Women defying odds in a male-dominated industry

It has always been the trend for women to shy away from tasks and roles traditionally associated with men. Through the SVTP, some women in Malawi are changing the status quo.

The construction of the SVTP canal has opened up job opportunities for people in the Shire Valley and the whole country.   

Some courageous, daring women have decided to face the challenge and undertake tasks many think are male-dominated in nature.

Some female workers at Conduril

Chrissy Katunga-Human Resource Officer, Conduril: Chrissy is responsible for all human resource operations at the Conduril Site Office in Chikwawa. She oversees over 300 staff members on site.ย  She coordinates with the Chikwawa District Labour Office on staff recruitment, manages employee grievances, identifies human-resource-related issues and gaps for management consideration and facilitates linkages between the Workers Union and Management to address concerns. “My work requires a lot of patience and empathy as I am dealing with people. It is the type of work that needs courage and dedication,” she said

Dacia Thindwa-Civil Engineer, Conduril: โ€œMy work involves monitoring the targets set on site ensuring that they are met. Quality and time are paramount in this type of work. You have to put in 150% effort to show the world that you can do this.ย  Itโ€™s not about being a man or a woman, itโ€™s about hard work and determination,โ€ she said.

Hanna Mandalasi-Social Safeguards Officer, Conduril:ย Hanna is responsible for dealing with social issues on-site and acting as a liaison between the company and the communities in the surrounding villages. She is also in charge of the Grievance Redress Mechanism at Conduril, works on GBV issues at the workplace and manages coordination between the Workers Union and Management. “Itโ€™s not an easy task dealing with people. One has to be courageous, patient and approachable in this kind of work,โ€ she said.

Joyce and Rose Kapichi-Steel Fixers, Conduril:ย  ย Joyce Kapichi and her younger sister Rose are the only two female Steel Fixers at Conduril. Joyce describes her work as the type of work that demands one to have an interest. โ€œThis job needs one to be hard working and confident. Once you master this work, you get used to it. It’s quite simple. I am so glad that while here I can earn a living and support my parents back home.โ€ย ย  “I learnt this type of work from my older sister Joyce. She inspires me to work hard. We will continue to work hard,” said Rose.

Ethel Kalolokesya-Dumper Truck Operator, Conduril:ย 25-year-old Ethel Kalolokesya is a Dumper Truck Operator at Conduril. She is one of the two female heavy-vehicle drivers at the company.” I don’t look down on myself. Whatever a man can do, I can do as well. It is high time women pluck up enough courage to take up these tasks. This is the simplest of jobs you can find. I am glad my male colleagues don’t underrate me. We work as a team,” said Ethel.

Rhoda Molandi-Environmental, Health and Safety Manager, Sinohydro:ย  Rhoda is responsible for environmental management which includes managing environmental risks and ensuring compliance with environmental laws and regulations. Rhoda is also responsible for monitoring the implementation of the Environmental and Social Management Plan (ESMP). “We need to protect the environment because where there are construction works, there is interaction with the environment. All impacts to the environment from construction activities must be minimized,” said Rhoda.

Chikondi Msamba-Welder, Sinohydro:ย Chikondi is the only female welder in all SVTP construction sites. She comes from Chikwawa. She joined Sinohydro in 2022. “Welding is not a difficult job. All you need is patience and determination. Anyone can learn vocational skills. Remember, we cannot all work in an office. I have been able to open my own side welding business and a hair salon back home through money earned from my welding jobs,โ€ she said.

Aina Malonje-Excavator Operator, Sinohydro:ย 30-year-old Aina comes from Chileka in Blantyre. ย ย 

She learnt how to drive an excavator from friends in Nchalo, Chikwawa. “I got interested in driving this machine after seeing some friends driving. Driving heavy vehicles is not for men only. Anyone can drive these machines. All you need is courage and interest to learn,โ€ said Aina.

Tina Kampaundi-Survey Assistant, Sinohydro:ย ย 19-year-old Tina is one of the new employees at Sinohydro. She comes from Dyeratu in Chikwawa. Fresh from secondary school, she decided to look for work at the construction site as part of fundraising for her college education. She plans to become a nurse someday. “My role is to assist the Surveyor in taking various measurements on-site. I am learning a lot in my work. I came on a mission to learn and to save for my tertiary education. My appeal to my fellow youth in Chikwawa is to challenge yourself and seek opportunities like these,” she said.