Source: The Citizen
Musoma — Like the proverbial beggar who can't afford the luxury of being a chooser, Agnes Martin Koyanga was compelled to grab a job opportunity that conservative people regard inferior and unsuitable for women.

Yet, if she were to let the chance slip by, she would probably be cursing herself for being still jobless, in a country where employment opportunities are hard to come by. Agnes is a tour guide-cum-game driver, a job she has been doing for three months now, and in which relatively few of her gender mates feature.

The 26-year-old woman, an employee of Grumeti Game Reserve, says given the acute shortage of job opportunities that currently characterises the labour market, women should compete with men in all sectors. Her superb performance in the job so far has proved that women can equally excel in a career once perceived as a male preserve.

Her experience, she notes, shows that the days of gender-specific jobs, and of women shying away from taking on some jobs, are gone. The professional driver told Insight in a recent interview that current job market realities are increasingly making it impossible for the youth to choose what to do and not what to engage in.

National figures prove her right. The youth comprise about 17.5 million of the country's 25 million labour force and very few of them are employed in the formal sectors of the economy. The rate of youth unemployment in Tanzania is currently put at 30 per cent compared to Africa's average of 25 per cent. It is also said that out of the 850,000 youths who enter the labour market every year, only five per cent get formal jobs.

With such shocking national employment statistics, Agnes is right in advising her peers to take any job that comes their way, provided one has the required qualifications, exposure and experience. "What is important when one is looking for a job is to be confident and to do away with the notion that some work can only be done by a member of a certain gender. From the way things are today, we are all equal in the labour market regardless of one's sex," she told Insight.

Agnes says she came to realise that no job is reserved for a particular sex after becoming a tour guide and game driver because she had never seen or heard of a woman doing that kind of work. The challenges associated with the job also made many people never to think or imagine a woman going for it.

Through determination and hard work, as well as readiness to learn from others, Agnes has been able to excel in a career that not many women would embrace. The Grumeti employee also attributes her success to self discipline and the desire to always succeed in her endeavours.

Her love for nature is another important thing which she says has enabled her to manage her current duties. Despite putting a brave face on the work, Agnes admits that the going has not been all that easy. "After I started tour guiding, I came to realize that everything is possible under the sun and what is needed is to be confident in oneself and trust in what you do before others can have faith in you," she said.

"The work I do is difficult especially when you are a woman who is surrounded by men and even society that doesn't trust you. But through determination and self confidence as well as seriousness in work, I have been able to overcome the challenges and prove wrong all those who had thought that I would not make it."

Agnes's love for nature dates back to when she was in secondary school after a group of students had paid a visit to Tarangire National Park where their hostess was a woman. Agnes was so impressed by her that she wished she were in her shoes.

The Tarangire experience made her abandon her childhood ambition to become a lawyer for wildlife management, which she studied after her secondary education. That was in 2006 after completing her A-level education at Kibosho Girls Secondary School in Moshi.

Before Kibosho Girls, where she also did her 'O' levels, Agnes, who was born in 1985 in Kilimanjaro's Moshi Rural district, pursued her primary school education at Hilltop Academy School in Nairobi, Kenya.

From Kibosho, she went to the College of African Wildlife Management, Mweka, for a certificate course. In 2009, she graduated with a diploma in wildlife management, following which she was employed by a non-governmental organization called OIKOS East Africa as a wild dog researcher.

Agnes also did research work at another organization called Savannah Forever before joining her current employer this year. Another important factor in her current job is the experience she had acquired from working in several garages in the past.

"That makes it easy for me to handle breakdowns but I of course get help from the main garage when the technical problem cannot be handled single-handedly," Agnes explained. "However, my desire is always to solve the problems on my own and prove to men who doubt my capabilities that women can be as good as them."

Agnes, whose dream is to own a wildlife company in the next five years, thinks time has come for all education institutions in the country to align their teaching and training programmes in accordance with current demands of the labour markets.


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