Fieldset
Eswatini: “To the women: Go there, do it!”

Drivers are vital to all of MSF's projects, using their skills and local knowledge to ensure staff, patients, equipment and supplies travel safely in sometimes hazardous terrain. In Eswatini, driving is a role traditionally associated with men, but Fikile Ngwenya wasn't going to let that stand in her way...

MSF field driver Fikile Ngwenya checks her vehicle fastidiously before heading out each morning

After my husband was transferred to the Shiselweni region, I looked for a job. I used to see these vans going around in town. Then a friend told me that this organisation [MSF] was hiring people for housekeeper, data clerk, and driver roles. So, I wrote three applications!

We are different, we can’t all be doctors in the world, we are different types of people. Everyone has their own unique gift...

I got a call from the office that I must come for an interview for being a driver. I was very, very happy because I knew I got a job! I was so confident that I could do it.

I was the last one to interview. I heard someone asking: ‘How come it’s a lady this time?’

Pride

We drove to town and did the theory interviews. After a day they called me to come and work. I know how to drive. You give me a hard top, I drive it; you give me an Avanza, I drive it. I don’t stress. When I arrive, I check my car, I make sure the oil, water, everything, is okay. I check the cleanliness of my car. When someone gets in my car, they must know that the car I’m driving is a lady’s car. It must always be clean.

fikile_ngwenya_is_confident_driving_different_vehicles_in_her_role_as_field_driver_with_msf_in_eswatini._c_makhosazana_xaba_1000.jpg

Fikile Ngwenya with some of the various vehicles she drives for the MSF team in Eswatini
Fikile with just some of the vehicles she drives for the team in Eswatini

When we go into the community, they appreciate me. People say to me, ‘You, you girl! You are driving such a big car’ every day. They say, ‘This organisation is helping us; it helps us with our relatives’; they appreciate MSF. I learnt a lot about MSF [through their work] concerning HIV and TB. At least now I know what HIV is and how you treat it and how you prevent HIV and TB.

Challenges and empowerment

But as a woman I faced challenges. Even the people I drive around, they do undermine me sometimes. And in that way, I feel like they are picking me up, they are empowering me by undermining me. It doesn’t stress me.
 

I remember one time when I started working with MSF, there was another guy working in the office. He was talking to someone, he didn’t see me, and he was commenting: ‘I will never be driven around by a woman’.

Some time later I had to drive him to town. Then I asked him, ‘Remember what you said. And then what?’

Do it with confidence

At home I am a wife and mother. I have grandchildren. I am a woman, I am a driver. I do not have a problem with it. We are different, we can’t all be doctors in the world, we are different types of people. Everyone has their own unique gift.

To the women out there, don’t be afraid of being a woman and doing a job. Don’t fear anything and do it with a happy heart. To the women, the young ones, they must do whatever they are faced with. Even if it’s considered a man’s job. Go there and do it, with confidence.

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Read more: Stories from female colleagues

Meet the women doing 'men's work'