Celebrating International Women’s Day 2024: Invest in Women, Accelerate Progress

On International Women’s Day 2024, the global community comes together to celebrate the remarkable achievements, resilience, and contributions of women around the world.

The theme this year, ‘Invest in Women, Accelerate Progress’ resonates deeply with Transaid’s mission to transform lives. We firmly believe that investing in women is essential for gender equality and a catalyst for accelerating progress in communities worldwide.

Transaid is committed to fostering environments where women have equal opportunities to thrive, contribute, and lead. We recognise that inclusive practices not only benefit women, but also drive innovation, economic growth, and social development. By championing diversity and inclusivity within the transport industry, we can create a more equitable and sustainable future for all, and play our part in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.

In this post, we profile some of the incredible women working alongside Transaid, and reflect on how Transaid invests in women and delivers inclusive practices to make a tangible difference to the lives of women and communities across the globe. From supporting female drivers and motorcycle riders in Africa to promoting leadership opportunities for women in the transport sector, we are dedicated to breaking down barriers, challenging stereotypes, and creating pathways for success.

Together, let us celebrate the achievements of women, amplify their voices, take meaningful action to build a more inclusive world, and create a brighter future where every woman has the opportunity to thrive.


Astrid van der Burgt – Transaid Trustee, Head of Road Safety at Holcim

Astrid is based in Switzerland and is the Head of Road Safety at Holcim, a leading provider of sustainable building materials. Astrid has worked in logistics since the start of her career, and has followed the activities of Transaid since the early 2000’s.

“I believe the work Transaid does makes a huge difference in the lives of ordinary people by reducing road deaths and improving access to healthcare. In my current role, I have first-hand experience of the effects of the road safety programme that Holcim has implemented. When the opportunity to become a Trustee at Transaid was advertised, I didn’t hesitate to apply.”

For Astrid, International Women’s Day is an opportunity to showcase what happens if you remove barriers and give women and girls a chance.

“It is a well-known fact that a diverse workforce is more productive, safer, has better retention rates and higher morale. Investing in women to accelerate progress means that we support by removing additional barriers that they might face, whether that is by giving them access to the same education and careers, or by supporting them with childcare, safety or mobility issues.

“I was always inspired by the suffragettes and their determination to fight for their right to gender equality. Their actions have had a lasting effect on women’s lives, paved the way for all future female leaders, and will always be remembered.

“In Africa and more widely, some of the biggest challenges facing women working in transport and logistics are cultural perceptions and the idea that this is a man’s job.  Transaid is facilitating inclusive professional driver training, which is helping to give women a chance to get behind the wheel.

“These roles in truck driving are truly making a difference! For example, one driver told me that thanks to this job, she is now financially independent and can afford to pay the school fees for her three children. Another told me that she was once stopped by a policeman who offered her a basket of fruit because he had seen her and simply couldn’t believe a woman was driving a heavy goods vehicle.”

The Women on Wheels (WoW) programme at Holcim aims to increase diversity in the truck driver population. Following a pilot project in Uganda, the programme has expanded to 15 countries and continues to grow.

“At the end of 2023, we counted nearly 900 female truck drivers. We developed a global framework and toolkit, which guides each country organisation through a process of assessing different aspects to consider, which will be unique for each, e.g. cultural considerations, safety, vehicle configuration and facilities. One of the strengths of the programme is the emphasis on partnerships, such as with training organisations, safety and health authorities, Non-Governmental Organisations and of course our logistics providers.

“The pilot programme in Uganda has gone from strength to strength thanks to its close collaboration with Safe Way Right Way, an organisation supported by Transaid. Nowadays, 36 out of 55 truck drivers in our own fleet in Uganda are female and we are working closely with our main transporters to achieve our goal of 10 percent female drivers with them.”

To a woman considering a career in logistics, Astrid would say: “Go for it! Logistics is a fascinating field with a vast portfolio of roles, there really is something for everyone.”


Justine Nassiwa Thomas – Trainee, Professional Driver Training Uganda Project Phase Two

The Professional Driver Training Uganda Project Phase Two, which is part of the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) Employment and Skills for Development in Africa (E4D) programme, aims to upskill drivers to take advantage of employment opportunities, while equipping them with the knowledge to be safer on Uganda’s roads. It was implemented jointly by Transaid and Safe Way Right Way (SWRW) on behalf of GIZ E4D.

With the support of industry partners, Transaid has built the capacity of Master Trainers and Trainers in Uganda, in turn enabling them to train drivers to a level in accordance with the East African Community Standardised Curriculum for drivers of large commercial vehicles.

Justine is a professional heavy goods truck driver who has always loved to be exceptional and to stand out, whether that’s during her time at university, in the workplace, or in her personal life. She has always loved to drive; inspired by her father who was a race car driver, Justine started driving at seventeen years old.

In the past, Justine has worked as a human resources manager and sometimes stepped in to drive the company’s trucks when there were difficulties finding a driver. In 2017, Justine purchased her own farm and started to use a truck to transport resources for her garden and deliver sand to building sites.

