Female welders Ms Pretty Ncube, Ms Chiedza Mhungu, Ms Thabani Moyo
As reported by The Chronicle, Sukulwenkosi Dube-Matutu, Matabeleland South Bureau
JOSHUA Mqabuko Polytechnic students Ms Chiedza Mhunga (22), Ms Pretty Ncube (24) and Ms Thabani Moyo (22) have set their sights on starting a welding business as they firmly believe that they can excel in the male-dominated field.
For many women, welding and the trades are not presented as an option at a young age. So many people spin their wheels for a time and find themselves either underemployed or working jobs that they hate.
For women especially, there’s stigma about entering the trades — that they can’t do it or shouldn’t do it, and of course there’s a fear of entering a male-dominated industry.
Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo Ploytechnic in Gwanda
Ms Mhunga, Ms Ncube and Ms Moyo are among 15 young ladies studying metal fabrication and welding at the Joshua Mqabuko Polytechnic in Gwanda.
At the moment, the three students are on industrial attachment at Mr George Moyo’s workshop in the Gwanda. They are among a pool of 15 others who were selected to undergo a three months course under the DREAMS (Determined, Resilient, Empowered, AIDS- free, Mentored and Safe) programme.
The programme, which is funded by USAID, seeks to empower adolescent girls and young women through youth-friendly reproductive health care and social asset building.
Ms Chiedza Mhungu welding while mentor Mr George Moyo looks on
It also mobilises communities for change with school and community-based HIV and violence prevention. It is being implemented by Zimbabwe Health Intervention (ZHI).
Ms Ncube, a mother of two, said her skill in welding will help her fend for her children.
“I went to school up to O-level, but didn’t do well. This training will help me generate income for my children and earn a living,” she said.
“My plan is to take welding seriously andwe are also considering to start our own welding business with my counterparts if we get capital.”
Ms Ncube said acquiring the skills in welding has empowered her.
“For us who didn’t do well in school, I feel empowered because soon after finishing my course I have somewhere to start. Empowering women economically helps to reduces cases of gender-based violence,” she said.
Ms Ncube said women are also capable of making a mark in a trade considered a male domain.
Ms Moyo, who is also a mother of two children, said she failed her O-level and had to fend for her children after their father ditched her.
Ms Pretty Ncube cuts a rod while mentor Mr George Moyo watches
“Coming from a rural background where poverty levels are very high forces some girls into prostitution in order to get an income. Some end up dating grown men just to get money and survive thus putting themselves at risk of contracting HIV or falling pregnant,” she said.
“If these girls are empowered like me then it will help to protect them.”
Ms Mhunga noted that some women were shying away from welding because of the risks associated with it.
At first, she said she was afraid when she was given an offer to study welding. Ms Mhunga assumed that the task required some special skills and ability.
“Our course is three months long with one month set aside for industrial attachment. We have been trained on how to make burglar bars, door frames, window frames, screen doors and roof trusses and sliding gates,” she said.
“At first, I dreaded dealing with the flickers of fire and the tools used in welding were also scary to me, but I’m now used to it and also make sure that I am always protected. I’m grateful for the DREAMS programme which has afforded me this opportunity.”
Their mentor, Mr Moyo said it is his first time to train women in welding.
He said the trio is performing well beyond his expectation. Mr Moyo has been training students in welding for the past three years.
“Welding is a male-dominated field and I have not yet come across established female welders. I have been training welders for the past three years, but I have never had female students,” said Mr Moyo.
“They are performing very well and I am optimistic that they will do well in the welding industry. Their training covered window frames, burglar bars, screens doors and sliding gates making as well as assembling trusses.” – @DubeMatutu