to industry across the region.

Drivers would fill up their tankers with fuel in Takoradi before driving to mining sites across Ghana.

On the way however, they would syphon off supplies for themselves on a grand scale.

Some months, the company could lose as much as 50,000 dollars (44,000 euros) in stolen fuel, Tewiah said.

Looking for a solution, he said he realised that something new was needed and that hiring women could be the answer.

Since women would be coming in fresh to the industry, they would have a “completely different mind-set”, he added.

In late 2017, Tewiah approached independent management consultant Payin Marfo to turn his dream of having an all-female truck driving company into a reality, making her Ladybird’s managing director.

In October the following year, Ladybird began delivering fuel on behalf of Zen Petroleum to supply one of the gold mines.

Based in Takoradi, Ladybird, which is owned by a group of shareholders, covers three routes currently, the longest of which takes about seven hours.

“I sleep a lot better at night not having nightmares about fuel disappearing,” Tewiah said.

The drivers, aged between 28 and 45, were all experienced and licensed to drive heavy goods vehicles, many as bus drivers.

Ladybird gave them extra training, including with support from the Swedish truck manufacturers Scania, and Ghana’s army transport corps.

The military trucker training included physical drills with the army instructors, defensive driving lessons, as well as tips on handling the fuel trucks.

So far, Ladybird Logistics’ only customer is Zen but with time, it hopes to expand.

Marfo said that the company planned to more than double the number of drivers by hiring 24 more and increase the size of the fleet.

“A lot more ladies are showing interest,” she said, adding that every week a woman contacted her asking for a job. 

“For me, that is the first goal already achieved.” 

“Globally, women consider trucking as a profession, but in Ghana, we didn’t. Now I can see females are considering trucking as a profession.”

The company also has a female mechanic on hand, 28-year-old Beatrice Frimpong.

As well as providing her with a job, Frimpong hopes it can encourage other women.

“It will empower someone to do something extraordinary,” Frimpong said.

Men have sometimes told her that she was too small or weak for the work and that she should stick to smaller vehicles, she said. 

So moving to repair lorries -like the tanker trucks she works with today — was an act of defiance.

“I wanted to prove to them I can do it,” Frimpong said. “It doesn’t matter whether I am big or small, I can do it.”

The team has won supporters among male colleagues.

Justice Zoiku, a truck driver filling his tanker in the same fuel depot, said that he was always happy to see the Ladybird drivers on the roads.

“They have patience and take their time to do everything,” Zoiku said. “They are doing well.”

Zoiku, a proud father, also said that he would be happy if his daughter decided to follow in his footsteps and drive a tanker.

“If she wants to drive, I will support her,” Zoiku said. “What men can do, women can do it better.”

Copyright News Central

All rights reserved. This post and other digital content on this website may not be reproduced, published, broadcasted, rewritten or redistributed in whole or in part without prior express written permission from News Central.

New stories delivered to your phone

Click here to have news stories delivered to your phone or mail. You can also share your stories with us. Join our mailing list here.

Feature News

Africa’s rare giraffes face ‘silent extinction’ threats

Giraffe numbers across the continent fell 40 per cent between 1985 and 2015, to just under 100,000 animals

Published

on

Africa's rare giraffes face 'silent extinction' threats
A giraffe is seen at Maasai Mara National Reserve in Kenya. (AFP)

For most of his life as a Samburu warrior, Lesaiton Lengoloni thought nothing of hunting giraffes, the graceful giants so common a feature of the Kenyan plains where he roamed.

“There was no particular pride in killing a giraffe, not like a lion… (But) a single giraffe could feed the village for more than a week,” the community elder told reporters, leaning on a walking stick and gazing out to the broad plateau of Laikipia.

But fewer amble across his path these days: in Kenya, as across Africa, populations of the world’s tallest mammals are quietly, yet sharply, in decline.

Giraffe numbers across the continent fell 40 per cent between 1985 and 2015, to just under 100,000 animals, according to the best figures available to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

But unlike the clarion calls sounded over the catastrophic collapse of elephant, lion and rhino populations, less attention was paid to the giraffe’s private crisis.

“The giraffe is a big animal, and you can see it pretty easily in parks and reserves. This may have created a false impression that the species was doing well,” said Julian Fennessy, co-chair of the IUCN’s specialist group for giraffes and okapis.

Africa's rare giraffes face 'silent extinction' threats
Conservationist Symon Masiaine (L), who study and carry out awareness on giraffe plight and conservation, search for giraffe clusters at Loisaba Conservancy in Laikipia on August 5, 2019. (Photo by TONY KARUMBA / AFP)

The rate of decline is much higher in central and eastern regions, with poaching, habitat destruction and conflict the main drivers blamed for thinning herds of these gentle creatures.

