Women must support each other

Celebrating Women at ERG Africa

“If you want something done, give it to a busy person”

Kera Machola, laboratory manager at Frontier Mine, is married and has two daughters, the youngest of whom is in her third-year of Journalism and Media Studies. Kera’s husband is a veterinary officer and they keep a few cattle and goats for subsistence. She also practices rain-fed small arable farming for maize, beans and sweet reed in a 10 hectare field.

Living up to the maxim, “If you want something done give it to a busy person”, Kera is also involved with school projects through the Seventh Day Adventist Church. As she explains, “A former colleague and I assist with teacher welfare where we can. We also help the needy in our personal capacity as a laboratory team. I do the community outreach projects in both Sakania and back home in Botswana.”

It was her late mother who instilled her sense of independence, not to sit home and expect to be taken care of. “She always emphasised that hard work pays and never killed anyone, and was firm, loving and very supportive.”

All this and a busy job too. Kera’s typical workday starts with a safety toolbox talk with the team, then a production meeting and a review of the assay report of the previous day’s plant control, copper export and grade (from the pit) control samples. She also coordinates quality control of data processed through the laboratory and takes or recommends corrective action where necessary. This is coupled with implementing a proficiency testing scheme to ensure the laboratory conforms to international standards, e.g. alignment with the ISO 17025 Standard for testing laboratories.

But that’s not all, as they say in TV ads: she is also a trainer and mentor for her team.

Work life has its amusing moments, as in a meeting at which she was the only woman. When the chairman referred to the attendees as “Lady and gentlemen”, a male colleague interjected, “Where is the lady? We are all men here, including her.”

While Kera now specialises in chemical analysis, quality control and mine site laboratory commissioning, she has worked in chemical manufacturing, meat processing plants, as well as precious and base metals mining companies.

She is currently reading Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead written by Sheryl Sandberg, Chief Operating Officer of Facebook. Her next read, time permitting, is The Case for Impeachment by Allan J. Lichtman.

Her two favourite quotes from the first book are, “If a woman is competent, she does not seem nice enough. If a woman seems really nice, she is considered more nice than competent” and “When people are open and honest, thanking them publicly encourages them to continue while sending a powerful signal to others”.

With a BSc in Chemistry and Environmental Science from the University of Botswana she originally planned to be a medical doctor and confesses to having stumbled into her present career when AECI conducted a recruitment drive in Botswana, where she grew up in Kanye. She also has a Diploma in Environmental Management.

Now 46 years old, she welcomes the changes in the mining industry wherein men now accept instructions from women, but says they still have challenges and need to support each other.

Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s chief operating officer and author of Lean In, has spoken out about the importance of teaching young girls to be leaders as early as possible in their lives.

“We start telling little girls not to lead at a really young age and we start to tell boys [to] lead at a very young age. That is a mistake,” the American technology executive said.

In an interview with BBC Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs, Sandberg added, “I believe everyone has inside them the ability to lead and we should let people choose that not based on their gender but on who they are and who they want to be.”

One of the first steps is “to start paying women well, and we need the public and the corporate policy to get there,” she said.

Did you know?

Boss Mining and ERGA are funding local schools in Kakanda and surrounding areas (DRC) in an effort to ensure that children and youths in the local area have access to a decent education.

Seventeen primary and secondary schools are covered under the programme. Sciences, chemistry, mathematics, physics, pedagogy, administrative-commercial, electricity, and general mechanics courses are all part of the curriculum. One female technical school has also been designated.

The schools cater for a total of 8 343 pupils, nearly half of whom are female.