Dineo: as tough as a rock!

Dineo: as tough as a rock!

MASERU – When Dineo Ntšalong was growing up in Hlotse in Leribe district in the 1990s all she dreamt of was being a successful television broadcaster. The allure and glamour of television stars seemed too big an attraction for her at that tender age. It was an opportunity she did not want to miss.

But that soon changed when one of her best friends, Teboho Ranyakane, enrolled for a geology degree at Tshwane University of Technology in Pretoria.

It soon dawned on her that there was a bigger world out there, away from the fickle world of TV stars.
And thanks to her friend, Ntšalong had a “Damascene conversion” around 2007 when she was in high school. She eventually dumped the dream world of entertainment for that of working with precious stones.

Convinced that this was the right path to take, Ntšalong enrolled for a geology degree at Tshwane University of Technology.
“Since I was good in sciences, he told me about the course and the career opportunities for geologists and I just loved it. He also told me there was a huge demand for geologists in Lesotho,” she says.

Ntšalong joined Kao Mine which is owned by Storm Mountain Diamond (SMD) as an intern in 2012. She was later appointed a graduate geologist in 2014 and is now a senior geologist at Kao Mine.

Ntšalong, who is only 29, is also among a small group of Basotho women who have elected to break societal barriers and expectations with regards to the role of women in a highly patriarchal society.

While most women would choose to take up the so-called “soft” courses at university – such as nursing and teaching – Ntsalong went for the hard stuff, literally speaking, when she picked geology.

As a senior geologist, Ntšalong’s main responsibilities entail collecting data and samples for testing and mapping Kimberlite facies.
“I love working with rocks, it gives me real satisfaction. I love working with software, building structures and modelling blocks.”

Ntšalong admits that mining is generally still considered a man’s job. She remains unfazed by the challenge.
“Mining is still a no-go area for most girls but our country needs these kind of skills for mining and engineering,” she says.
She defiantly argues that in spite of such fears, “women can do it”.
“There are a lot of us who are already doing it.”

Asked what advice she would give to young girls in high schools, Ntšalong says they must cast away fear and go for the “so-called tough courses” such as engineering and mining.

Raised by a single parent, Ntšalong says her father has always been her pillar of strength.
“Growing up without a mother, you quickly become a mother and your sisters look up to you for inspiration.”
Working in a highly patriarchal society where women have generally been taught to defer to men, Ntšalong says she is fully aware of the

subtle resistance from a few men who find it difficult to work under a woman.
“Being a woman, and being young, sometimes there is resistance but I shoot ahead insisting that we all have been given tasks to accomplish. Your gender does not matter. At the end of the day, we must all deliver and work together.”

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