Fixing potholes 'as easy as cleaning the house' for all-female team

Cape Town - It is easy to spot a pothole fixed by a woman, Kashiefa Beck of Heideveld believes.

"Check for the quality. Women do a neat, quick, decent job and get it right the first time around."

And she should know.

She is a member of an all-female team trained to fix potholes and do maintenance work on walkways and stormwater pipes in their neighbourhood.

Beck and her team of five work in Heideveld, Manenberg, Tambo Village, Surrey Estate and Athlone and are part of Women at Work, a gender transformation programme by the City of Cape Town.

In Beck's three months on the job, she has become accustomed to the hard labour her work involves.

"This is a lekker job. What we do shows that men aren't necessarily the only ones who can do the tough work," she pointed out.

"We do a perfect job chop-chop. Fixing potholes is no challenge – it's just as easy as cleaning the house."

Empowering women

The women have received practical training in repairing pipes, manholes, catch pits, potholes, surface patches and edges; laying kerbs and operating a plant, painting straight lines and legends on road surfaces, planting poles and signage, stenciling street names on kerbs and street name kerb moulding amongst many other skills.

Mayoral committee member for Transport for Cape Town Brett Herron previously said in a statement the purpose of the programme is to empower women in the workplace by providing them with skills for manual work that is generally associated with men. 

"With the skills and entrepreneurial abilities they develop during the 10-month employment period, these women will be better equipped to find placement in the permanent job market," he said.

While they will not receive permanent jobs with the council, they will be equipped with the skills needed to enter the job market in addition to their technical understanding.

Beck, a mother of three, said she takes great pride in her work.

"This is very different from my years working in a clothing factory, but I am enjoying the challenge. It is exciting to push boundaries and defy what the world has decided should be a man's job," she said.

'Ready for business'

The majority of the Heideveld team are breadwinners in their homes, Beck added, and are grateful to earn an income while learning a different set of skills.

After a long day on site, Phumla Mfana, 39, believes there is no better feeling than putting her tired feet up in front of the TV.

"It's a tough job, but I can do it," the mother of three said with a laugh.

"The work we do is not an easy, but I love it. I feel empowered and am happy to be working alongside other strong women. They are my sisters."

There is a special satisfaction she gets when she walks away from a site after a job, Mfana said.

"Sometimes I have to remind myself that I had a part in doing it. When I have my spade in my hand, I am ready for business. We have a job to do, and we will do it well, guaranteed."