In 1995, a milestone event took place in Beijing, China. This event was the Fourth World Conference on Women. The ambitious event was set to transform the lives of women. In developing countries, there was much hope that the event would bridge the gender gap in access to national resources.
I was still young when this monumental event took place. I did not take much notice to what was taking place. To me everything was okay and I had no reasons to complain against the status quo. However things were set to change and now I understand the situation differently. While the word Beijing had become a cliché in our community, when I joined the Bulawayo Polytechnic as an Automotive Engineering student, I realized that there were a number of issues that relegated women to second class citizens. For a start, I was the only student in a class of thirty seven students. All the lecturers were male.
It was not easy to learn in such an environment. Everyone was looking for faults in me so as to justify that women were not suitable to take part is engineering courses, a preserve for male students. My fellow students and lecturers never took me seriously, and sexist language was the order of the day. My surname, Tombindo, made things worse because in our local language a girl is called Ntombi and students would sing and make all sorts of sinister jokes about me.
When I left the Polytechnic college, I joined the Zimbabwe School of Mines where I have graduated with a diploma in mining. While the Beijing Conference has set the tone for the empowerment of women, there is a lot that women have to do to change the situation for their benefit. As a professional miner, I hope to use my experience at college to encourage other women and girls in Zimbabwe to pursue programmes that are critical to national development. Gone are the days when women were only expected to do secretarial studies. From the day I realized that I could do everything that men could do, I saw that the power was in my hands to make the changes.