More women should take their place in South Africa’s male-dominated engineering and construction space, and SANRAL is working hard to make that happen, says the agency’s communication’s general manager Vusi Mona.
South Africa’s journey to become a progressive country can often be measured against the successes we have achieved in empowering women.
This is especially relevant in the sectors in which South African National Roads Agency (SOC) Limited (SANRAL) operates – engineering and construction – which have in the past been perceived as male-dominated.
SANRAL believes there should be more women in the engineering space, designing and constructing bridges, building new roads, maintaining infrastructure and, most importantly, owning and managing their own construction companies.
Since its inception shortly after the country’s democratic transition, SANRAL has actively pursued policies and practices aimed at bringing women into these sectors, both within its organisational structure and as contractors on major projects.
We are accelerating this process with the adoption of a transformation policy that recognises the critical role SANRAL plays in the transformation of the construction industry.
Through its procurement processes, the agency can ensure increased participation of women as contractors, professionals and suppliers, and break down the traditional monopolies in supply chains.
Our track record shows that we are making progress and the implementation of the new transformation policy will enable us to measure such progress against clear targets set for the participation of women, youth and emerging enterprises. In addition, we require primary contractors who derive much of their income from SANRAL construction tenders to demonstrate a similar commitment to the transformation of the industry.
Women and SMMEs winning
In the past financial year, small- and medium-sized enterprises earned a total of R4-billion from subcontracts on road construction projects.
Construction and maintenance projects are invariably accompanied by skills-development programmes that enable emerging participants to move up the ladder to become primary contractors in their own right.
More than 4 260 enterprises benefited from these programmes, including 1 690 women.
SANRAL’s commitment to women is also reflected in our support for young women who are studying in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics – the STEM areas – at universities and tertiary institutions.
Thirty-two of the 132 students who were awarded bursaries this financial year are women and we intend to increase this ratio to enable more women to become professionals in fields that are vital to the growth of the country’s vast road infrastructure network.
More than 60% of the 200 high school learners who received SANRAL bursaries and 40% of the 304 interns placed within the organisation and at other companies that conduct business with the agency are women.
Within our own Technical Excellence Academy, SANRAL offers advanced training programmes to equip graduate engineers with the knowledge and competencies that will enable them to meet professional requirements set out by the Engineering Council of South Africa.
More than third of the 27 candidates who received training at this academy, based in Port Elizabeth, are women.
OR Tambo commemoration
2017 marks the 100-year commemoration of the birth of Oliver Tambo, one of the stalwarts of the South African liberation struggle and globally recognised as an icon for his visionary leadership, which led to the fall of apartheid and to the country’s democratic transition.
At SANRAL, we paid tribute to his legacy by hosting events that celebrated OR Tambo’s broader contributions to society – especially his commitment to science education and the empowerment of women.
In August, the national focus was on women by remembering the 1956 march of more than 20 000 women of all ages and races across South Africa who converged on the Union Buildings to protest pass laws and other forms of discrimination.
Many of the leaders of the Women’s March, such as Gertrude Shope, Ruth Mompati, Dorothy Nyembe and Rahima Moosa, served with OR Tambo in the struggle and were there to hear a message delivered in his name at a mass conference of women in 1990.
Paying tribute to the vital role women played in the mass mobilisation for democracy and human rights in South Africa, Tambo called on participants to mobilise the broader society.
“The struggle must now be taken forward to ensure that the gains we have made lead to further advancements,” he said.
Tambo’s words remain a compass in the ongoing struggle to ensure the rightful participation of women in South Africa’s mainstream economy. They are also reflected in the objectives and activities of SANRAL.
We do more than build roads. We empower people and communities and we contribute to broader initiatives to give women a greater voice in our society.
Vusi Mona is the communications general manager at SANRAL.