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Skills for All: Plumber Albertina Shitalangaho, Namibia

8 March 2017

An African proverb sums up Albertina Shitalangaho’s outlook on the importance of women being provided with the same opportunities to learn, work, and contribute as men, “If you educate a man, you educate an individual. If you educate a woman, you educate a family”.

For “family”, she says, read “nation”. And in her own nation of Namibia, she is practicing what she believes in, with her recognition of the value of vocational education seeing her embark on an internship in plumbing and heating – she was the only female Competitor in Plumbing and Heating at the Namibian National Skills Competition last year.

“It encouraged me to show the world that women are equally capable, and break the stereotype that claims only men can do certain trades,” she said. “Women are underestimated in some trades, but I feel I proved that we can also deliver quality work.

“As much as the focus of skills competitions is on the youth, I strongly believe that society as a whole benefits. These Competitions help students to achieve excellence, and are crucial to career progression as they support us in developing our technical skills.”

Women have more hurdles to overcome in pursuing a trade and a career, according to Albertina; hurdles which should be irrelevant today. “At a young age, girls can be made to believe that men are superior,” she said.

“Low self-esteem and motivation, and a lack of career coaching in schools, also represent barriers to females entering male-dominated trades. But this is the 21st century, where physical strength no longer matters – strength is measured in intelligence, experience, and capability. The message of the proverb is that if we know the value of education to men, women should have equal access to it."

“Women should be as engaged as men in all spheres of life, earn competitive salaries, and should be given leadership opportunities, making important decisions. There is nothing men can do that women cannot.”

WorldSkills is recognizing skilled women around the globe in celebration of International Women’s Day, 8 March. Join us in supporting HeForShe – a solidarity movement for gender equality, led by the United Nations.

Take the HeForShe pledge, by signing at HeForShe.org, and acknowledge that you are “one of billions… who believe that everyone is born free and equal”, and that you “will take action against gender bias, discrimination and violence to bring the benefits of equality to us all.”