“I wanted to continue to add value to myself and improve my skills in driving. Early on in my career in professional driving, I saw an advert for SWRW on television. This changed my life forever.”

SWRW has been Transaid’s partner since 2016, helping to respond to the huge rise in demand for Heavy Goods Vehicle (HGV) and Passenger Service Vehicle (PSV) drivers in Uganda, by offering training courses in safe defensive driving, refresher courses for those that have completed their training, and helping to find employment opportunities.

Following her interview, Justine commenced Class C training at SWRW.

When Justine first started training at SWRW, she realised that she had been making mistakes as a driver despite already having experience using vehicles on her farm. She enjoyed the training and said: “Since the training at SWRW, my driving confidence has gone so high, my male counterparts who used to make fun of my job are left in shock. The training has made me a better and safer driver.”

For Justine, the benefits of her professional driver training are extensive. It has enabled her to grow her own business as well as feel safer while driving. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Justine transported food and other supplies to her friends and family using her truck: “I could bring goods to my tenant, to my mother, to my friends, and even to my colleagues. The trucks continued to move, and I could move too and deliver food in plenty – everything from pineapples to yams, matoke, and even firewood.”

Justine also emphasises the importance of professional training for women, “It is very important that more women drive trucks because we need to change the perception that it is only men who can manage these vehicles.”

Justine sees that some women in Uganda have concerns about their safety whilst driving HGVs, as well as issues with childcare, or their husbands disagreeing with their choice of career. Justine said: “I want to inspire and motivate other women, and show them how to balance work, family and personal development.” To do this, Justine has a YouTube channel and has appeared on TV, “when women see other women behind the wheel, they become motivated.”

Justine is a wife and a mother to three children. Her husband is very supportive of her profession, they communicate about everything and work together to see the value it will bring. The children are very proud of her. When she goes to collect them from school the other children say they have seen her on TV and on YouTube.

“I am changing the trend. I am very honoured and privileged, and I want to inspire and motivate other women to become truck drivers. I want to change things for the better.

“The beauty of learning how to drive these vehicles is that you will never know where the blessings will come.”

Download Justine’s story


Ruth Nakalema – Trainee, Professional Driver Training Uganda Project Phase Two

Ruth is one of over 80 female drivers that trained as part of the PDTU-2 project. Her favourite thing about driving is the freedom that comes with it: “When I am on the road, I get to see new things and meet different people, instead of being confined to an office.”

Ruth was first informally taught to drive a manual car by a friend in 2017, and she notes that such informal teaching can lead to problems when you are trained using incorrect techniques, “I used to drive for Uber, but I didn’t know how to drive properly.” Following advice from a friend, Ruth enquired about training at SWRW in 2020.

“When I first arrived at SWRW, I did not know how to defend myself on the road. Through the training I learnt when to overtake safely, the meanings of the signs on the road, how to give space to other motorists, the importance of following the correct speed, and how to drive defensively. I was so happy to learn how to drive a heavy goods vehicle (HGV) as this is my true passion, it is nothing like driving a small car.”

Following the completion of her training, Ruth was in search of a career in which she could drive HGVs for a living. However, she landed a job driving minivans for a company called Schlumberger.

“They noticed my potential quickly. I became the Lead Driver, and on top of that I was made a Coordinator. I am now in training to be a Journey Management Coordinator, so I am really happy about this job.”

In her role, Ruth is responsible for planning journeys and dispatching and tracking cars.

Ruth attributes her new career to SWRW, describing the training as a “ten out of ten.” She explains that the company for which she works actively prioritises drivers that have been trained by SWRW due to its reputation.

“I am so proud to have trained at SWRW with Transaid, it truly changed my attitude towards driving. I feel like I am a professor. My friends and family are wowed by my profession. They often say things like ‘you are small, how can you be driving a trailer?’ and I respond, ‘I am a small body, but a big engine.’”

Ruth explains that motorists in Uganda face many challenges on the road: “You must be very alert on the road to avoid a crash. The training provided by SWRW equips drivers with the knowledge of essential defensive driving techniques to reduce the risk of crashing.”

For Ruth, a career in professional driver training has opened up a multitude of opportunities: “More women are entering this industry because of the sensitisation, the advertising, and the subsidised training.”

Ruth believes that female drivers often drive more safely and cautiously, and as a result both companies and passengers have more trust in them.

Ruth said: “We must keep training more young ladies. They have the passion. Many of us here did not go into higher education, but if someone is equipped with a skill, it can help them to evolve and gain employment.

“This training has changed my life; it changes so many lives.”

Download Ruth’s story


Naomi Mwaura – Executive Director, Flone Initiative

Naomi is the Executive Director of Flone Initiative Trust, a women-led organisation working to create a safe, professional, and accessible public transport space in Kenya, and a member organisation of the Kenyan National Helmet Wearing Coalition. Flone Initiative works to influence behaviour change, generating knowledge and movement-building.

