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Vehicle and machine maintenance in Ethiopia: Hanna Nigusse is a role model for young women

10 March 2023 Tamiru Legesse Obole


Ethiopia’s vehicle and machine maintenance: Hanna Nigusse is a role model for young women

In Ethiopia, as in so many countries, women’s participation in the industrial sector is generally low compared to other sectors. This imbalance is attributed to different factors, including the assumption that industrial jobs are tough and therefore only for men. Gender norms and stereotypes are limiting both women’s and men’s capacity to develop their personal abilities, pursue their career preferences and freely choose how to live their lives.

For Hanna Nigusse, aged 26, the situation was not easy when, in 2017, she enrolled as the first and only female trainee to study commercial vehicle and heavy-duty machinery maintenance at the Selam Technical and Vocational College in Addis Ababa.

“My family and friends advised me to attend a cooking and catering school, instead of a technical college,” says Nigusse. “The problem begins from childhood when girls are given special roles at home. The society I grew up in strongly believes that girls’ and women’s jobs are mainly limited to household chores.”

Hanna Nigusse
Hanna Nigusse trains commercial vehicle drivers and heavy duty machinery maintenance students at Selam Technical and Vocational College, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Photo credit: ©UNIDO/Tamiru Legesse

This did not deter Nigusse from pursuing her dream to be a vehicle maintenance mechanic. After four years of training, she completed her education and started working in a local garage.  After seven months, she returned to the college to take a Training of Trainers course. 

“Girls should have the commitment and determination to follow their dreams, and break the barriers on their way to achieve what they want,” she argues. “Nothing is specifically difficult for girls and women.” 

UNIDO and its partners support a specialized skills development course using a private-public development partnership approach. The six-year project creates productive employment opportunities for Ethiopian youth - both young women and men - in heavy-duty machineries and commercial vehicle maintenance, and addresses the shortage of skilled labour in transport enterprises.

The project supports the state-of-the-art heavy-duty equipment, commercial vehicle maintenance and drivers training academy on the premises of the Selam Technical and Vocational College. At the training facility, trainees acquire the required knowledge, skills and attitude to become professional heavy-duty mechanics and commercial vehicle drivers, as well as trainers.

The project strives to contribute to efforts to increase women’s participation in this predominantly male industry. Since the project began in 2017, a total of 361 certified trainers have successfully completed their training to become certified commercial driver trainers. Seven per cent of them are women. While this ratio seems low, it constitutes a significant improvement in the sector and is a result of specific outreach to potentially interested young women. Women’s participation is gradually growing, but still more efforts are needed to counter the stark gender imbalance in this profession and in similar jobs. Nigusse and other women participants are playing a key role as agents of change.  

Nigusse has a dream to start her own vehicle maintenance garage or vehicle mechanics training school in the future. This requires significant a financial investment that Nigusse and many young people can’t afford. Nigusse is calling for stronger international cooperation so that governments, the private sector and development organizations come together to create and ease access to financial services for young people like her.

Guided by the motto: “Progress by innovation”, UNIDO is committed to support the development of sustainable supply chains, advance climate-neutral industrial solutions, and create decent jobs for young people, women and vulnerable communities in developing countries.