Where are the women in technical fields?

Room for women as well… Albertina Shitalangaho (front row in the middle) with plumbers and trade experts.


Namibia remains challenged with a situation where men still dominate the uptake in technical and vocational education and training institutions. Men are said to appear to still think that women are not mentally or physically suitable to be trained in technical work.

“The perception that trades are only for men still exists. Women are lagging behind, but they are catching up. We really encourage women to up their presence in trades – we can be better than men. I also had challenges from men when I went for vocational training such as mixing water and cement. They tested me but I managed to build a wall. I managed to finish my studies and now here I am as an instructor,” noted Sarti Immanuel, a bricklayer and plasterer by profession who is a trainer at Zambezi Vocational Training Centre.

She added that only a few women earn a living as tradespersons. Such trades would include automotive, aircraft mechanics, construction, industrial and technical, among others.

Immanuel said Zambezi has about seven women doing bricklaying and plastering among a sea of men.
New Era learnt that for auto-mechanics, Rundu Vocational Training Centre has enrolled 10 women, Okakarara Vocational Training Centre has enrolled nine women, while only five women are enrolled at Valombola Vocational Training Centre. Eenhana Vocational Trading Centre has about 65 women doing plumbing, and six in auto-mechanics.

“There is money in this trade one you finish your studies. Remember, people are being killed apparently because women are eating men’s money – it’s now a chance for us to create jobs for ourselves and others. They train people to become job creators and at the end of the day it’s money in your pocket,” Immanuel said.

Immanuel was chosen to supervise different competitors from various training centres during the just-ended National Skills Competition and Expo 2016.

Another brave woman is 20-year-old Albertina Shitalangaho, who is doing plumbing at Windhoek Vocational Training Centre.
“I didn’t want to take courses such as office administration because people struggle to get jobs in that field. So I decided to do plumbing – it takes a strong person to take it, but I went for it anyway. I am the only woman in competition with the guys – it is very tough but I am coping. I can fix a tap and toilet just like men,” she stressed.

She said most women who are at Windhoek Vocational Training Centre prefer to take up courses such as office administration and cooking. The centre has a combined 53 women in plumbing at all three levels of trade qualification.

Shitalangaho urged other women to register at vocational training centres. “It doesn’t take long – then you can create jobs for yourself and others,” she encouraged.

Chris Kakuizike, chief vocational instructor at Berg Aukas in Grootfontein, said although there are more women than men in Namibia, very few women take up technical work.

“Back in the 1990s when we went to VTCs, there were no ladies enrolled. But as we talk now they are there. They have come to the party. Trades are for everyone, women even score better than men in examinations. They are coming, although they are slow. Learning is a slow process,” he said.

He said vocational education is here to stay – hence he called on people, especially women, to come on board and not fear the challenges that come with it.

Another go-getter, who had been working as a welder at a uranium mine for many years, is Notburga Ndengu.
Ndengu has since taken up a new job as an instructor at Zambezi Vocational Training Centre. She said not a lot of women have taken up welding as a trade.

“There are a lot of challenges. Some companies don’t trust that women can really do the job. However, I worked for Rössing Uranium Mine for eight years but I never experienced any discrimination. I could do the same job as men do. I believe women can do it,” she said.

She said she has six women in her workshop at different levels, adding that they are doing well.
She said even though women representation in technical fields is not that good, she is hopeful that women numbers would increase.
“There should be more awareness-making so that women can be motivated. People have to make vocational training education a choice, instead of waiting after three years of hassling with Grade 10 or 12. Vocational education is not for failures,” she said.


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