Kao Mine’s first woman metallurgist

Kao Mine’s first woman metallurgist

MASERU – Growing up in Quthing district in the early 1990s, Keneuoe Letšela’s dream was to be a successful medical doctor.
During those days, it appeared as if everybody wanted to be a doctor.
Medicine was seen as “the dream job” that would not only help kick poverty away but came with a lot of prestige and good perks.

And how she loved to get a good job to help assist her beloved mother, a school teacher, who had single-handedly raised her up under very difficult conditions!
But as she grew older, she became fully aware of the demands of being a medical doctor.
The mere thought of seeing dead bodies every day spooked the hell out of her and she gradually dumped her dream of being a medical doctor.

“Besides, I could not even stand the sight of blood,” she says.
With that dream dead in the water, Letšela, who was extremely good in Chemistry, enrolled for a Chemical Engineering degree at the University of Cape Town in 2006.
“I thought the course would focus on Chemistry which was my passion only to realise later that it was more about the engineering side of things, dealing with issues of production and manufacturing in an industrial setting,” she says.
Letšela joined Kao Mine as a Junior Metallurgist in February 2015 after a brief stint as a Physical Sciences teacher in South Africa.
As a metallurgist, Letšela’s main task is to provide metallurgical assurances to management.
“I also ensure that all processes in the plant are working as they are supposed to and that the equipment and processes are not deviating from their specifications,” she says.
She also does a lot of laboratory test work, “testing samples from the plant”.

As the first woman metallurgist at Kao Mine, Letšela is effectively a pacesetter on the burning issue of women’s empowerment.
She says she is immensely proud of the fact that she was the first woman to be appointed a metallurgist at Kao Mine.
“When I started I was the only woman who was working in the department as a metallurgist. I opened doors for other women,” she says.

She admits that she at first found the working environment at Kao quite intimidating as she felt she was encroaching into what was traditionally a men’s territory.
Historically, it was only men who went to work in the gold mines in South Africa with women remaining at home to raise the children and look after cattle.
By venturing into mining, Letšela was challenging the status quo.
“It was intimidating because I was not too sure that I could handle the work but I knew what I was to do. My co-workers at first did not believe I could handle the tasks assigned to me. I had to set aside these fears and concentrate on the job at hand.”
“I had to work hard to fit in.”

Letšela says she is grateful to Kao Mine for believing in her abilities as a woman.
“I had to build trust that I could do this and that has now opened doors for other women.”
She says Basotho girls must cast away fear and venture into challenging jobs in the mining sector.
“There are many opportunities for women in the mining sector, they should think of these opportunities and grab them.

“They must also take courses at university that will get them into senior positions in mining. We need more women in the mining sector because there are very few of us at present.”
Her dream is to grow professionally so that she rises on the corporate ladder into management.
“The key is to stay humble and not talk too much about the work you do. I want to focus on my work and not seek to show how educated one is.”

Own Correspondent

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