FROM an early age, she showed a firm resolve to defy the odds in order to win success for herself and the causes important to her.
That resolve has won her the job at Tanzanite One Mining Limited where she worked as the first woman underground miner in the company’s history.
We are talking about Sophia Mbimbi. She was born in Same District, Kilimanjaro Region. She went to Kilari primary school in Siha District and later joined Ungwasi secondary school in Rombo District. Due to family related problems, Ms Mbimbi said her studies were cut-short in form two.
She later enrolled for a one year computer course at Moshi Community Centre under the Christ the King Roman Catholic parish. “I performed well in my one year computer course and managed to get a certificate with flying colours,“she says.
Soon after graduating from a computer college, the courageous Sophia joined Faraja Centre as a volunteer, the centre takes care of orphans.
“ I worked at Faraja centre for some years, it was a challenging job but I enjoyed working like that, it was all about serving orphans and the poor, I felt great in that area, serving the people of God,” she says. In 2013, Ms Mbimbi officially joined Tanzanite One Mining Limited as a Human Resource clerk. She worked as a clerk for the company’s human resource office for three years.
“After three years I was interested in working as a miner, and I really wanted to go underground,” she says. According to Ms Mbimbi, it was easy for people to understand, She says: “Some people thought I was joking, others though I had developed some mental problems while others said the job was too hard for me to do, but I insisted that it was something I wanted to do, and I thank God things went well and I did it.”
Why did she decide to join the mining job? For three years she worked in the HR office, she realized that there was no single woman working as an underground miner, she asked herself why women were not doing that job. Ms Mbimbi wrote the letter to her line manager asking him to reallocate her to underground mining section.
“I wrote the letter to my line manager, who is now Geita Town Director, Eng. Modest Apolinary supported me and my application was pushed forward,” she says.
She adds: “ From that point I went for special three months training and later started working as an underground miner. I was the only woman in a group of more than 80 men every day I dropped in the mine.”
The courageous lady worked as an underground miner at Tanzanite One Limited for two years and proved to be one of the best workers in the company. How her family and friends received the information?
“It took me six months to tell my parents and friends on my new job, I knew it was something new and challenging. Remember am the only child to my parents and thus it was not easy for them to accept my new post,” says Ms Mbimbi.
She says her father remained silent for some minutes before nodding his head in acceptance of her new path. “After telling my father, he remained silent for sometimes, but he later nodded and showed me full support, from there it was easier to tell my mother,” says Ms Mbimbi.
However, she says it was not easier for her mother to accept since she kept on questioning on her safety referring to some accidents that happen in the mining sites from time to time. “I told my mother that I have been doing this job for six months now, and thus she should not worry about me,” says Ms Mbimbi.
The challenges she faces in her job “There are several challenges in doing this job, but as a ‘fighter’ I always remain positive and focused,” she said.
Ms Mbimbi said she always work in a company of men and that some of them are not comfortable seeing her along with them. “Some men are not comfortable when I am around, they feel inferior because we are doing the same job and sometimes.
I do better than them, I always feel bad when I see someone looking down at me because of my good performance,” she says.
Moreover, Ms Mbimbi says some people think it is improper for a woman to work in mining companies especially in the underground section. She says too much questions from people on why she is doing what is termed as men’s work.
“I am sometimes disturbed by such kind of questions but I have to contain myself and respond whenever it is necessary,” she says. More knowledge and new job Ms Mbimbi is among people who believe in the power of education and training.
According to Ms Mbimbi, she served as underground miner at Tanzanite One Mining Limited for two years before enrolling for more studies at VETA in Shinyanga Region.
“I decided to join VETA in Shinyanga Region taking machines operating course. I have trained to operate heavy machines such as Excavators and Motor graders,” she says. Ms Mbimbi who is now on Practical Training (PT), programme at Geita Gold Mine (GGM), says things have changed, she now operates excavator and motor grader at the company.
“I am the only lady who operates these machines, though I am told there is another lady here who works underground, and others operate trucks,” she explains. Ms Mbimbi is thankful to GGM for the opportunity saying it is not easier for a mining company to receive students who is on PT programme.
She says “I am very happy here, GGM gives me all the supports,” The iron lady also extend her gratitude to President John Magufuli and the fifth government for telling people the truth on the need to work hard.
“I am blessed with President Magufuli’s speeches, I always feel great whenever I hear him telling us to work hard, this is the spirit that Tanzanians need,” she says.
Ms Mbimbi thanks Mr Jesse Sulley for his support in her journey in the mining industry. “We always have people who support us in our difficult journey, Mr Sulley has always stood for me, we need such kind of people to enable women achieve their dreams,” says the courageous Mbimbi.
She urges fellow women to come out and ask for jobs in the mining sector. “Let women come out, we should stand up for our future, and this is our time…” says Ms Mbimbi.