For many years, women have not been associated with certain jobs such as building, welding and many other physical ones.
As a result, even those that have shown interest in those jobs have been sidelined during recruitment in most cases. In fact for a long time it was generally held that women are most suited for tasks that require a lot of care. These include nursing and teaching.
However, the Rwanda government sought to change this perception in society well knowing that both men and women are vital for the country’s development and the fruits can be seen.
Chantal Uwimana, a female student of welding at African Evangelistic Enterprise Rwanda (AEER) supported vocational school in Rwamagana, is a clear example of someone who has gone for the ‘men’s’ course.
“At the beginning I was scared to touch any welding equipment let alone the protective gear because I thought power would shock me,” she says. “However I got used after getting some training from my teachers.”
Uwimana says circumstances pushed her to work much harder than everyone in order to know twice as much as the boys and weld twice as better.
“There’s this feeling that you can’t do this or that because you are weak and fragile. And that’s true to an extent. You probably can’t lift as much as your average male welder but the job is more than that so girls can still outdo their male counterparts,” she notes.
Uwimana, whose class is largely composed of male students, says she’s a source of attention in her class.
“Much as they (male classmates) treat me with respect, they don’t know how to approach me.
They look at me as some kind of outcast but I’m not bothered because I know the solution is in working hard,” she notes.
Francine Dusabeyezu, 17, joined the welding course after failing to continue with formal education. But she is quick to admit that the course ‘belongs’ to boys.
“We are only 2 girls in our class out of 50 students. However, I’m proud to study welding that is largely shunned by girls because it gives us an edge over others when it comes to job competition,” she says.
Dusabeyezu, just like Uwimana, plans to create her own job in the long term.
“I am just few months away from completing my one-year course. I will search for employment as soon as I’m done but with a plan of raising capital to start my own business,” she says.
Patricia Nyirakamana, a motor mechanic, says she has been doing welding for the last 5 years and she earns fairly well.
“I started working in the garage after studying welding and I earn about Rwf 300,000 per month,” says the 27-year-old lady who was supported by AEER in her education.
More women to be financed
Wilson Kabagambe, the AEER coordinator in Eastern Province, says the organization is committed to help the community gain practical skills regardless of one’s gender.
“Welding is a rewarding career for those who are good at working with their hands. And we want girls to understand this,” he says, adding that they look at skilling women as an opportunity to develop the country.
Rwanda has been promoting vocational training for vulnerable children and youth as a key to self-sustainability.
Albert Nsengiyumva, the Minister of State in the Ministry of Education in charge of Technical and Vocational Education and Training says: “TVET schools are supporting government’s efforts to address skills gap in key sectors of the Rwandan economy. The focus is to provide training in priority areas and equip students with appropriate and market relevant technical skills.”
He says TVETs are helping to address the shortage of plumbers, carpenters, travel guides and technicians.
“The overall objective is to build the required skills in the key economic sectors that will make Rwanda a service based economy by 2020,” he notes.