Name: Ms. Maureen Wangui Kariuki
Post & Employment: Engineer, Maintenance Dept. Kenya National Highway Authority
Course attended： Disaster Management on Infrastructure (River, Road and Port)
Duration：May 21 to July 19, 2014
Maureen-san is a civil engineer from Kenya. She grew up in a merry family with 5 children. She has 3 brothers and a sister, and she is the only daughter who became a civil engineer. She told us how she became a civil engineer, about her career as a civil engineer, and some findings about Japan through her stay and traveling.
When I was in high school, I decided to pursue in engineering in college because I was good at Math. I was 16 years old then and I had no idea which branch of engineering I wanted to major in. But after I became a college student and began engineering study, I now understood the engineering career and I was certain this was the path I wanted to continue pursing since civil engineering involved a lot of creativity.
My present work, which involves constructing and maintaining roads, requires elaborate planning with thoughtful consideration of safety and cost performance. It is a challenging assignment which requires capacity of solving various problems. The workplace is a male dominated society and women are minority. As an engineer we frequently go out into the field for the inspection of the roads and collection of data, but we are often faced by the problem of lack of female friendly lavatories. I know that there is no choice, so we can only fit ourselves to the environment. I’m simply trying to be open. As stipulated in Kenya’s new constitution, every work place should endeavor to have a minimum of 30% female employees. This is especially hard to achieve in the Engineering field since the number of females pursuing engineering in universities is still small. However, I can say that there is considerable improvement in the recent years since during my mother’s generation, there was only about two female engineers graduating every year. However, when I graduated from the university in 2008, there was an average of about 13 female engineers graduating myself included.
After arriving in Japan, I had many chances to explore around Japan during the training program and private occasion. During my stay in Tokyo, my co-participants and I visited Skytree and Asakusa. I bought Japanese doll for myself and miniature Tokyo Tower for my mother. One weekend, some of us joined the exchange program with JOCV youth group, and they will be dispatched to various countries as volunteer. We climbed Mt. Komagatake and saw Snow. It was my first experience to see snow. I won’t forget this memorable moment.
Japanese people, especially women look very young. And they are very kind. One day, I went to Kobe station to enjoy the port view. But I couldn’t find the right way, perhaps I came out from the wrong exit, I was trying to find the way, but couldn’t figure out, then 2 ladies came to me to help out. They were, I think, a mother and a daughter. I think mother told her daughter “Why don’t you show her the way.” Then young lady guided me to the other side of the station and pointed the direction to the port. I was able to see the beautiful port.
Everywhere in Japan, it is kept very clean, and it’s very safe, even at night. One day, I borrowed a bicycle from JICA Kansai with my friend, and went to Rokkomichi. We left bicycles in a parking putting our helmet in a basket. When we came back to the parking, I was astonished to find that the bicycle and helmet were there just the way we left.
One day, I asked Ms. Yagi, a training coordinator of the course, “You know, there is a lady participant among male dominant group, how is she doing?” She told me “She is like a linchpin, she mingled in a group very well and she is always in the center of the group. Training program doesn’t exist without her”. The day we set the interview happens to coincide with the day that media was busy reporting about “Sexual harassment jeers” at Tokyo assembly. I was curious about the condition of women in Kenya, and I asked some question like “As minority in the field of engineering, do you have any difficulty?” And she replied as “we have no choice of our given environment, we can only fit ourselves”. I assume her open and flexible attitude made her a linchpin of the male dominant group. Consequently on the last day, she made a farewell speech as a representative of the group.
Mr. Tsuno Motonori, Director General JICA Kansai International Center
Mr. Fujiwara Toshiharu, Kinki Regional Development Bureau
Members of Staff, JICA, course coordinators, members of staff, Public Association for Construction Services in Kinki Region(C.S.K.R), and my fellow course mates from 12 different countries.
Today, on behalf of the kenshu-ins I am honored to speak before you in this closing ceremony after our extensive course on Disaster Management on Infrastructure. Coming to this country was a great effort not just to us but to our families, children and friends. We left our countries to venture into a world unknown to all of us and to learn ideas that previously existed only in our imagination.
We would like to express our immense gratitude to the Government of Japan, for funding this course through ODA, the Kinki Regional Development Bureau for facilitating our observation visits and every other person in this room who in their own way facilitated the success of this course.
The lessons we learnt during our stay here in Japan went far beyond the educative lectures we received as we were privileged to visit about 10 prefectures and observed first-hand the natural disasters that Japan has gone through and the various ways that MLIT in cooperation with the prefectural and local government is managing and mitigating disaster. We also got a chance to experience the unique and wonderful culture of the Japanese people and also learn about the origin your culture through the various visits to museums, temples, castles and other world heritage sites. Thank you for making this possible.
We arrived in Japan as strangers and ignorant of the ways of Disaster Management but now each of us is 12 friends richer and knowledgeable of the many techniques of Disaster Management. We have a long way to catch up and are faced by many limitations and insufficiencies, I am confident to say that we will be closer to achieving a desired level of disaster management through dissemination of the knowledge and skills that we have acquired through this course.
Although this is a goodbye speech, I trust this is not the last encounter that we will have with each other. The world is one and because you as Japan have selflessly given us your friendship, we will rise up again and again even as Mother Nature hits us with disasters. And thus by improving our environment through disaster management we are all connected. I could say much more but still waters run deep and thus some words are better left unspoken.
In Portuguese Obrigado
In Spanish Gracias
In Filipino Salamat Po
In Pidgin Tenkyu
In French Merci
In Arabic Shukran
In Thai kob khun ka
Swahili Asante sana
And the language that has united us together for the past 69 days,,,,,ARIGATO GOZAIMASU.
Reported by: ARITA Miyuki, Training Management Div., JICA Kansai