IT is still a debatable topic and difficult puzzle to unearth why most young Tanzanian female graduates are so reluctant to enter male-dominated professions, especially in the mining, engineering or geology sectors.
In the course, the sectors are still reportedly seeing only few female engineers boldly venturing in Tanzania in comparison to the male folk.
For instance, the Engineers Registration Board (ERB) announced in 2018 that Tanzania faces a shortage of female engineers, which is holding back the country’s development.
In 2016, Thomson Reuters Foundation reported that although the first female engineers in Tanzania graduated in 1976, according to official statistics, only four per cent of all the registered engineers in Tanzania were women in 2009.
But, under the Structured Engineers Apprenticeship Programme (SEAP), which aims to equip them with knowledge and experience to become professional engineers in a maledominated field, there is at least a bright future.
The programme, run by Engineers Registration Board, Tanzania’s professional body with financial support from the Norwegian government, has seen the number of female engineers in Tanzania more than double since 2010.
The demonstrable increase in the number of young female engineers has led to a rapid paradigm shift in the male-dominated scientific professions as most female graduates are now interested in scientific careers despite being discouraged and disappointed by men who still believe that women cannot take up challenging jobs, especially in the mining sector.
Recently, we had a faceto-face conversation with Engineer Jesca Laswai, a Mining Engineer, who works for the Geita Gold Mine Limited (GGML) as Underground Mining Contractor, African Underground Mining Services (AUMS). During the interview, it was noted that passion, commitment and ambition are unique factors, which drive some young female graduates to excel in the mining careers.
“I do not think there is a specific profession for boys or men. If that were the case, we would not have seen so many talented young women setting world records,” explains Engineer Jesca.
A mining engineering graduate from the University of Dar es Salaam, Jesca had a desire to explore the mining industry.
“It was not easy because soon after I decided to pursue a career in mining, most people close to me advised me against it, saying I was wasting my time and jeopardising my family’s future,” Jesca tells her story.
Elaborating, she says things changed after she chose this career, and she is now very happy doing what she does. “I want to encourage other young women and graduates of other colleges to believe that anything is possible on this planet. They should be aggressive and take up any profession, including mining. This mining career ensures my daily bread here in Geita through daily planning of mining activities in Nyankanga. “I know few girls complete secondary education in Tanzania due to widespread poverty and the perception among parents that girls should carry out only domestic duties. “But if they are in school, girls still received little encouragement to pursue mathematics and science subjects, often considered the domain of male students,” Jesca explains.
In the next ten years, Jesca sees herself as a successful Mining Engineer and still optimistic that she will reach that level, not only because she is being empowered, but simply because she is able to perform at the required level.
Tanzania is rich in natural resources, such as gold, diamonds, nickel, uranium, and natural gas. It is also home to one of the rarest gemstones in the world, Tanzanite, which is only found in Manyara region.
Despite these unique resources and booming economy, a Tanzania rank 152nd out of 182 countries in the Human Development Index, 134th out of 185 countries in favourable business environment, and has a per capita income of US$652.
Approximately 70 per cent of the population lives in rural areas where access to facilities is limited or completely absent.
As a result, the country continues to face many socioeconomic challenges that are further compounded by high illiteracy and dropout rates, leading to an increase in unemployment.
The situation for young women and girls is also very bleak.
Reached for further comments, ERB Chairman, Engineer Ninatubu Lema said more than 2,000 engineers are currently graduating from universities in the country every year, but only 800 of them are registered with the ERB, with more than 1,200 of them disappearing into the unknown world and creating a space for presence of ‘air engineers’ in the country.