"Wherever I go, I can inspire someone." Challenging gender stereotypes in metalwork

Initial vocational education and training, Labour market insertion
For a long time, technical fields were considered to be male-dominated. Today, however, more and more women including trainee Celeste De Lurdes Taberela are challenging this notion. She gladly talks about her experience as a student in the vocational technical course offered by the Metalworking Training Center in partnership with Swisscontact’s Skills to Build project in Mozambique. The course trains young people in producing industrial parts with turning and milling machines.

The 18-year old lives in Southern Mozambique and is the youngest of seven brothers and sisters. Her father works as a pool cleaner at a tourist resort in Ponta de Ouro and her mother is a housekeeper. Celeste dreams of a better life for herself and her family, which she aims to achieve through her training. She draws her motivation from many people, including those who support her: her parents, trainers and colleagues. As she walks to the center dressed in uniform, overall and boots, women often ask Celeste admiringly what she does for a living and where she studies.

Her love for the technical area, specifically for mechanics, already emerged in her childhood, when she would prefer to watch a montage of an electrical installation to playing with her dolls:

"Playing with dolls was not my forte, as a child I liked to disassemble and assemble household appliances, I would watch to see how the electrical installation was done to understand how it worked, for example I learned how to fix an extension cord in my childhood. And I really like cars and whenever I passed by a workshop I imagined myself changing car tires, working with the parts, so it all started from my imagination and it all came to fruition, I said to myself I can do it. So here I am learning to make industrial pieces."

After she finished high school last year, Celeste wanted to continue her studies. Unfortunately, she couldn’t pursue her dream as her family didn’t have enough money to pay for further education. Just when she began to lose hope, the opportunity arose to be part of the first class of the turning and milling works course for 2021:

"It was surreal when I received the confirmation. I remember it was on a Sunday when my cousin called and told me that the Metalworking Training Center had opened the selection process for vulnerable young people to participate in short courses in my area of interest. On Monday morning, I went to the center to apply. Even though I was afraid I had no chance of being successful, I managed to find my confidence. Fortunately, the interview went very well and I was offered the 3-month course," Celeste happily added.

A few weeks later, Celeste started her training as the only woman in class. Being a dedicated learner in the classroom, she was even chosen to be head of her class. Celeste passionately devoted her time to her homework to improve her skills. Whenever she could, she would be the first to arrive in the machine room to put into practice everything she has learned during class.

"My favorite classes were the meteorology and machine elements module, because it allowed us to measure the dimensions with the caliper, drilling machine, belt clamp, and we learned how to make the cuts. I was one of the first in my class to be on the milling machine and I really enjoyed it. However, one thing I find challenging is drawing: I know how to draw but we are working with a lot of precision, and I found out that 1 mm makes a great difference in this type of work. For example, if I make a piece that has to have 9 mm and I put 10 mm, the piece won't work."

A month ago, Celeste received her long-awaited certificate in turning and milling works, and now she is practicing hard so that she can find a good internship opportunity to distinguish herself in the job market. She has high expectations for the time after the training.

"I want to get an internship where I can put into practice what I am learning here at the center. But also I want to share the knowledge I gained during this period, because by sharing what I have learned I feel that I can make a difference. I want to conquer my space in the job market and have an income that will help me continue with my studies in mechanical engineering and help take care of my family."

During the course, Celeste found that few women participate in the technical courses of metalworking and electromechanics:

"I noticed that in of all the classes there are only two girls, me and a girl who attends the course in electricity. I believe that in part the low attendance must be because they are influenced by their parents. This is why I want to appeal to parents to let their daughters learn what they enjoy, there is no job specifically for men or women, we are all capable of doing the same thing. We women have to remain steadfast in what we want to do. Wherever I go, I believe I can inspire someone," she concluded.

Celeste's story is one of the examples of the many young people who participate in the courses facilitated by the Skills to Build project. The project specifically aims at supporting young women, for example by promoting courses that attract more women and awarding higher scholarships to vulnerable girls. The project promotes the development of skills and competencies for employment and self-employment so that young men and women find better jobs and therefore earn better incomes, contributing to greater economic and social equity in the country.

The Skills to Build project is financed by Happel Foundation, among other donors. As part of the Swisscontact Development Programme, it is co-financed by SDC (Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, Federal Department of Foreign Affairs FDFA).