Empowering women to drive our health and safety strategy

UNOPS is committed to creating and maintaining a safe and healthy working environment in all work areas by systematically identifying hazards and risks associated with its activities and implementing measures to control these risks. This is one of the key priorities under Health, Safety, Social and Environmental Strategy.

For Valerie Nyakunu, a female driver with UNOPS Zimbabwe, a normal day starts at 5.00am. She is a keen runner and the scenic views of Chimanimani make for a fantastic trail. By 7.30am, she is ready for her workday. “As soon as I arrive, I conduct my vehicle checks, this is a daily routine; the safety of my passengers, equipment and the communities we work in depends on the state of the vehicle and the driver”, said Valerie.

UNOPS drivers are trained on road risk assessments, vehicle fitness and safety and basic vehicle maintenance. Prior to each trip, pre-trip assessments and vehicle checks are conducted.  Drivers are fully inducted on safe speeds, community safety and environmental protection for instance ensuring that passengers do not throw rubbish from their cars. 

Health and Safety is a critical aspect of the workplace and the work that is done in the communities. UNOPS is championing the GOAL ZERO campaign, which is a commitment to operating safely and protecting people from injuries and harm in all spaces. For Valerie, it is not just about ensuring her passenger and community’s safety, she also is an ambassador of UNOPS commitment to supporting gender equality. 

“My greatest joy as I drive through communities is seeing the little children smile and wave at us. Particularly the excitement on the faces of little girls. They always exclaim at how a woman is driving such a big car”, added Valerie.

Gender parity to empower marginalised women and girls is essential for sustainable social development, economic growth,  and increased business performance. “The recruitment of female drivers is deliberate and in line with UNOPS’ Gender Parity Strategy,”  explains Rutendo Mufutumari, UNOPS Zimbabwe HR officer. “Our drivers form the forefront of our organisation as they are highly visible when they transverse the country. Subconsciously, we are influencing perceptions of what women can or cannot do”, she said.

Driving, same as the engineering profession, are traditionally male dominated sectors. UNOPS works tirelessly to break the bias and reaches out to potential qualified drivers, encouraging them to apply.

Rutendo clarifies that hiring is always on merit. “We do not lower the standard in order to hire women- women are equally capable!” 

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