Memory nails success in a man’s world

It’s unusual to find a woman in a male–dominated trade, but carpentry was the obvious choice for Memory Samusodza growing up in rural Odzi. CLAYTON MASEKESA went to meet her.

“The talent that some women have is incredible. I now realise that we can do any task and the opportunities are there for us equally.” – Memory Samusodza.
“The talent that some women have is incredible. I now realise that we can do any task and the opportunities are there for us equally.” – Memory Samusodza.

“I credit my dad for the path I have chosen,” said Samusodza, who owns a flourishing carpentry shop at Odzi township. “I believe it was from working and being with him all the time while I was growing up that I developed the aptitude to build and repair things.”

Samusodza has named her shop Sammy, after her father, and she now employs three skilled male carpenters.

She excelled in woodwork at Nyamarezu secondary school and then went on to become an apprentice at Magamba Training Centre in Mutare.

As well as her studies, she also needed to get hands-on training with willing employers who could provide her with work experience. She joined Manica Carpenters on attachment.

“I spent two years gaining hands-on experience,” she said. “I never worked with women, though. It was definitely a male-dominated field.”

Some of Memory Samusodza’s pieces – a solar fruit dryer and a bedstead.
Some of Memory Samusodza’s pieces – a solar fruit dryer and a bedstead.

“In my present job, I work with one other woman who is learning the trade, but I am willing to assist many women who feel they would like to do carpentry. There is no job that is just for men; women can do jobs that men can do,” said Samusodza.

Her female apprentice is 25-year-old Chiedza Hatendi.

“I think women are more reluctant to enter into a male-dominated field as it can be very heavy for them and you do need to find a willing employer,” said Samusodza. “I worked as an assistant carpenter to begin with but was always looking for a more challenging rôle,”

She said she saw an opportunity for women in the trade and thought she deserved the job as much as anyone else. She now has a range of carpentry experience, having also worked for residential contractors on large construction projects.

She added that she had a certain workload she is responsible for, including planning, purchasing materials, building and finishing the job on time.

“I love the diversity in carpentry,” she said. “What I enjoy most is when I can stand back and realise what I can do!

“Competing with men in this field has been the greatest achievement. That there is nothing wooded that I cannot repair or construct – what an incredible thing to say,” Samusodza added.

There are challenges too, though.

“I now know I am not as strong as the males, so I have to find an alternative way of handling things. I also feel because I did not have the same opportunities and lifeskills as other women that I have to learn so much more,” she explained.

She also pointed out that simply being accepted by men in the trade had been a challenge.

“I have had many issues, but I truly believe the good far outweighs the bad,” she said, adding that she should have started this career at a much younger age.

“My most memorable experience is the reaction of the kids and people I meet during the course of my work when they realise I am a woman,” she said.

“I also love the income. I get good orders from local schools, churches and other organisations and individuals, both for new products and repairs.”

Asked what advice she would give to young women, Samusodza encouraged students to complete high school and enrol at technical college.

“Without the basics of education and technical knowhow, I wouldn’t be in my field today and I know I would not have passed my professional examinations,” she said.

“I urge women to take every opportunity in those male-dominated fields and even volunteer to gain the experience,” added Samusodza.

“The talent that some women have is incredible. I now realise that we can do any task and the opportunities are there for us equally.

“Don’t be afraid to ask for help. There are people out there who want us to succeed. We deserve this chance, so go for it!” she said.

Her plan is now to expand her business by opening other shops in other areas such as Mutare and Harare.

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