In Kenya, Somalia and Ethiopia, reticulated giraffe numbers fell 60 per cent in the roughly three decades to 2018, the IUCN says.

The Nubian giraffe meanwhile has suffered a tragic decline of 97 per cent, pushing this rarer variety toward total extinction. 

Further afield in Central Africa, the Kordofan giraffe, another of the multitude subspecies, has witnessed an 85 per cent decrease.

In 2010, giraffes were a species of “least concern” on the IUCN red list. But six years later, they leapt to “vulnerable”, one step down from critical, catching many by surprise.

“This is why, for the giraffe, we speak of the threat of a silent extinction,” said Jenna Stacy-Dawes, research coordinator at the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research.

Mysterious giants –

Despite this, an international effort underway to put giraffes squarely on the global conservation agenda has divided professional opinion.

Six African nations are pushing to regulate the international trade in giraffes under the UN Convention on Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), which meets from August 17 to 28 in Geneva. 

Those advocating for the change, including Kenya, want the giraffe classified as “a species that, although not necessarily currently threatened with extinction, could become so if trade in their specimens were not closely controlled”.

Critics, however, say there is little evidence the international wildlife trade is responsible for dwindling giraffe numbers. A lack of reliable data has long hindered efforts to protect them.

“Compared to other charismatic species like elephants, lions and rhinos, we know very little about giraffes,” said Symon Masiaine, a coordinator in the Twiga Walinzi giraffe study and protection program, which began in Kenya in 2016. 

“Nowadays, we are still far behind, but we are making progress.”

Almost nothing is reliably known about giraffe populations in Somalia, South Sudan and eastern parts of Democratic Republic of Congo, where collecting such information is perilously difficult.

But even research outside conflict zones has been patchy.

Arthur Muneza, from the Giraffe Preservation Foundation, said the first long-term study of giraffes was not carried out until 2004. Data on giraffes is often gathered as an afterthought by researchers focussing on other wildlife, he added.

“Without reliable data, it is more difficult to take appropriate conservation measures,” Muneza said.

It was not until 2018 that the IUCN had enough statistics to be able to differentiate the threat levels facing many giraffe subspecies.

The reticulated and Masai giraffes, for examples, were classified as “endangered” while the Nubian and Kordofan were “critically endangered”. 

Trophy hunting –

Under the proposal before CITES, the legal trade in giraffe parts, including those obtained by trophy hunters on Africa’s legal game reserves, would be globally regulated.

Africa's rare giraffes face 'silent extinction' threats
A picture taken on August 5, 2019 shows reticulated sub-species of Giraffe at Loisaba Conservancy in Laikipia. (Photo by TONY KARUMBA / AFP)

Member countries would be required to record the export of giraffe parts or artefacts, something only the United States currently does, and permits would be required for their trade.

But observers say the limited information available suggests most of this trade originates from places where giraffe numbers are actually rebounding, like South Africa and Namibia, where game hunting is legal.

Muneza says there isn’t a clear enough picture that the legal trade is linked to declining giraffe numbers.

“The first step should be to conduct a study to find out the extent of international trade and its influence on giraffe populations,” he said.

Those supporting the proposal before Geneva talk of a “precautionary principle” — doing something now before it is too late.

For Masiaine, the Kenyan giraffe researcher, any publicity is good publicity for these poorly-understood long-necked herbivores.

“It means that people are talking about the giraffe,” he said. “And the species really needs that.”

Copyright News Central

All rights reserved. This post and other digital content on this website may not be reproduced, published, broadcasted, rewritten or redistributed in whole or in part without prior express written permission from News Central.

New stories delivered to your phone

Click here to have news stories delivered to your phone or mail. You can also share your stories with us. Join our mailing list here.

Continue Reading

Culture & Tourism

Practitioners worry as Nigeria’s tradition of facial marking declines

Traditional practitioners, known locally as “oloola” are worried about the decline of facial scarification, but critics remain opposed to it

Published

on

Practitioners worry as Nigeria's tradition of facial marking declines
A Muslim lady bearing tribal marks on her cheeks poses in Lagos. - The incisions have traditionally been performed in an array of styles by different ethnic groups in Nigeria. The scarring is done by burning or cutting of the skin during childhood. From the Yoruba in the southwest to Igbo in the east and Hausa in the north, the marks serve different purposes: identification, healing, spiritual protection, beautification. (Photo by PIUS UTOMI EKPEI / AFP)

When six-year-old Naziru Abdulwahab was abducted from northern Nigeria, his kidnapper transported him across the country and tried to sell him — but the potential buyer backed out. 

