The Sunday Mail
TRADITIONALLY, engineering has been a sector that has had a low number of women working in it.
The general perception has been that it is an industry for men. For Engineer Joy Pedzisayi Makumbe, such stereotypical views were not a deterrent when she decided to enrol as an engineering student at the University of Zimbabwe in the 1990s for her studies in Civil Engineering.
Eng Makumbe, who is now the permanent secretary in the Ministry of National Housing and Social Amenities, said her ambition to become an engineer was driven by passion.
She is of the Chihera clan, whose women are known for working hard and making bold decisions.
“I am Chihera by birth, and an engineer by choice. As a woman, you have to work extra hard to show your capabilities. All you need is to focus, take aim and shoot. No one can hold a professional down, especially a professional woman,” she said.
After successfully completing her studies at the UZ, Eng Makumbe worked on a number of projects in the country.
But she still yearned to advance her engineering proficiency further and enrolled for a Master’s Degree in Water Resources Engineering in Tanzania.
This saw her spreading her tentacles in East Africa, where she was involved in various stellar projects in Tanzania and Uganda for several years. She later returned to Zimbabwe and studied for a Master’s Degree in Business Administration.
Eng Makumbe was appointed the permanent secretary in the Ministry of National Housing and Social Amenities in December 2020.
She sees this appointment as an opportunity to improve the quality of life for ordinary Zimbabweans as she reckons that providing shelter to the people is the foundation for personal development.
“The Government seeks to provide decent housing for its people. The fact that I have been given an opportunity to be in a position where I can directly change the livelihoods of Zimbabweans through the provision of sustainable human settlements is humbling.
“Much trust has been placed on me. I have changed people’s livelihoods in other countries and I must do more for my people. I cannot afford to disappoint.
“There are a couple of housing projects we are planning to roll out from this year and this is very fulfilling for me. I will do my best to ensure that the housing delivery process is successful in Zimbabwe. All the projects that we have lined up should be a success so that people can say that they benefited solidly from our Government.”
Eng Makumbe is a fierce advocate for the empowerment of women.
She has set up the Joy Makumbe Trust to mentor and offer career guidance to young girls from less privileged communities.
Her vision is to see more women breaking barriers in the so-called male-dominated sectors, particularly the fields of science and engineering.
“My vision to see more women in Africa take up positions of impact and influence in the engineering and science fields led me to start the Joy Makumbe trust in 2016. It is a trust dedicated to empowering women with entrepreneurial skills and career guidance,” she said.
“I believe that young girls in our communities lack role models in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) careers. I have written a book titled Tech Girl Diaries, which is available on Amazon and selected local bookstores.
“I hope to motivate, inspire, and build girls’ interest in STEM as careers of choice. The book also talks to parents as having roles to play in encouraging their daughters to take interest in science subjects.”
She said the Zimbabwe National Human Settlements Policy which was launched by Government last year, under her Ministry, addresses cross-cutting issues, including gender balance in the housing delivery process.
“In this policy we address gender issues by ensuring that the performance of settlement related functions, provision of services, and the financing of settlement activities adhere to the Constitution of Zimbabwe regarding equality of men and women.
“In the same policy, when settlements are planned and governed, competing settlement interests will be mediated among other things, on social inclusion which involves gender. My desire is that people remember the positive impact we made in communities through provision of basic infrastructure like shelter, water, sanitation, and roads,” she said.
She believes that working hard and perseverance are the keys to success in every profession, thus women should not be held back in fulfilling their ambitions.
“I want someone to remember the motivation and inspiration I gave them not to give up on what they want, but to fight, and make it happen. Women should not be deterred by anything. Working hard is the foundation for everything despite any hurdles that may be there.”
As the world is celebrating the Women’s Month, in line with International Women’s Day commemorated on March 8, Eng Makumbe believes that women should be celebrated every day.
“International Women’s Day is a day set to remind the world that women are key for any meaningful changes to be made in the world, either politically, socially or economically. However, with or without it, women have become unstoppable, and every day we should celebrate women,” she said.