Tradition has witnessed girls and women seeking feminine roles in society including, their choices of careers.
This has been largely to fulfill expectations laid down by stereotypes that expect a woman to maintain her femininity and softness such as offering nursing services in a hospital, teaching, doing secretarial duties or cookery.
Again, societal expectations are for men to take up macho and more defining roles that are either heavy-duty or intellectually challenging.
Well, for 27-year-old Florence Yalomwe, the issue of femininity eluded her as she ventured into a male dominated field of fabrication and welding.
While her peers mind about making impressions with their looks by wearing makeup, dressing to kill and letting their hair loose, Yalomwe’s goes for simplicity, decent enough to get her welding job done.
“For me, this is an easy job which I believe fetches a lot of money. I look forward to the day I own my own welding shop where the blazing of machines and glitter of the heat twinkles its way to my pocket to earn a decent living,” she says.
Yalomwe, a mother of one is in the third month of training for the fabrication and welding course offered by the Technical Education, Vocational and Entrepreneurship Training Authority (Teveta) at Ntambanyama Community Skills and Development Centre in Thyolo.
After six months, she qualifies for practice with a certificate and says she looks forward to supporting her eight-year-old child.
In a class of 15 men and just three women, the ratio alone speaks volume in terms of career choices. Yalomwe’s partner Amos Malindi, ironically is doing nursing elsewhere.
And Tiyanjane Londwe, 20, Yalomwe’s other female classmate, says the ratio is far from discouraging because she is an ardent believer of gender equality.
“We actually enjoy favour as the minority because we always get a chance to practice on daily basis. It actually works to our advantage,” says Londe.
Teveta has been offering courses in carpentry and joinery; tailoring and design; fabrication and welding; and brick laying at Ntambanyama for the past two years.
Principal of the centre Tobias Dodole says Yalomwe and Yonde are in the third cohort which started in February his year.
“The first cohort graduated 101 while the second graduated 72. Ninety-six enrolled for the third cohort. We have two teachers in each course-male and female for purposes of encouraging more women to enroll for our courses to break gender barriers,” he says.
And while admitting that the design and tailoring course tends to be popular among students, Dodole says brick laying is the most marketable in the area, adding that the last cohort of brick layers had more women than men- clearly ascertaining to the gender barrier break even further.
And while male tailors are a common site in many rural settings such as Ntambanyama, its design and tailoring class speaks a different story of just eight men against 31 women.
Ziggy Mpanang’ombe, 23 and 19-year-old Chisomo Banda are two of the eight men who believe that being outnumbered cannot be a barrier towards the realisation of their goals.
Mpanang’ombe says he shall soldier on to complete the course because it is lucrative while Banda says it is s course that provides easy markets. For the two, gender is not a deterring factor.
Well, for Teveta, the provision of expertise through teacher trainings, learning resources and equipment is just a step towards development and clearly, their initiative is breaking many barriers such as poverty and by far, gender.