To increase women’s representation in Malawi’s productive sectors, the Technical, Entrepreneurial, Vocational Education and Training (Tevet) Authority is supporting women to acquire vital skills, become self-reliant and build the nation.
Bertha Banda, a 22-year-old automobile mechanics trainee at Nasawa National Technical College in Zomba, is benefiting from technical skills scholarships from the Tevet Authority (Teveta).
She states: “I was inspired by a neighbour called Aunt Sarah, a mechanic who looks after herself and does not beg.
“It’s good for the youth, especially girls, to acquire marketable technical skills instead of scrambling for white collar jobs, which are scarce.”
Bertha envisions the skills birthing a self-sustaining business and opening jobs for her peers.
“With technical skills, you don’t wait for anyone to employ or take advantage of you. As women, we shouldn’t look down on ourselves. We have the capacity to make ourselves and our country self-reliant,” she says.
The works of Bertha’s hands easily stuns clients who thought she could not fix their vehicles.
She feels the more women enter trades dominated by men, the more the public in women will grow.
Jacqueline Nkhoma, from Thumbwe Community Technical College in Chiradzulu, dreams to open a plumbing shop after the training.
“I grew up hearing from my friends and relatives that a woman cannot be a plumber, but I did not take them seriously because I want to create jobs for the youth,” she explains.
Teveta executive director Elwin Sichiola says Malawi has every reason for more girls to acquire technical skills.
He explains: “We have a business case to ensure more girls participate in the so-called hard trades because in the country, girls outnumber boys.
“If we exclude girls from these programmes, we are excluding a larger position of the population. Eventually, we might suffer from the shortage of skilled workers. At Teveta, we believe that a girl can do whatever a boy does.”
To achieve gender parity in technical skills development, Teveta has embarked on mindset change programmes both in and out of schools.
“For some girls to say ‘I want to study plumbing or automobile mechanics, the decision doesn’t belong to the girls alone, but their society also plays its role,” says Sichiola.
Apart from community senstisation meetings, Teveta conducts career guidance sessions in secondary schools, signposting girls to existing opportunities in accredited technical colleges. The openings include male-dominated trades such as automobile mechanics, bricklaying, welding and fabrication, electrical installation and plumbing.
“We are also creating a girl-friendly environment in colleges, especially in workshops. When most national colleges were constructed, we did not understand that women and girls can also learn the trades on offer,” the Teveta chief
The transformation underway in time-honoured colleges include provision of amenities such as girls’ toilets and washrooms as well as training instructors to be sensitive to the unique needs of girls.
“We also encourage girls to take these trades through scholarships. Teveta offers 100 percent scholarships to girls in male-dominated trades.”
The scholarships under the Save Project funded by the World Bank offer girls more than just tuition and examination fees.
Malawi University of Business and Applied Science (Mubas) Vice- Chancellor Nancy Chitera says skills development is pivotal to achieve the Malawi 2063 long-term vision.
“As a country that envisions becoming a wealthy and self-reliant industrialised ‘upper-middle-income economy by 2063, we need to develop skills that will put us on that particular path. We need skills that are going to boost industrialisation, wealth creation and self-reliance. We are talking about secondary cities, but we need skills to build those secondary cities,” she said.
Chitera says the national agenda that sprouted on the ruins of Vision 2020 will be nothing unless men and women work together to achieve the desired change. “We cannot talk of Malawi 2063 unless men and women hone the skills we need to turn the vision into reality,” she states.