Making sparks along the way

14 July 2020 | Life Style

While Hilde Amushembe is a Senior Electrical Engineer at the Ministry of Works and Transport at the moment, this dynamic woman has plans to complete her PhD, developing a model for self-sustaining farms and growing medical plants in a bid to allow scientists and medical researchers to explore and develop our own medicines.

Here she talks about the highs and lows of her journey in a mostly male-dominated profession.

Q:What is your biggest source of inspiration?
A:I’m mostly inspired by my own dreams; they are so high up there that I have to keep climbing. I also draw inspiration from powerful women around the globe who impact lives. I hope to be listed among them one day.

Q:Why did you choose such a traditionally male-dominated profession?
A:I didn’t realise that it was such a male-dominated profession. I chose it because I was interested in knowing how electricity can be carried by wires on poles and end up giving light at the end. I came to realize that in my first year at varsity when we were only two girls in a class of about twenty students; but I was up for it.

Q:What struggles have you experienced along the way?
A:Being undermined is a constant struggle. You go to a meeting and even if you raise your hand to make a point, you will only be given a chance after all the men and all older women have spoken. You also have to bear with being referred to as “the young lady said” throughout the proceedings. I am also often overlooked when applying for a job. A fresh male graduate is more likely to be hired than a woman with years of experience in the engineering sector.

Q:Have your friends/family/spouse supported you in this career field?
A: LOL! My mother wanted me to become a teacher and didn’t understand why I was choosing a career that she has never witnessed personally. My dad thought I was inconsiderate for choosing an expensive course. I just followed my curiosity and now they can’t stop bragging about their “engineer daughter” and I am glad that I didn’t disappoint them.

Q:Do you get much support/opposition from male colleagues in this profession?
A:My support comes mostly from peers, and opposition comes from superiors.

Q:What are some of the highlights of your career?
A:On my first international trip I went to China in 2011 to attend a 3-week seminar on renewable energy and environmental health. This was where I first saw a biogas plant and could not believe how electricity was being generated from pig’s dung and vegetable remains.

Getting selected to attend the Mandela Washington Fellowship in the US in 2017 was a momentous occasion, as well as being the first and only Namibian to be chosen for Public Management on Energy Policy at the University of California, Davis.
Another highlight was when I was selected as one of two Namibian women to attend the Women in African Power (WiAP) training at the University of South Africa in 2019, an initiative of Power Africa US.

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