Female engineers have a hard time on site because it’s mainly a complete “boy’s club” culture on site with the wages staff. The wages staff tend to be uneducated laborers who have “traditional” views on gender roles and the construction site is where men do manly things.
Female engineers are usually unable to make strong friendship bonds with the foremen and labourers who are doing the work on site. When a male engineer asks the foreman for a favour, it might get done faster because they went out to the bar last night or alternatively went out chasing girls on Saturday night and have a “male bond”. The females do not have such advantages.
The relationships that boys and men are able to form on the construction site means that a male engineer will be able to get their work done (because the foremen will work extra hard for a friend) faster than the female engineers.
The male engineers will be seen as being more competent, and be promoted faster. The female engineers are left behind and either quit or hit the glass ceiling.
But not for Rachel Shafuda-Andreas (B.Sc Civil).
Meet Windhoek Consulting Engineers (WCE)’s finest. She is currently the assistant engineer for the Nakathilo Plaza in Ondangwa, one of Northern Namibia’s biggest projects.
She is not hindered by stereotypes and or ‘boys clubs,’ as she solidifies her role in Nakathilo Plaza. She has only worked for WCE and in those two years, she has defied culture and stereotypes, having been exposed to various projects within the civil engineering fields, such as water, sewer, roads and storm water. And Nakathilo is her biggest thus far.
About Nakathilo Plaza:
This is a Commercial and Logistics Plaza facilitated by Trans-Kalahari Logistics. It is a multi-tenant business park in the town of Ondangwa that will consist of 5 000-tonnes combined cold storage facility, a commercial center as well as large warehouses/show rooms. This project is expected to create up to 120 jobs during the construction phase and 100 jobs when fully operational.
Although she is an assistant engineer on the project, during construction Rachel will be the site supervision Engineer.
“The challenge is; we are always working on tight schedules, which adds a lot of pressure to the job. We need to consistently produce high-quality work at a fast pace, which is a big challenge, but that is what keeps our clients coming back to us. However, by working together as a team we get a lot more done than we would working separately, so teamwork is a priority in our company. Of course, sometimes human error cannot be helped but you learn from your mistakes,” she says.
This N$260 million multi-tenant business park for logistics operations, commercial services and a 5 000-tonne combined cold storage facility will certainly stimulate the economy and job creation in Ondangwa.
Says Jospeh Mundjele, Managing Director of Trans-Kalahari Logistics, “With the growth of the Namibian economy moving at a rapid pace, the town of Ondangwa is strategically positioned in terms of access to critical trade routes in the north of the country that also leads to neighbouring Angola.”
“With three major highways intersecting in Ondangwa, this has raised interest for vital transport developments like cold storage and logistics hubs.”
He noted that Trans-Kalahari Logistics has already assessed demand and supply for industrial and commercial land in northern Namibia, which has recommended that more infrastructure is required to enable commercial and industrial growth.
“Following the extensive assessment process, Extension 18 in Ondangwa has been identified as ideal because of its highway access, topography, and strategic location in regards to national freight routes.
The company has since acquired a piece of land from the Ondangwa Town Council measuring 20 000 square meters (two hectares) for the sole purpose of developing a commercial and logistics plaza,” Mundjele stated.
The development of the business park is anticipated to run for a period of 24 months from date of ground-breaking to the grand opening. The preliminaries of the project are already underway, which include, among others, the rezoning of the area as well as the Environmental Impact Assessment study.
Upon receiving the environmental clearance from the Ministry of Environment and Tourism, the installation of access roads, sanitary sewer lines as well as storm water accommodation will set the tone for the whole project, as the area for this development is still undeveloped.
Weighs in Rachel, “A project manager carries the risk of accountability. They are the accounting officers of any project. As a project manager, I must answer to the client at any time. Also, should anything go wrong, the project manager is the first person to be held responsible.”
So who is Rachel Shafuda-Andreas?
I am a young dynamic, and conscientious individual with a BSc (Hons) degree in Civil Engineering from the University of Namibia (UNAM) obtained in 2015. After graduation I got employed by Windhoek Consulting Engineers (WCE), which I’m serving to date as an Engineer in Training. I have gained skills and knowledge in Project Management, Contract Administration, Quality Assurance, Design and Draughting and Interpersonal Communication respectively.
