Shivala-Da Silva ensuring safety at Helmsman Group

EVERY construction company needs someone to make sure that the construction of any project is up to standard. It is therefore against this background that one of the country’s leading construction companies, Helmsman Group, that owns shopping complexes and is involved in building houses in Oshakati, Karibib and Rundu, amongst other businesses has a dedicated site inspector in Nancy Shivala-Da Silva who makes sure that building plans and specifications are being followed correctly while managing staff and subcontractors on building sites.
Shivala-Da Silva (SD) sat down with Confidente’s Michael Uugwanga (MU) to speak about her role as a site inspector for Helmsman Group.

(MU): Can you briefly introduce yourself and share with us what your job entails as site supervisor?
(SD): My name is Nancy Shivala-Da Silva. I am working for Helmsman Group in the town of Rundu in the Kavango-East Region running all four sites currently with Divundu included. I am talking here as a company inspector. I am doing inspections for the whole company.

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(MU): What made you venture into this field of construction?
(SD): I ventured in business travelling the world until I decided to join the construction field and I ended up in the hands of wonderful women, strong and creative. It is a real opportunity also to be part of the team.

(MU): What are some of the challenges you have faced bearing in mind a slowing construction sector over the past few years?

(SD): Prices by workers and employees have gone down. For instance for sub-constructors jobs such as putting tiles on the rate on square metres also went down due to Covid-19, so the economy crisis is affecting the rates and the prices; and this affects the salaries of the employees at the site and it is one the biggest challenges we are faced with, but this will not stop us from going ahead with our work as long the materials are available. I do inspections twice a week and part of the job description is to make sure that the employees have safety clothes on.

(MU): Do you think the sector is going to find its feet again as a leading sector in Namibia?

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(SD): Yes it will definitely find its feet again.

(MU): What are the pros and cons of pursuing a career as a site inspector?
(SD): Previously the construction industry used to be for men but I told myself I can also make it. I have travelled around the African continent to countries like Tanzania, South Africa, Rwanda and Zambia whereby I have seen women driving trucks and front loader tractors. And I asked myself why can’t we do it as Namibian women. In the beginning when men came to the site and saw me with my helmet on, they would look down on me wondering what a woman was doing there. I am strong, I am standing firm, and I am showing that as women we can also do it.

(MU): The demands of your work do not complement the need for personal and family time. How do you balance these two?
(SD): As I earlier indicated I have travelled in Africa at my previous job at the United Nations (UN), and at NamPower where I worked internationally and locally. For me it is something that I am used to.

(MU): What do you think needs to be done to create more opportunities for those who want to venture into construction?
(SD): There is need to create a platform whereby women come together and then we interact and share ideas. I am also willing to build a platform with other Namibian women internationally and nationally, so that we share ideas and see how we can also go into the field of construction.

(MU): In your view what is the quality of constructors produced in Namibia in comparison to those in other parts of the world?
(SD): The quality is just as good as in other parts of the world whether it is in Europe, China, America, at the end of the day it is all about the effort one puts in.

(MU): What inspires you to keep working the construction space?
(SD): What keeps me going in this industry is by looking at the person that inspired me to be in this industry. I joined the construction industry last year.

(MU): Would you like to add anything else?
(SD): There is nothing that women cannot do but through working in unity. Nothing can stop you but yourself.