For the past seven years, Flone Initiative has worked with more than 3,000 public transport workers, over 100 transport stakeholders, and 1,000 women professionals to implement interventions. As part of its mission, Flone Initiative hosts the annual Women and Transport Africa Conference.

Today, Flone Initiative has grown in strength and impact, gaining visibility, authority and legitimacy as an agent of positive change within the transportation industry.

“One of our popular programmes is the women in transport programme that works to attract, retain and advance women professionals in Kenya.”

Naomi was among the leading organisers of the #MyDressMyChoice campaign that saw thousands of women protest gender-based violence in Kenyan public transport. She has led research projects that have significantly contributed to the knowledge base of gender and mobility issues in developing cities, she is a TED Global Stage speaker, and has been involved in transport projects in Egypt, Kenya, Nigeria, Tanzania and Uganda.

“I do what I do because on a personal level, I grew up in a family that ran matatus (a form of public service vehicle), and I have always been very fascinated by public transport. I watched my uncles work as public vehicle drivers, conductors and cleaners. I have an appreciation for what public transport can do in terms of economically empowering families and providing a very necessary service to society.”

At one time, Naomi was physically assaulted by public vehicle conductors. This demonstrated to her the need for an initiative that would create safer spaces for women, improve the lives of public transport operators, and change the industry for the better.

“There is a greater focus on the issue of women’s safety in the public transport space, with more interventions, but we are not where we should be yet. We need to get to a place where women choose public transport as their preferred mode of transport and place of employment. We are on the right track.

“I would like to see a situation where, if I meet a young woman in Kenya and tell them that I had a career in making public transport safe for women, they would think it absurd. I would like to reach a point where when we talk about issues of inclusive mobility, it will be something that is unheard of, for younger generations to think that there was such a reality in Kenya.”

Naomi feels that boda boda (motorcycle taxi) riders get a bad reputation in Kenya, “they provide a much-needed service. If there was not a gap, then they wouldn’t be so popular, and they wouldn’t have grown so quickly.

“The problem is that policy and interventions did not keep up with this new mode of transport, and so we have seen a lot of fatalities. But at the same time this industry has created youth employment in a country where the majority of the population is aged below 35 years old (around 60 per cent) and the unemployment rate is high.

“Unfortunately, the youth that are running the boda bodas are not well trained, so we’ve seen a lot of bad effects come out of this industry.”

As members of the National Helmet Wearing Coalition in Kenya, Naomi explains that it has given Flone Initiative a platform to learn and to partner with other organisations.

“Being in regular coalition meetings and hearing about what others are working on has enabled us to see areas of synergy.”

The Kenya National Helmet Wearing Coalition is supporting Flone Initiative in developing a training manual and conducting training to target local government officials in Nakuru County, with a view to influencing a higher priority given to helmet safety on the part of enforcers. Flone has reached 80 officials which, combined with the new training materials, they hope to scale up to more counties in the near future and contribute to stronger enforcement.


Jackline Oundo – Motorcycle taxi rider

Jackline has been a boda boda (motorcycle taxi) rider by profession since 2013. In Kenya, the government has mandated that all boda boda riders be members of a Savings and Credit Cooperative Society (SACCO). Jackline is a member of the Kenya Riders and Owners (KRO) Boda Boda SACCO, which was set up in 2022 to support boda boda riders in Kibera sub-county in Kenya, home to the largest informal settlement in East Africa. KRO Boda Boda SACCO is also a member organisation of the National Helmet Wearing Coalition in Kenya.

“I have been riding for ten years now, and I can say that riding a motorcycle has improved my life. When I started riding, I was a single mother of two children that I raised on my own. Through my work as a motorcycle taxi rider, I have been able to pay for their education.”

According to Jackline, accidents are a norm on the road in Kenya and more widely because there is so much going on.

“I have got into an accident several times. Yes, I have a helmet, a reflector, I have everything. Those who do not wear a helmet have their reasons, but for me as someone who knows the importance of it, I cannot go without it.

“Some say that it suffocates them, others say it presses their face, and some say it makes them uncomfortable on the road and they cannot turn properly. For me and my safety, I cannot go without a helmet.”

In the future, Jackline aspires to move away from working as a motorcycle taxi rider and instead sell motorcycles and spare parts.

“This sector continues to enroll and invest in female riders in large numbers. When I first started, I was one of the first. Ten years later, many more women have joined this sector and in another ten years, maybe we will then have a 50/50 split.”

Jackline explains that female riders face a lot of challenges: “some customers will say that because I am a woman, they will not be carried by me, or they come with other motives. They also question why I have left where women should work and joined this industry.

“I do not listen or take this in, what we take in is the money that we earn that has brought us here.

“I attend many training classes that teach us how to be safe on the road and defend ourselves.”

KRO Boda Boda SACCO offers several services to its 800 plus members in an attempt to overcome some of the key challenges facing the riders in Kenya. Founder and Chair Elly Kegode proactively encourages inclusivity within the industry by offering free training and support to female riders, and devoting considerable time to campaigning and mobilising riders, with the support of local media groups as champions of an end to gender-based violence in the sector.

Download Jackline’s story