“I’m very passionate about water engineering and would like to major in Water Engineering for my Master’s degree which I applied for at UNAM. I lost my mother at the age of 4, so I grew up under the care of my father and of my elder siblings. I’m a wife and have a family to take care of, which is the pillar to my success and it is my number one priority.”
Growing up, Rachel knew nothing about engineering and personally knew no engineers. All she ever loved was solving problems with practical solutions. And fortune favours the bold. She was fortunate to complete her high school in Ongwediva where the Unam Engineering Campus was being constructed at that time.
She recalls, “We would always go visit the construction site of the engineering campus and that is where my passion for engineering started. Because I always had a good handle on mathematics and physics, when I told one of my brothers about my passion for engineering, he strongly believed that I could do it and helped me chose Civil as an Engineering discipline, a choice I will never regret.”
She sees a future for Namibian girls in engineering, considering that today, there are more girls in Namibian schools than a decade ago. But there is a need for a shift to technical courses for girls.
“Wrong traditional beliefs and customs, that the industry is male dominated and lack of women in senior positions are my main frustrations. The nation, especially men, needs to be educated and made to realize that women are as able as men at a lot of things even in this field. Platforms such as this one (The Engineer magazine) are great for inspiring the upcoming young women who intend to pursue a career in engineering. The responsibility equally lies with us as women to believe in ourselves and lift ourselves to greater heights.”
- One of the projects she has worked on is for Trustco Group; the construction of services at Extension 11 in Ondangwa. This project included the construction of surfaced roads, storm-water infrastructures, rehabilitation of existing surfaced roads, concrete and interlocked intersections, water reticulation, sewer reticulation and electrical distribution networks for Ondangwa Extension 11, which comprises of a total of 81 erven.
- She also worked on the Oshana Regional Council; Upgrading of gravel roads to bitumen standard in Uukwangula settlement. The project entails the upgrading of some of the existing gravel roads in Uukwangula Settlement to 19mm Cape Seal, double slurry surfaced roads, the construction of kerbing, paving, road signs, road markings, stone pitching, concrete stormwater channels and access slabs. This besides designs of some other projects also.
She adds, “Our country needs to continue focusing on developing roads, water facilities, improve electrical generation and distribution and many more. These are some of the key ingredients to drive good business in the country and hence improve the living standards of every Namibian. Government needs to plan more holistically, have integrated master plans to work with and also engage the private sector through Public Private Partnerships in order to accelerate such development.”
In ten years she intends to position herself as one of Namibia’s leading civil engineers, particularly in Northern part of Namibia.
“The major challenge we have in the north is flooding. Most of the towns in the north are in flood prone areas. So, one has always to incorporate flood mitigation measures in all the designs. Another challenge is the scarcity of good quality construction materials for example base course materials always has to be sourced commercially in the north. Because the North is relatively flat, there is also lack of construction water except during rainy season when the natural Oshanas get filled with rain water which is also a challenge. These Oshanas cannot be relied on for the whole year as they get dried up after rainy season.”
Message to Girls:
For anyone who is thinking about joining an engineering environment, I would say go for it! Absolutely do not be put off and do not think that there is anything that you can’t do! If it’s something you are passionate about and you believe you can do it, go for it. So many times, I have said to myself, ‘Is this something I can do? I don’t know, just try!’ And every time I try, I realize that anything can be done. It’s a matter of time, effort, commitment and attitude.
I look to a lot of different people to inspire and motivate me in different areas. I have colleagues with amazing technical knowledge who are always willing to share their expertise, especially our office Manager Mr. Jannie Swiegers.
“However, I think that is one of the difficulties for women in engineering, there are not enough women in senior posts to provide mentorship for women. There are specific challenges you face as a woman in engineering and having a person who can relate to the challenges and help guide you through them is very important.”
As with Rachel, women in engineering bring perspectives from experience that adds sensitivity to detail that enriches their work and empathy for end users.
WCE is a multidisciplinary engineering firm (offering consulting services in civil, structural, mechanical, electrical and water). Established in 1977, WCE is the oldest engineering consulting firm in Namibia, and celebrated its 40th anniversary last year, 2017. WCE employs over 50 people, ranging from professional engineers to engineers in training, administrators and general workers.
That also makes it probably the biggest engineering firm in the whole of Namibia. With such professional experience and big team, there is enough room at WCE to learn and capacitate oneself with good engineering experience and exposure.
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