Standing shoulder to shoulder as collegaues, enabling Namibia’s economic growth…
The sound of approaching train pierces through the quiet morning, interspersed with the clickety-clack sound of the metals wheels against the iron track as the driver applies brakes to stop at the red flag indicating that D&M Rail Construction’s team of railway rehabilitators are getting ready to replace some 400 metres of sleepers. Approaching the work site, you may be forgiven to assume that this is hard back-breaking work and should ordinarily be done by men only. But you would be wrong. This is where you are most likely to find a group of women, sharing the stage for enabling Namibia’s economic growth through contributing to an effective transport network – the rehabilitation of railway infrastructure.
And amongst them is Johanna Abed, who recently featured on D&M Rail’s social/digital media platforms explaining her role as a qualified platelayer – one of only two qualified female platelayers. She joined the company in 2017, studying at the company’s training facility in Otjiwarongo. After completing the course in 2019, she was sent to site. “They sent me on site as part of the upgrading team – for a year. And then this year they decided they send me to work at the tamping machine,” she says.
Being in the field has not been easy, but Johanna is tenacious. “Sometimes its difficult since people underestimate me. But I never loose hope – I am trying my best. I am very thankful to D&M Railway Construction and am advising all the ladies all over the world – don’t think that you cannot do it. What a man can do, a lady can do!”.
Johanna is one of the 47 women employed on D&M Rail Construction’s Kranzberg to Tsumeb railway rehabilitation project, and shares the heat of sun, the fury of winter winds and general toughness associated with rail rehabilitation work with her colleagues. She is part of the company’s team which has since 1994, rehabilitated over 300 kilomteres of track, enabling the railway operator, TransNamib to keep the goods moving in a safe manner across the country.
For many years the construction industry was perceived as a testosterone-driven industry filled by men who flaunt their bravado left right and centre, and right fully so as statistics show an overwhelming 90% of male participants in the sector.
However, with the proliferation of popular women’s empowerment movements across the globe, the representation of women in the industry has increased more than in previous years and is showing a steady upward trajectory as more and more women are encouraged to pursue jobs in the sector.
And the women employed at D&M rail form part of that upward trajectory, challenging the status quo, making their mark, recording their contributions and ensuring their achievements are recognized. They exude quiet confidence and strength – both mental and physical – required to do the job. Some are in administrative jobs, which were ordinarily done by men for men; yet others are out in the field, laying tracks; whilst others find themselves in the mechanical yard, in charge of ensuring that the D&M rail fleet of motor-vehicles are safe on the roads.
Esther Usiku is a married mother of 3 kids and is in charge of quality control of the ballasts; the tamping machine and earthworks on the railway line rehabilitation project. In fact, she is in charge of all things operational on her section including certifying work done and authorizing payment and supervising the contract for culverts. “I studied at the Namibia Institute of Mining (NIMT) in 2003, obtaining a Diploma in carpentry and joinery in 2007,” she says. Motivated by her lecturers to keep reaching for greater heights she took up employment at D&M Rail’s Oshikango project and enrolled for a B-Tech Diploma, paid for through her job attachment with the company. Today, she proudly beams as she says that the rest is history and all she wants from her children are to “do the best they can..!”
Then there’s Katrina Kapuundja – orginally from Ondangwa who initially came to repair GRN vehicles at Otjiwarongo. She now makes sure that the D&M Rail fleet at Otjiwarongo is safe on our roads. Incidentally her work also involves repairing Police vehicles in the D&M Rail mechanical yard – a part of the company’s social investment endeavor. A mother of two, Katrina was inspired by her cousin to venture into what was then unknown territory. “She (my cousin) used to repair tractors and she encouraged me to try this trade and once I did, I was hooked.”
She went on to study at the Rundu Vocational Training Centre graduating in 2003. Now she wants to upgrade and study how to deal with the latest vehicles focusing on diagnostics. “And yes, this I want to do whilst I am working,” she says with the confidence that brought her thus far.
A feisty lady who did not take no for an answer is Jasmine #Nukuris who came to D&M Rail’s Otjiwarongo offices fresh out of school, starry-eyed and looking for work. At first, she got the usual “sorry, we do not have any vacancies at the moment” response but she did not let that stop her. She persisted, returning to the office week after week until, one day she got a call that changed her life forever She resigned from the job she was at within 24 hours and started her new career at D&M Rail as Office Assistant to the HR Manager and Accountant. When the Accountant left for Windhoek to take up a position there, she swiftly moved into that spot, assisting with all kinds of accounts related activities. Following the work philosophy of “first in and last one to leave the office” got her noticed and a promotion to senior clerk soon followed. “In 2016, I was awarded a bursary and obtained my Certificate in Accounting & Auditing soon followed by a diploma in 2020. Another bursary soon after enabled me to embark on a BBA Degree”, she says.
Just a short while ago, she was still the Assistant HR Manager also responsible for Payroll, overseeing financial activities at Otjiwarongo and liaising with the Head Office in Windhoek. But now, with the secondment of the HR Manager to a new position on a new project in Walvis Bay, she graciously moved into those shoes.
Married to a Pastor, Jasmine says her journey has been one of grace. “God calls and qualifies the unqualified. I have always wanted to study and be the first in my family to go to University. God made that possible. Now I trust on Him for the next stage of my life – that of owning my own HR firm one day. But for now, I must grow slowly into my position,” Jasmine concludes graciously.
For the company’s newly appointed Managing Director, Johan Laubscher, D&M Rail Construction plays a pivotal role in realizing multi-million Dollar projects for the development of Namibia and the Southern African region and is happy to see the company’s female workforce playing a major part in that role, especially since this was traditionally a male-dominted area of work. He says the female colleagues are stepping into their own and taking up their rightful place in the industry. We respect their tenacity and professionalism which adds value to our professional endeavours and indeed their presence adds value to our personal lives,” he concludes.
D&M Rail Construction has 47 women working on the Kranzberg-Tsumeb project, serving in various capacities ranging from Management to General Worker. In addition, 25
women are employed on the Walvis Bay project which commenced operations in January this year. The latter project will employ some 250 people from the Erongo region, supports the local economic development through payments to local contractors to the amount of over N$1 million per month; in addition to other local spend through rent, services and retail by newly appointed employees.