What saved the boy from the child-smuggling rings, police said, was the traditional facial scarrings on his cheeks that he had been marked with at birth.

Fearing they would make him too recognisable, the would-be purchaser refused to buy him.

After suspicions were then raised by local residents, the trafficker was arrested and the child rescued.

The incident in June shone a spotlight on the practice of tribal markings that has been fading since the 1980s in the fast-changing country of nearly 200 million people. 

Traditional practitioners, known locally as “oloola”, said it showed the benefits of the practice that critics have long argued is unsafe and child abuse.

Practitioners worry as Nigeria's tradition of facial marking declines
A man bearing tribal marks on his cheeks speaks in Ibadan, southwest Nigeria. (Photo by PIUS UTOMI EKPEI / AFP)

“Our taste for foreign things has robbed us of our customs,” Mashopa Adekunle, an oloola in the southwestern city of Ibadan, told reporters. 

“Nobody wants to put tribal marks on his child anymore. People see the practice as archaic, fetish and unhygienic.”

On the battlefield – 

The incisions have traditionally been performed in an array of styles by different ethnic groups in Nigeria. 

The scarring is done — both to boys and girls — by burning or cutting of the skin during childhood. 

From the Yoruba in the south-west to Igbo in the south-east and Hausa in the north, the marks serve different purposes: identification, healing, spiritual protection, beautification.

Prominent figures, including ex-president Olusegun Obasanjo, have tribal marks on their cheeks.  

“In the days of inter-communal wars, tribal marks helped to identify fighters. You would know who were your friends and enemies in the battlefield,” said Adekunle. 

He agreed that the traditional practitioners needed to move with the times if they wanted to remain relevant — pointing to the growing numbers of Nigerian youths embracing western-style tattoos. 

“The oloola have to do more to convince their critics that their tools are safe for use,” he said.

‘Facial mutilation’ –

Opponents have pushed for a country-wide ban on facial markings.

In 2017, the Nigerian Senate debated a bill for the “prohibition of facial mutilation” that would have introduced punishments for those who perform it and protection for those at risk. 

Proponents of the move argued that the “barbaric” practice left people disfigured for life and put them at risk of contracting HIV. 

The proposed legislation is currently bogged down in parliamentary procedure.

The practice of facial markings has been waning for around 40 years, said the Oloola Descendant Association in Ibadan, whose members barely carry out one case a month now, compared to about 10 in the 1980s.

Sefiu Yusuf, the association’s head, insisted that there was still a role for traditional methods, as he showed reporters his metal instruments wrapped in white handkerchiefs at his dark clinic.

A man holds native instruments for tribal markings at the family compound of the Oloola Descendant Association, traditional practitioners of tribal markings in Ibadan, southwest Nigeria. (Photo by PIUS UTOMI EKPEI / AFP)

He inherited his position from his father and said his family had long been known for performing circumcisions. 

“Only yesterday, a boy was brought here because our patrons believe in our ability,” Yusuf told reporters, at his dilapidated home in the centre of the city. 

“Even doctors and nurses seek our help when they have complicated cases.” 

He dismissed criticism that his practices were unsafe.

“It’s a smear campaign by NGOs and people in government to… put us out of business,” he said.

For another Ibadan-based oloola, Babatunde Hamzat, the decline of the tradition has had serious consequences for the Nigerian society. 

He said its loss had contributed to the high levels of crime in the country. 

“In the time of our fathers, a child with tribal marks would not want to commit any crime for fear of being identified,” he said. 

“But nowadays, people commit crimes with levity since there is nothing to identify them with.”

‘Preserve family identity’ –

Trader Dauda Lawal, 60, proudly sports the facial marks his parents gave him as a child and says he was happy to do the same to his offspring.  

“Being the first son, my parents gave me tribal marks. Though the practice is dying, I still made sure my first son got it to preserve the family identity,” he said. 

Practitioners worry as Nigeria's tradition of facial marking declines
Head of the Oloola Descendant Association, traditional practitioners of tribal markings Sefiu Yusuf, speaks about the benefits of the customs in Ibadan, north of Lagos. (Photo by PIUS UTOMI EKPEI / AFP)

Lawal claimed his wife married him because of the facial marks he bears. 

But he is not sure if his son will follow suit.

“I will be happy if he does a similar thing to his own son because it’s part of our culture that should not be allowed to die,” he said.

That positive view of facial marking is not shared by everyone.

