ABU DHABI // At first sight, Leila Abdul Wahid Al Bashr appears to be just another girl next door – a bubbly teenager full of life. However, her chosen profession marks her as something of a trailblazer, as the 19-year-old is the only female quay crane operator at Khalifa Port container terminal, and she’s an Emirati to boot.
Understandably, her family were apprehensive when the high school graduate told them that she wanted to embark on a career in the predominantly male-dominated industry.
“Initially they were surprised and resisted my decision to join Abu Dhabi Terminals as a crane operator,” Leila said. “No one from the family, not even friends, had done this job. It was something unimaginable but, luckily, within days I was able to convince them. And today they are very proud of me and I am inspiring many girls [within her family and peer group] to take up a challenge.”
Leila, who is the only female crane operator after the first woman, Ayesha Hassan Al Marzooqi, left, said her decision proves that woman can do anything.
“Just because you are a woman does not mean you can do only specific jobs. I want to show the world that, if there is a commitment, then the sky is the limit. If I can do this, all women can do this,” she said.
Before taking the crane driver’s seat, Leila went through more than eight months of training at Abu Dhabi Terminals and she said that other staff give her lots of encouragement.
“My presence has changed the perception [of a crane operator] altogether. Even other [male] crane operators are so supportive and they are always ready to support me by all means,” she said. “They always encourage me and appreciate my hard work. I must say I am really pampered by my co-workers in the field.”
Her crane is a heavy-duty piece of equipment; it measures 126.5 metres high and has a reach of 65 metres.
“As a crane operator, I load and discharge containers from those large container vessels docked at Khalifa Port and place them on the assigned places at the terminal.”
Despite the scale of the equipment she operates, Leila said it is wrong to think of her job as a physical one; rather it is a technical job.
“It is wrong to perceive that I need physical strength to pick up these 1,000-tonne heavy boxes. I am a technical operator who uses an automotive machine to do the required job. For that, the operator has to have excellent reflexes and the right training.”
For Leila, doing routine crane operating each day is far from boring. “My job is pretty exciting. Every day, every shift brings new challenges. It is not a monotonous job. We have to take so many factors into consideration. For example, the weather (heat, wind, fog) and the placement of the containers on a vessel.”
After more than a year at the port, she sees crane operation as a career path that she takes very seriously.
“I want to pursue my career growth in the same field. I am very happy what I am doing. Meanwhile, I want to complete my higher studies to enhance my skills.”
Despite being proud to be the only female Emirati crane operator, Leila does not want to remain the only one at the port and she hopes that other women will join her soon.
“I love my job and will, Inshallah, pursue my career. I want to be an inspiration to all young women, both in the country and across the world. I really hope that it will inspire more Emirati women to take up roles that are unique for ladies.”
Source: uae news