Edited by  Megan O’Connor – submitted by BluLever Education

Plumbing Africa thanks Blulever Education for providing coverage of their ongoing Women on Tools campaign, which aims to change the narrative about women in the trades by sharing the success stories of their female apprentices.

Dineo Mudumbe. Image supplied by BluLever Education

Dineo Mudumbe. Image supplied by BluLever Education

“When I applied for the plumbing apprenticeship, I didn’t know much – the only thing I knew was that in plumbing you unblock pipes and deal with sinks and toilets. But having a background in construction helped me broaden my view. It was in construction that I started to get excited about plumbing. I was nervous because, as we know, this industry is male-dominated, and I was afraid that I would be treated differently or not given a fair chance to learn. It is a physical industry, and I doubted my physical capabilities – wondering if I would be able to carry equipment and use the tools properly. But going to LBC changed my mindset completely. I learned valuable lessons that I will use in both my personal and professional life. So, from camp I felt ready for the industry.

“When I started my journey as an apprentice, I enjoyed being on campus and doing practicals, so when I went to EBL I thought that things would be the same. Working on site has its own challenges that I had to adapt to, such as working in a noisy and dusty place and working on my fear of heights. As a woman, I also had the added challenge of having to face physicality-related stereotypes like ‘woman can’t carry heavy equipment.’ Even when we were doing the physical work, some plumbers preferred that I watched the work be done instead of doing it myself. I was also often assigned to the simple tasks like assembling a toilet cistern, installing a tap or to fetching tools from the truck – I felt like I was not needed on site. I also often felt discouraged when I would come to site with the hopes of being given a new challenging task, only to be given the same thing. But as weeks passed, I tried to do small tasks on my own under supervision, which showed them that I was eager to learn, and eventually I was given the ability to complete tasks on my own.

A situation in which I had to prove myself was when we were given a task to install water meters. There were a lot of doubts about whether I could fasten it tight enough to not have leaks. I was told to just assemble it and they would install and fasten it on the pipe. After observing the first installation, I asked to assemble the second and third. I gained confidence that I did it correctly, so I was able to complete it on my own. I was happy with the outcome because I gained trust in my ability to work on individual tasks alone, but I always ask someone to verify that what I do is correct so that I am able to fix my mistakes.

“The most rewarding aspects of plumbing for me include learning plumbing, being on site and being able to start working – from decking to doing finishes and experiencing how the different pipes connect. At first, I did not have much faith that I would be able to do certain tasks alone, but I have gained so much confidence and belief that I can do anything I put my mind to.

“I have seen a shift in attitudes towards women in plumbing – and it’s a positive one. In my first days during ‘toolbox talks’ we were not assigned any tasks – we had to follow and help others – but recently we have our separate tasks. This shows that the impression they first had about us has changed and we continue to prove ourselves by working hard and showing our dedication. So, our presence on site is now being noticed, and they see our abilities are not just cleaning and we can work just as well as men.

“My advice to young women who would like to come into this trade would be: Never miss a chance to excel because of a fear of the unknown. With dedication anything is possible. Learning plumbing has nothing to do with gender – I can use the same tools that anyone else can and produce beautiful work. So, let’s not limits ourselves because of society.” – Dineo Mudumbe, BluLever Apprentice.

“Join BluLever’s apprentices as they change the narrative about women on-site. Share your own stories of overcoming myths about women in the trades and use the hashtag #WomenOnTools.” – Blulever Education

Original ‘Women on Tools’ Video: