Engineering is often seen as a profession firmly entrenched in a man’s world, but Namakau Chinkuka is more than just surviving, she’s thriving in the male-dominated field.
Firmly fighting against this stereotype, Ms Chinkuka is Proflight Zambia’s only female aircraft maintenance engineer, a role she describes as her true calling in life.
She has seen her career soar after landing a job with the country’s favourite airline.
“I love to work with my hands and engineering has always been an interest of mine since I was young,” Ms Chinkuka said.
She ensures that Proflight’s aircraft operate properly and safely. Ms Chinkuka makes repairs, inspects planes and finds solutions for any problem the airline’s fleet faces. Her role in the organisation is essential as Proflight takes immense pride in its Maintenance Organisation. Although Ms Chinkuka is the only licensed female engineer, Proflight also has a number of women working in the Planning department plus several others undergoing training as engineers.
Ms Chinkuka joined Proflight in 2015 soon after she graduated from the Zambia Air Services Training Institute (ZASTI). While she was excited to practice her engineering skills, she found her job initially challenging but she quickly adjusted.
The trials she faced initially did not deter her, but instead spurred her on to work harder to prove herself. And she soon blended in with her male workmates.
“I’m thankful that my colleagues don’t see gender, they see me as one of the guys. Sometimes the work is challenging but I really enjoy it,” Ms Chinkuka added.
She particularly enjoys working for Proflight: “I like it that the company gave me the opportunity to do what I love. They have provided me with the chance to practice my craft and given me many opportunities to become better. I attend a lot of training sessions which is good because I’m growing all the time.”
International Women’s Day was on March 8 and the 2018 theme was #PressForProgress. This meant a lot to Ms Chinkuka as she belongs to a profession which sees few women flourish.
“I love Women’s Day. It’s a day that we celebrate women’s achievements and how far we have come,” she said.
“I felt this year’s theme resonated with me because I would not be able to be doing what I’m doing now if it wasn’t for the opportunities currently available to me that would once have been denied because I am a woman. The fact that I am a female engineer shows progress has been made and I’m excited to see more advancement.”
In the future Ms Chinkuka hopes to see many women take up male-dominated jobs such as engineering: “People think fields like engineering are for men and women would not be good at it, but that is not true. Women can do anything and if you want to be an engineer – go for it.”