Sisters Doing It For Themselves

23 Nov 2013 10:40am
By Paulus Shiku
(Nampa Features Service)

KEETMANSHOOP, 23 NOV (NAMPA) - A group of women working on the construction site of the Old Mutual Shopping Centre in Keetmanshoop is busy challenging people’s conventional ideas of what constitutes male-dominated jobs.
Tired of suffering due to unemployment, the six young women decided to not sit back and to see what type of employment they could find at the site.
Most notable amongst the group are Gertrude Amadhila and Hambeleleni Mwalunga, who can be seen pushing wheelbarrows filled with interlocks at the entrance of the construction site.
Speaking to Nampa as they were busy calling it a day on Wednesday, the two single mothers of one daughter each said their main reason for taking up construction work is being able to make money so they could feed their daughters.
Mwalunga is originally from Oshikango in northern Namibia.
“It was the only available job, so I decided to take it and make money instead of just sitting at home and suffering from poverty. I do not have educational qualifications for me to get a better job, so I opted for this one,” she said while busy packing bricks into her wheelbarrow.
Amadhila, also from the North, says her story is similar to that of Mwalunga as she also does not have qualifications.
“It is not what I want to do, but life forced me to do it. I want to make money to feed my daughter and pay for her education. I believe anyone can do any type of work as long as their body can handle it. There is no work for men or women as some people believe,” Amadhila indicated.
She noted that part of her salary this month will go to her parents to help them pay for a tractor which will be used to plough their mahangu field back home.
The two young women used the opportunity to encourage other Namibian women to not fear any job, saying women are fully capable of working in the construction industry.
This news agency also spoke to the four other women employed at the construction site - Barbara Baizako, Johanna Uushona, Anastasia Petrus and Tuuliki Iipinge.
Their duties include tiling and grouting walls and floors after the male employees have done the plastering work.
They indicated that none of them had any previous experience in this type of work, and they learned all their skills on the job.
“I just came to the site to search for work, they asked me if I can do any type of job because I have no qualifications and I agreed. They gave me this work, I learned from the men who showed me at first - now I am an expert in tiling,” a proud Baizako said.
Baizako is a mother of two, but she takes care of four other children left in her care by her sister who passed away.
She is fortunate as the fathers of her sister’s children are very supportive and contribute by buying clothes and food, as well as paying for their children’s education. Still, even with their contributions the going was still a little tough, hence Baizako’s decision to seek employment at the construction site.
Asked what message she would like to give to women out there, Baizako said women should stop fearing certain types of work which they deem as being “for men only”.
She further advised them to try out new things to broaden their experiences.
“We should stop depending on men to support us financially. Women must gain new skills, especially those mainly familiar to men only. Now I can put tiles in my house or repair a broken window, these are things I did not know before. Ladies can do any type of job if they try,” Baizako said.
Uushona also spoke about how proud she is that she can now grout tiles, a job which she had no previous experience in but which she has become very good at. She encouraged other women to work and gain on-the-job experience.
She does not have any children, and her money is used to support her unemployed parents.
“Government must give more leadership positions to women because we can also lead, just like men,” said Uushona when asked what she thinks of gender equality.
On her part, Petrus emphasised that unemployed women must search for work in the construction industry when they have no other options so that they can prove that they can also work and be independent.
She also called on Government to give women jobs so that they can stop depending on men.
“We must work to support our children, it is not good to stay at home and let men do all the work when we want to be on par with them,” said Petrus.
Many would think that working in a male-dominated environment would be made harder by the fact that their colleagues would not welcome their presence there, but the six women indicated that they have received nothing but support from their colleagues.
Their colleagues have in fact been helping them tremendously by teaching them the new skills, and they even help out with other things such as helping them by carrying heavy objects.
The group of women used the opportunity to thank their male colleagues for being so supportive.