Zimbabwean-born young female engineer Shamiso Kumbirai, 28, is one of the South Africans who will be departing to Davos, Switzerland for the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting which commences on 23 to 26 January. She shared her life journey being a young female engineer who is now going places.
In 2012 I graduated with my bachelor’s degree and since then my journey has been one of constant growth and learning. My time as a water engineer at Aurecon has provided me with great insight into the future of engineering and has pushed me to think and consider new innovative ways to design infrastructure that works for the good of all people.
In 2006 when I was in grade 11, I attended the annual Cell C ‘Take a Girl Child to Work’ day and was shadowing a civil engineer. We were fortunate enough to visit a housing project that was building 100 000 low-cost houses as well as schools and clinics in Olievenhoutbosch, Centurion. I loved the feeling of being on site and knowing that projects like this would directly benefit the country and individual lives of those who are most in need in South Africa and was inspired to pursue this venture.
The tide is definitely changing regarding gender balance in engineering, however there is still a long way to go until we begin to see a truly transformed industry in every sense of the word. Thankfully there are South African organisations such as Women in Engineering (WomEng) who are working to ensure the next generation of engineers in industry and empowers females.
I applied to be a World Economic Forum Global Shaper because I had a dream of launching a project that would aim to improve the water and sanitation facilities for school children in disadvantaged areas and needed the support of a strong community to see that dream being realised. With the support of the Global Shapers Tshwane Hub, I’ve been able to launch the Sani4Schools campaign that will improve these facilities for 1200 learners at a school in Mamelodi in 2018. It’s been so fantastic to have a strong support system both local and international.
From the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting I’m mostly looking forward to all the new and diverse knowledge I’ll be learning from global leaders while I’m in Davos, and being able to contribute the voice of South African youth in these conversations. I’m fortunate enough to be speaking at two events in Davos, dealing with conversations about race as well as boosting Infra-African Trade, particularly through infrastructure development on the continent.
Editor’s note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
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