WORK KNOWS NO GENDER DIFFERENCES
Need to change the clutch or replace the tires on your car? No problem, Bicharo Gure will take care of it with pleasure! Originally from Dadaab, in northeastern Kenya, Bicharo was deployed to Kalemie in March 2014 as a UNV Mechanic. Before becoming a UN Volunteer, Bicharo worked for several years as a mechanic for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees in Kenya.
Bicharo has two passions in life: volunteering and mechanics. ‘‘Working as a mechanic is a dream come true’’ she will tell anyone. When she was working as Head of Kitchen with the NGO CARE International, she was invited to join a training programme for mechanics. Bicharo accepted without hesitation and has never looked back. Was she entering a male bastion? ‘’Work doesn’t know if you are male or female! Can I replace a wheel single handedly – check and, can I drive a truck- check! I know what I’m doing and I work as hard as any man.’’
Although it hasn’t been easy for Bicharo, she’s found strength in adversity: ‘‘My culture does not believe in education for girls. When I was young, my father did not want me to go to school. I did my high school studies in hiding, with my mother’s help, partly because of the weight of tradition and prejudice. I have often been criticized because I wanted to become on work and learning a new skill that I knew was going to help me in my life afterwards’’. It’s been 9 years since Bicharo became a mechanic. The 30 year old woman is a success story in her community and she plans to return home to open her own garage where she will train women who want to become mechanics.
Her other passion –volunteering – is part of her philosophy of life, helping others and being useful to mankind. Whether it’s as a volunteer driver with Doctors Without Borders, or as an interpreter for the International Organization of Migration, or as an assistant in refugee camps in Kenya with an international NGO, Bicharo has volunteering in her blood. ‘‘I’m not in the Democratic Republic of Congo just to do my job, I’m here to help! That’s what being a volunteer means! And I help the country by sharing my knowledge and skills with the local staff of MONUSCO and with a group of women in Kamina, by taking care of orphans and the elderly ...‘’ During the working day, Bicharo coordinates a team of four Congolese employees. Besides coordinating however, she also works to strengthen the skills of her national colleagues. Training them as mechanics but also in other fields such as computer technology, to make them more effective in their work. ‘‘I realized that my colleagues did not know how to use a computer. So I made a computer available to them and taught them how to use it. Now they are able to complete their reports on a computer’’.
Bicharo spends her spare time with the women’s group Velimier (Patience in Swahili). ‘‘I help them plan income generating activities and I teach them to cook, to make bread, chapatis, cakes, and cookies, ... My goal is that by the end of my volunteer mission here, these women will open a restaurant and put into practice the skills I’ve taught them. ‘’
When asked what motivated her to become a UN Volunteer, Bicharo explains that it was the logical next step in her volunteering: ‘‘I wanted a volunteer experience abroad - I had never left my country. Learning about other cultures is part of the UNV experience. It’s good for me and it’s good for others with whom I share my experience. When I arrived in Kamina, it was the first time I was exposed to a language I could not understand,’’ she said with a smile. ‘‘Then I said to myself, I am in a French-speaking country, I have to learn French! I asked the women in the group to find me a French teacher. After four months, I can understand a conversation. Soon, I hope I’ll be speaking in French as well as listening.’’