Cape Town - The start of Women’s Month was marked by the South African National Roads Agency SOC Limited (Sanral) prioritising women in construction in its R400 million Western Region (Western and Northern Cape) slope stabilisation projects.
The seven slopes, which include Garies and Piekenierskloof Pass on the N7, Sir Lowry’s Pass, Hartenbos Hills and Groot Brak on the N2, as well as Riemhoogte on the N1 and Strydenburg on the N12, are undergoing extensive repairs and rehabilitation.
Women also lead the charge on the projects.
Deline Malgas, project liaison officer in Groot Brak, is responsible for helping unemployed people in the area apply for the 48 work opportunities on site.
On the R26m Piekenierskloof Pass, Mquanlla Van Wyk straps on a harness every morning and hauls thick rope to support abseilers. Her dream is to become an abseiler in the industry.
Gelcon Civils, a women-owned construction company, is subcontracted to do traffic accommodation on the Piekenierskloof Pass project.
Sanral has made women’s empowerment a priority within its ranks, in the industry and the private sector.
Head of Transformation, Ismail Essa, said Sanral was adhering to the government’s National Development Plan on many things, including transformation, gender equality and empowerment.
“August is Women’s Month. We must never forget the sacrifices women made so future generations could have equality. This year, the theme, ‘Generation Equality: realising Women’s Rights for an Equal Future’, speaks directly to what we are working towards,” he said.
Kamogelo Monembe manages two subcontractors who work on the N1 between Riemhoogte and Skietfontein in the Western Cape. The 185km route is patrolled daily to check for areas that need urgent maintenance.
She said her work was largely easy, but there were difficult aspects, such as ensuring the team’s work met the highest standards.
Monembe said she found that men often looked down on her.
“There aren’t many black female civil engineers, but it is time that changes. Young girls need to step up and out and be counted,” she said.
Monembe’s next challenge is to design roads and bridges.
She falls within Sanral’s transformation offering, which has several goals, including increasing the number of civil engineers and women-owned businesses.
The agency has awarded bursaries and scholarships to more girls than boys. Essa said: “In the 2020/2021 intake, 32% of recipients were male and 68% female.”
Sanral is driving women’s empowerment through the provision of contract participation goals that set targets for contracts to be awarded to women-owned companies.
The company was determined to play an essential role in the post Covid-19 economic recovery through road infrastructure projects, Essa said.
“These include projects crucial for national economic recovery, vital for the development and social transformation of the country and the creation of new jobs, especially for women and the youth.
“It will open opportunities for the development and participation of small, medium and micro-sized enterprises and stimulate the formation of large black-owned enterprises to make their mark in the infrastructure development space.”