Creating opportunities for girls in engineering

Bursary recipient Tess Dube is a 3rd Year Civil Engineering student at Stellenbosch University.

Women deserve acknowledgement and recognition for their exceptional achievements and safe spaces within which to excel. SANRAL advocates for transformation in the construction sector, which calls not only for prioritising gender equity and the promotion of opportunities for women, but promoting access for the girl child to careers in engineering.

The agency has been supporting education in the built environment with its bursary and scholarship programme for more than 10 years, with nearly 130 engineering bursaries awarded to females in the last three years. The scope of support has been expanded beyond Civil Engineering, to accommodate other related disciplines within the public sector infrastructure development space.

“In recognising the changing landscape in our industry and the often overlooked auxiliary pipelines that feed the engineering sector, we have to look beyond a core discipline built on Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) and to effectively consider the broader scope of Science, Technology, Reading, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics (STREAM),” says SANRAL’s GM for Skills Development Heidi Harper..

Going forward, the SANRAL scholarship programme will take these factors into account. While SANRAL has a vested interest in promoting the importance of Maths and Science at school, the agency equally recognises the value of supporting girls in high school to complete matric, irrespective of their chosen areas of further development.

Bursary recipient Jesse-Leigh Nomdo is a  1st Year Civil Engineering student at UCT.

Not every young girl who enters the school system ends up passing matric. However, that does not signify the end of learning. There is a growing cohort of young people operating in the road construction industry, and SANRAL has been instrumental in creating learnership opportunities that have given thousands of young girls access to skills development, knowledge sharing, gainful employment and even entrepreneurial support. SANRAL’s procurement policies are geared to pave the way for women-owned businesses, and particularly youth-run small, medium and micro enterprises (SMMEs), to benefit from access to conventional construction projects as well as routine road maintenance.

‘Quality Education’ and ‘Gender Equity’ are ranked 4th and 5th among the 17 Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations for 2030. SANRAL’s Horizon 2030 strategy is closely aligned to these, and the agency seeks to aggressively prioritise a developmental pipeline for the girl child in engineering, for a substantial rise in the uptake of women in the engineering sector and the greater built environment.