Hard-hatted Zimbabwean women take up ‘tough’ jobs

MUTOKO, Zimbabwe

She pushes a concrete-laden wheelbarrow with the agility of a teenager. Yet at 37 years of age, Mirirai Shambare, a holder of a teaching qualification, has never worked in a classroom since she graduated from college about nine years ago.

She toils at a construction site near her rural hometown Mutoko, 143 kilometers (89 miles) east of the Zimbabwean capital Harare, joining thousands of women nationwide who have taken to hard-hat jobs at a time when the country’s economy teeters on the brink of collapse. Unemployment in the Southern Africa nation currently stands at 90%.

“I’m a laborer now, an assistant at a construction site near my home here because surely I can’t find my job which is that of a teacher,” Shambare told Anadolu Agency.

Hilton Savanje, an economist based in Harare, blamed economic hardships for this shifting trend.

“You would realize that companies that should otherwise be having more jobs for women, feminine jobs, have closed shop and therefore, because women are desperate to also earn a living, they have no choice except to compete with their male counterparts for the few menial jobs available,” Savanje told Anadolu Agency.

In the country’s construction industry alone, where many women like Shambare have found work, 35% of the 300,000-strong workforce comprises of women now, the Zimbabwe Building Contractors’ Association said.

Even in Zimbabwe’s mining sector, women have of late made a mark, often working as illegal gold miners at a great risk to their life and competing with their male counterparts.

A trained nurse, Petina Marandure, 31, has been working at a gold mine in Zimbabwe’s Mashonaland West Province for the last four years.

Zimbabwe’s women make up 10% of the country’s 535,000 artisanal and small-scale miners, scattered across the country operating as illegal miners, U.S.-based Pact Institute said in a report.

Even the country’s local authorities are laden with female plumbers and electricians.

Miranda Chidzudzu, 29, won the outstanding plumber award working for the Harare City Council, an accolade she is proud of.

Official data shows women are also providing 70% of the labor for agriculture and constitute 61% of the farmers.

For many Zimbabwean women like Shambare, it may be long before befitting jobs come their way. But many others like Chidzudzu have accepted their fate and moved on.

“In life we learn the hard way,” Chidzudzu told Anadolu Agency.
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