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Female Engineers Defy the Odds 0

DAR ES SALAAM, Tanzania – Nearly every aspect of modern life is a result of the work done by engineers; from running water to the internet, sky-scrapers to smartphone apps that people use for dating.

Sadly, in Tanzania this profession attracts only a few women due to prevalent attitudes that it is a man’s job.

Women have been kept at bay due to lack of interest in science and maths that is mandatory for one to venture into the field. But the industry is slowly changing as more and more women have followed their passion to become engineers.

In Tanzania, few girls complete secondary education due to widespread poverty and the perception among parents that girls should carry out domestic chores rather than going to school. If they are in school, girls receive little encouragement to study mathematics and science subjects, which are widely considered as the arena for only male students.

‘‘You need to go where your heart leads you. Be flexible and opportunistic. If something comes up, jump on it. If it doesn’t work out – you can always go back.’ said Zuhura Said a trained female engineer currently working with Temesa—a government’s agency for electrical and mechanical works.

With funding from the Norwegian government, Tanzania’s Engineering Registration Board (ERB) is implementing a special initiative which aims to double the number of female engineers. The Structured Engineers Apprenticeship Programme (SEAP) is designed to equip female engineering graduates with practical knowledge and experience to become professional engineers.

In Tanzania, a four-year engineering education and a minimum of three years practical work experience is required before one is allowed to register as professional engineers.

The engineering profession is highly male-dominated in Tanzania. Many women who venture into the field often drop out due to lack of funding and other reasons.

Although the first female engineers in Tanzania graduated in 1976, official statistics show that by 2015 only five per cent of all registered engineers in the country were women.

But under the SEAP programme, technical women are empowered to confidently hold and manage positions of power so that they can be competitive in a male- dominated profession.

“Focus on being an engineer, rather than worrying about being a woman in a male-dominated environment,” Said advised, adding that ‘it is important to understand your motivation as most women in engineering are asked’.

Under this programme, SEAP trainees are placed at relevant engineering institutions where they gain practical working experience. They have to prepare a weekly and quarterly report to submit to their mentors

After three years of practice, the trainee has to submit a final report compiling information about the content of the work experience acquired. This report has to be reviewed by at least three external senior registered engineers and approved by the ERB for the trainee to become registered as a professional engineer.

According to ERB, the SEAP programme has contributed to increase the number of registered female engineers and contribute to an improved gender balance in the profession.

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by Kizito Makoye

Photo Credits: Getty Images

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