Nancy Cherotich Terer defies all odds to excel in male dominated field
They say what a man can do a woman can do even better. Nancy Cherotich Terer, the only woman plant operator from Bomet County, is a living proof to those in doubt.
At only 26 years, Cherotich has excelled in a profession perceived to be a preserve for men only because it involves heavy machines.
It is a sunny afternoon at Tabarit Quarry in Sotik Constituency and incessant sounds from earth movers digging and loading sand into lorries, for road construction reverberates back and forth the hilly terrain overlooking Trans Mara in neighbouring Narok County.
A group of men passing by the quarry seem to have noticed something strange and suddenly become motionless as they watch with their mouths agape at the activities going at the sand quarry.For them, it is unheard of for a woman to engage in work perceived within the community to be a male only profession.
At 26 years old, they say, Cherotich should be somewhere downstream fetching firewood and looking after her father’s goats.
As Chero, as she is fondly known, finishes loading the last lorry at the quarry, the group of men surges closer to catch a glimpse of her and when she finally alights from the wheal loader, they confront her with numerous questions.
“Who taught you how to drive such a huge machine? Do you have enough strength to operate it?” one of the men asks in surprise.
With a charming smile, Cherotich tells them that everyone can operate the machines as long as he or she has interest.
“All you need is interest and confidence which I had and that explains why I am operating the machines today,” Cherotich tells them.
Cherotich who hails from Cheptalal Village, Konoin Constituency says since her childhood she had always wanted to be a plant operator.“I fell in love with these heavy machines since I was young and every time I was asked what I wanted to be I would gladly respond that I wanted to be a driver,” Cherotich says adding the passion has seen her achieve her dream.
Cherotich who currently works as a plant operator with the National Youth Service (NYS) says her career started immediately after she completed secondary education in 2004 when she enrolled for a driving course at the Kericho Driving School.
Though she wanted to proceed for higher education to pursue an engineering course which was her second option, recruitment by National Youth Service thwarted these plans.
“I had just completed the driving course and was planning to join college to further my education when I heard that National Youth Service was recruiting service men and women at Bomet Green Stadium in 2005,” Cherotich says. She explains: “I decided to go and try my luck because I heard people who get recruited would get a chance to pursue their studies.”
Luckily, Cherotich was one of those who were recruited and deployed to Gilgil National Youth Service base for training.
In Gilgil, she concentrated in operating machines and because she had undertaken a driving course, she was soon deployed to Yatta as a track driver.
“After a one year training at Gilgil, I was deployed to Yatta in 2006 for national building as a track driver,” Cherotich explains.
While at Yatta, Cherotich gained a lot of experience in operating a tractor where she was tasked with digging farms and planting crops.
After a while, she decided to try her hands on a grader after admiring her colleagues who were also on nation building work in the region.
“Upon using the grader, everything changed completely and from that point, I started training to be a plant operator while continuing with my work as a track driver,” she explains.
From 2009, Cherotich abandoned tractors and moved completely to being a plant operator, a position she hold todate.
Since then she has participated in various road construction activities in the country where she has been tasked with operating bulldozers, wheel loader, truck loader, motor grader and compactors.
Cherotich who has won many hearts including that of Narok Deputy Governor Chepkirui Aruasa who visited her at the site where she is currently stationed.
She says at first she thought operating the machines was a hard task and required a lot of energy but developed a strength for it and managed to learn within a very short time.
“The names of the machines are scary but out of passion I used the shortest time to learn to operate them and soon I was on the road working on them like everybody else,” says Cherotich.
According to George Muchemi, a plant operator who trained with her at the National Youth Service, having a woman around training on the same thing was a big challenge to him and other male colleagues.
“She was a big threat since she was unexpectedly a fast learner and we had to struggle to avoid being ridiculed,” Muchemi says.
The second born in a family of six, Cherotich says her job has not been without challenges especially being a woman.
She says her job involves working in harsh areas where there is hardly any water to shower.
“As a woman I have to shower after work but I am sometimes deployed to places where there is no water at all either to shower or drink but I have developed coping mechanisms,” she reveals.
Cherotich does not want to be alone ranger in the field and has extended an olive branch to other women to join and train as plant operators.
She challenges girls not to be scared by the size of the machines. She has inspired other women who are currently striving to be plant operators with the National Youth Service.
“At least in the next few years to come I will not be a lone ranger in this field since many women have approached me and I have helped them enrol for the course,” she says.
Cherotich is currently attached to the Tabarit Quarry in Sotik sub-County, Bomet County where she is engaged in the construction of roads.
The National Youth Service has entered into a partnership with the county government to construct more than 400 kilometres of roads within the county.
Residents of Tabarit have continued to throng the quarry in numbers to watch her operate the big machines with ease.
Cherotich challenge to other women is that they should venture into the field to enable them benefit from the proposed construction of standard gauge railway..