There used to be great underrepresentation of women in various aspects of society but it seems to be changing of late. It began with girls getting an education just like their male counterparts and women started working in the labour force. Countries like Rwanda and Senegal started having records for many females in parliamentary positions and other male-dominated fields.
Even in places where there is still a low representation of women in male-dominated fields, the topic of gender inequality is being discussed, and this is such a vast improvement. Because men and women work in different sectors, many people see some of these sectors as places for specific genders.
In Uganda, women now do construction work though research by the World Bank showed that these are mostly women who had male role models who were mostly their fathers coaching them as they grew. More women are delving into these zones and are making great names for themselves.
Ms Nothemba Mlonzi the founder of Econ Oil & Energy is one strong woman who has managed to enter deep into the zone said to be for men alone and she is still making waves. She is also the Executive Director of Mlonzi & Company, founded in 1991. She is not just an oil mogul but also a professional with a legal and management history in regard to several companies.
Before going into company business and oil management, she had previously practised criminal law and civil proceedings. Her B.Proc degree at the University of Fort Harare earned her the practice of a Conveyancing Lawyer back in 1992. In 1993, she got her LLB at the University of Fort Hare. Then she decided to try out something different in 1996 by studying Business Management and Administration at the University of Stellenbosch and this can be said to have influenced her transitioning from a criminal law practitioner to a fully known businesswoman. As a businesswoman, she still engaged in her law practice as her company still did conveyancing, property law, litigation and commercial contracts. Her company was able to train several black lawyers with successful legal careers. Her transition began when she delved into planning law and energy law.
Today, she is reputed as the first black woman in South Africa to own an oil plant capable of producing 85,000 oil litres per hour. Her company, Econ Oil has provided jobs to many people and though there are challenges, she still keeps pushing.
Recounting on how difficult the journey has been, she was noted that “Without the platform, it could not have just happened, irrespective of how much intellect one possesses or how much entrepreneurial skills you have, but if there are no enabling policies, the South African economy is structured in such a way that it’s not just automatically possible to jump into”.
Her business acumen did not start as something learnt, but she had started out in primary school by selling chocolate to her friends to buy an instant camera. She started a photography business and sponsored herself at the University.
She continued on this part and Ms Mlonzi got the opportunity to explore several aspects of society and she was able to harness these opportunities. Today, she is still law while juggling the hotel and oil businesses.
She is a resilient woman who refuses to cave in the face of adversity, and it is seen in how much she can uphold in positions said to be for men mostly. Ms Mlonzi always makes sure to advise people to never give up and keep forging ahead, to learn from their failures and prepare for the next round.
A place or space will not be meant for you if you continue to believe that it is not.
Written By: Joyce C. Nwezeh Obi-Akejelu (Writer, Social media manager and graphic designer with Africa4AfricaWomen/Assert/PAWES).