Women empowerment: Why vocational training is ideal replacement for kitchen smoke

THE negative perception that Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) is for failure’s is as old as the invent of formal education in Africa. But even more astonishing, it was a taboo for a woman to embrace vocational skills.
Médiatrice Mukansanga displays a repaired electric motor. The New Times/Doreen Umutesi
Médiatrice Mukansanga displays a repaired electric motor. The New Times/Doreen Umutesi

THE negative perception that Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) is for failure’s is as old as the invent of formal education in Africa. But even more astonishing, it was a taboo for a woman to embrace vocational skills.

“During our time, there was no way a woman could be seen on top of a building driving a nail into the roof or even enrol for apprenticeship as a mechanic. How could a woman roll in dust and oil to fix a car,” asks 70-year-old Rutayisire a retired civil servant.

 

However fast forward 2013, TVET has not only become the future of development but women are also taking on what many still perceive as a male domain. 

 

Médiatrice Mukansanga is a student at Gacuriro Vocational Training Centre training to become a mechanic. Despite the stereo types about what she is doing, she is determined to become a mechanic. She also says her choice of enrolling at the vocational centre was not because she failed but it was out of passion. 

 

“I didn’t join the vocation centre because I failed; I joined when I was in senior five because of my love for machinery. I’m now happy that I get to do what I love,” Mukansanga says. 

The 23-year-old is already practising her skills. She can repair electric motors of water pumps and milling machines among others. 

“The process of repairing these motors is called rewinding which is reboninage in French.  All you do is replace the burnt wires with new ones but we use a specific kind of wood and paper to bind them. It requires a lot of patience and time so that the wires don’t come in contact with each other. I enjoy every bit of it because it’s challenging but when you succeed in repairing it, it gives you immense joy,” Mukansanga explains. 

She argues that when one does what they love, excelling comes naturally. You don’t have to be a woman or a man to excel in any field. All you need is determination and confidence. 

“I advise my fellow girls not to look at being a mechanic as a man’s job but they should see it as a job like any other. Being a mechanic has not changed me but it has boosted my skills.”

Mukansanga’s family has also shunned the society stereo types to support her in achieving her goal as a female mechanic.  “My parents and my siblings are so supportive of the path I have taken and I believe my future is bright because I have an avenue and skills to make my life better,” Mukansanga says with optimism. 

It’s part of a wider policy on women empowerment 

Rwanda is at the forefront of women empowerment. The country has made great strides in addressing gender inequality through gender mainstreaming of all sectors including vocational education.

Bartheleny Kanyarugunda, an Educationist at Gacuriro Vocational Training Centre, reveals that in his class, out of the 25 students, 10 are girls. 

“The girls are passionate in whatever they do and they are more careful than the boys. The girls concentrate and they are very active. I have two electric motors that have been repaired by the girls in just two months,” Kanyarugunda said. 

He added, “I advise parents to send girls to technical schools without any reservations. I know these are new skills in place but we should not employ expatriates to repair the machinery in our factories when we have the avenue for acquiring the required skills,” he observes.  

The Technical and Vocational Education and Training Priority areas in Rwanda include hospitality and tourism, construction and building, agro-business and agro-processing, automobile and electricity technical services as well as hair dressing and beauty.

The above areas were prioritised to transform the lives of middle income earners as well as enable many people to become self employed. 

To boost awareness on the technical and vocational skills, the annual Technical and Vocational Education and Training Expo was inaugurated in December 2011.  

Information on the official website of Ministry of Education indicates that the government attaches special focus to TVET for the development of the country.

“Considering the momentum of development of our country, we find that the labour market needs professionals with skills,” says Nsegiyumva. 

What is the Government doing to integrate gender mainstreaming in TVET? 

The Economic Empowerment of Adolescent Girls and Young Women project is a playing a big role in that respect. It aims at improving incomes and employment of 2700 disadvantaged young women between the ages of 15-24 in four districts through vocational training. The Ministry of Gender and family promotion alongside Workforce Development Authority and Imbuto Foundation are behind the project. 

The girls to benefit from the project are from the districts of Rulindo, Gicumbi, Gasabo and Kicukiro. 

Marie-Chantal Musaniwabo, one of the beneficiaries of this project said that the entire training takes a period of one year. 

“We are trained five hours per day. We are trained in culinary arts, food processing, agribusiness and arts and crafts. Everything is fully funded and we get money even when we graduate,” Musaniwabo said during the 2013 TVET Expo at the Gikondo grounds. 

She also said that the girls come together and form cooperatives and invest the money they receive in different projects thus exercising the skills they acquired. 

“The business enterprises we establish, link us with business mentors and we are able to access even microfinance. I’m happy that besides getting such skills, we are able to get mentors  to inspire and motivate the Rwandan girl,” Musaniwabo expressed. 

The project was launched in 2012 to adress the gender gaps in technical and vocational education and training.

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