Oumalkaire Omar Djama is a dynamic and passionate 22 year old young woman from the district of Arta in the Republic of Djibouti who has made a miraculous journey from a hopeless out-of-school youth to become a truck driver and supervisor at one of Djibouti’s largest private construction companies.
During her early years Oumalkaire lost her father and had to drop out of school because her mother could not cope with the family expenses. Oumalkaire was growing up unskilled and she felt idle and helpless. She was desperately seeking a job to assist her family. Her break came when the chief of Arta District informed the community that USAID was selecting out- of- school youth for a training program in Djibouti-ville. Oumalkaire was one of the lucky individuals who completed the four-month driving program last year, supported under USAID/Djibouti’s Assistance to Education program implemented in conjunction with the Ministry of Education and a private sector driving school called Zaki. The goal of the program is to assist out-of-school youth acquire skills that are in demand in the job market. Oumalkaire passed all her courses and obtained a driver’s license for heavy equipment vehicles, a field traditionally dominated by men.
Immediately after completing the training, Oumalkaire was hired as a heavy weight truck driver for a road construction company and subsequently was hired by Al Gamil, the largest construction company in Djibouti. Despite the fact that she is working in a male dominated field, Oumalkaire does not feel discriminated against in the work place and has been entrusted with additional tasks due to her excellent performance. She now supervises 37 men on the construction site and is very proud of her achievements.
With Djibouti’s 60% unemployment rate, Oumalkaire is grateful for the job and how it has transformed her life, saying, “This is not easy work for a woman, but I will keep doing it as long as I can make a living out of it. Women’s empowerment depends on our financial independence and through this job I no longer live in a precarious situation. I have regained hope and can now assist my family.” She is thankful to USAID for the opportunity and encourages young girls who drop out of school to undertake training programs when the opportunity is offered.
Over the past eight years, USAID has trained approximately 370 out-of-school youth, including 216 girls/women. More than 100 of these trainees have jobs as a result of this program.