“I can never allow tribal marks on my child’s face because the practice is old-fashioned and unhealthy,” said Lagos beautician Damilola Ajayi.

She said that she was firmly opposed on both health and aesthetic grounds. 

“In these days of HIV/AIDS and other communicable diseases, it’s risky to use unsterilised instruments such as the ones used by the oloola on a child’s body,” she said.

“I also cannot date, not to talk of marrying, a man with tribal marks. It’s disgusting.”

Copyright News Central

All rights reserved. This post and other digital content on this website may not be reproduced, published, broadcasted, rewritten or redistributed in whole or in part without prior express written permission from News Central.

New stories delivered to your phone

Click here to have news stories delivered to your phone or mail. You can also share your stories with us. Join our mailing list here.

Continue Reading

Feature News

Religious festival boosts interfaith unity in Senegal

It’s not only the Christians that partake in Muslim festivals. “When a Christian dies, all the neighbours go to the church for the funeral”

Published

on

Religious festival boosts interfaith unity in Senegal
(Ozkan Bilgin / AFP)

When Senegal’s Muslim families gather for the biggest Islamic religious feast of the year, they often encourage the Christian minority to join them in a tradition of tolerance.

Many Roman Catholics in Dakar were invited Monday to join Muslim friends for Tabaski, the local name for the Eid al-Adha or the Festival of the Sacrifice, which commemorates Ibrahim’s willingness to slaughter his own son if God commanded it.

For Senegalese student Grasse Diop, his preparations to welcome Christian friends were placidly watched by Dembel, a family sheep destined for imminent slaughter like the ram God told Ibrahim to sacrifice as reward for obedience.

“They come every year for the Tabaski and I go to the Christmas mass. We spend all our religious feast days together,” said Grasse, whose name is derived from Grace, a Christian one.

The family courtyard in Dakar’s Ouakam district was turned into both abattoir and kitchen. Women sang as they cut up the freshly killed meat while children played by bowls containing discarded entrails.

“Jacques, Marie, Joseph… All my Christian friends are wishing me a good Tabaski,” Grasse said amid a flurry of calls on her mobile phone. “When I visit them, I feel at home. There’s no difference.”

“When a Christian dies, all the neighbours go to the church for the funeral,” added her brother Pape Doudou Diop. Though a Muslim like more than 90 per cent of the population, he said he regularly goes to church for communion.

Once their guests settled around a huge platter of barbecued food, Christians could not be told apart from the Muslims, though Yves-Martin Kemden wore a special long robe to honour his hosts during his tenth Tabaski.

“It’s a custom,” the young dog breeder said. “Here, you’re always invited by a neighbour even if you don’t share the same religion.”

‘Indivisible’ –

Hardline Islamist militants have made their mark in other parts of West Africa, trying to impose their more intolerant and often violent vision of Islam on communities in countries like Nigeria and Mali.

For those ultra-conservatives, other religions and even other branches of Islam are often seen as apostates.

Sociologist, Fatou Sow Sarr believes Senegal’s religious harmony dates back to the preachings of leaders of the widespread Mouride brotherhood, who taught tolerance towards Christians from the 19th century on.

“You find Christians and Muslims in the same family and they intermarry. Religion comes second to blood ties, so the communities have never been antagonists,” she said.

“Today, there’s more risk of dissent among Muslims because of conflict between the Mouridic communities and Wahabi influence than between Muslims and Christians,” Sow Sarr said, distinguishing between Senegal’s predominant Sufi order and a more conservative Islamic branch.

In their courtyard sheltered by palm trees, the Ndoye family was packing boxes with mutton to take to Christian friends no longer able to get around.

“Our cousins invite us at Easter, making sure not to cook pork,” smiled Karim Ndoye, a house painter in his 50s who added that one of his grandmothers was Catholic. “It’s family, we’re indivisible.”

At the clergy house of Dakar Cathedral, shaded by a riot of bougainvillaea flowers, octogenarian, Father Jacques Seck made ready to join Muslim friends for the Tabaski.

A self-styled “Muslim Christian”, the elderly priest is known for sprinkling his sermons with verses from the Koran and urging dialogue among religious communities.

“This religious tolerance is at the root of Senegalese society,” he said. “The good fortune of this country is that it’s rare for a family not to have members from both communities. The diversity built the nation.”

Copyright News Central

All rights reserved. This post and other digital content on this website may not be reproduced, published, broadcasted, rewritten or redistributed in whole or in part without prior express written permission from News Central.

New stories delivered to your phone

Click here to have news stories delivered to your phone or mail. You can also share your stories with us. Join our mailing list here.

Continue Reading
Advertisement

Newsletter

Trending