On top of the government’s agenda is to correct the imbalances of the past that saw women being on the receiving end of economic exclusion and marginalization on career paths, Municipal Infrastructure Support Agency (MISA) has provided an enabling environment which contributes to a lot of women making inroads towards careers in built environment.
It wasn’t an easy road in a male dominated field for Kwazulu-Natal born Ndondo Mendy Mabhengu to venture into a career in engineering. The 24 years Mendy is the last of 5 siblings who were raised by a single mother in the place called Inanda just outside eThekwini, KwaZulu-Natal.
“Growing up all I was ever told was, No! girls don’t do that or you can’t do that because you are girl. I knew from a young age that there is something wrong with that narrative and I promised myself that I would play my part in changing it. These constant disapprovals made me headstrong and determined” said Ms Mabhengu.
She kept true to the promise she made to herself as she fought to become the first female tutor in the department of Civil Engineering during her days as a student at Mangosuthu University of Technology where she tutored Mathematics. “When I first applied for a job as tutor I was told that although my marks were outstanding I would not be accepted as they thought that female tutors were unable to take command of their students.”
Her love of Mathematics and science propelled her to pursue a Civil Engineering qualification at Mangosuthu University of Technology where she successfully completed her studies on record time. Subsequent to her attaining her first qualification, she enrolled in a Bachelor of Technology Degree in Civil Engineering at Central University of Technology. The fact that she is the first one in family to break the generational academic backwardness by attaining two qualifications on record time, serves as a driving force for her to continue working hard while sharpening her adeptness in the previously male dominated field of engineering.
“When my mom gave birth to me, she named me Ndondo which means her trophy, I grew up following my name and collected many trophies at school as I was always in the list of top 3 achievers throughout school where I was always the only girl amongst boys. Through hard work I maintained the trend even through tertiary. This gave me confidence to know that I can compete with anyone irrespective of gender as long as the playing field is level”. Said Ndondo. “Sadly, the playing field is far from level in my field and it is my wish to correct this error for future female engineers.” She continued.
Hailing from the dusty streets of economically challenged location of Inanda, Ndondo had her own fair share of poverty and stayed in a shack for a part of her life. Like any other lady who grew up in townships marred by poor service delivery and infrastructure, Ndondo knew that she had to do well in school in order to prevent future generations from suffering the same fate she went through.
Ndondo became part of MISA Young Graduate Programme in 2019 after seeing an advert doing the rounds on social media, she then logged onto MISA website to get full details. She was placed at Umvoti Local Municipality to do her practical work as part of the requirements she has to fulfill to become a professionally registered engineer with Engineering Council of South Africa (ECSA).
“I would like to thank MISA for affording me an opportunity to showcase my skills and providing me with a chance to learn as much as I can where I am currently placed. I would also like to thank my colleagues from Mvoti Local Municipality, with a special mention of my supervisor Ms. Ntokazi Mbambo and the Municipal Manager Mrs. Ngiba. What I enjoy the most about Civil Engineering is that your work influences where people work, relax, learn and live. You become a part of helping the society to become more advanced by adapting the infrastructure to meet challenges brought on by new technologies, population growth and climate change. As a young female engineer I have to work a lot harder to prove that I am capable of doing the same job as men.” concluded Ndondo.
Ndondo draws her inspiration from powerful women in the industry such as the late Dr Thandi Ndlovu who was the CEO of Motheo Construction, who started her own engineering company from scratch amidst a lot of naysayers who told that she would not succeed.
According to Ndondo, the main challenge that is paralyzing women in the sector is that women have to prove themselves more than their male counterparts. The prospects of male counterparts securing executive position in the sector are greater than those of women which is unfathomable in 2020.