The City’s Transport and Urban Development Authority is celebrating the stories of three women – an environmental field ranger, a principal property inspector, and a MyCiTi bus driver – who have excelled in what are perceived to be traditionally male-dominated careers. The messages of equality and empowerment echo through their stories, which is inspirational on Women’s Day.
Environmental field ranger Crystal Moses, principal property inspector Sharon Damon, and MyCiTi bus driver Sisiwe Dase are women who have not let their gender stop them from pursuing careers in traditionally male-dominated industries.
‘As we celebrate Women’s Month, I salute these women, who are representative of many others, for their courage in entering and excelling in the traditionally male-dominated transport and urban development realm. These women are the true epitome of the saying “Amakhosikazi Anamandla – women have strength”.
‘As the City, we work towards creating opportunities and developing and supporting programmes that will provide longer-term employment in an effort to promote economic inclusion, which is in line with the City’s Organisational Development and Transformation Plan,’ said the City’s Mayoral Committee Member for Transport and Urban Development, Councillor Brett Herron.
Learnership programmes in particular have empowered many women, some of whom obtained permanent employment directly with the City through these opportunities.
‘We also seek to ensure operational sustainability through attracting, developing and retaining staff with the required skills. This is very important because the City promotes skills-based equality in the workplace and believes in empowering its staff, particularly women, so that they are equipped with the necessary tools to perform their jobs successfully. We appreciate that staff who work hard and gain valuable experience themselves become invaluable assets for the City,’ said Councillor Herron.
Environmental field ranger: Crystal Moses
Nature enthusiast Crystal Moses (35, from Lotus River) is the full package of an exemplary field ranger. She loves environmental education and does not shy away from the labour-intensive work she undertakes at the False Bay Nature Reserve.
Her duties include conducting bird counts, rehabilitation of vegetation, identification of plants, maintaining and constructing fences, conducting coastal and fence patrols, control of terrestrial and aquatic invasive species, and the use of a chainsaw or brush-cutter when required.
‘I always perceived nature conservation as a male-dominated industry due to the labour-intensive tasks. However, since I have been working for the City of Cape Town, I have seen first-hand that women can also play an important role in nature conservation. Even though men are considered to be physically stronger, as a woman I have still played my part. For example, I have been involved with constructing kilometres of fencing and hippo capture bomas.
‘Also, I love being in nature and my job enables me to help to conserve nature. I also enjoy teaching others about nature and sharing my experiences and knowledge with them so that together we can make a difference and look after our environment,’ said Crystal.
The mother of three children has made every effort to empower herself in the field of nature conservation.
‘I was employed as an Expanded Public Works Programme worker and then later as a supervisor at Working for Wetlands for nine years. I applied for a 12-month learnership with the City of Cape Town in partnership with the Cape Town Environmental Education Trust and I completed the National Qualifications Framework Level 2 learnership in resource guardianship, coming out top of my class with a 98% pass mark. I also completed an advanced field ranger course and came out as one of the top three,’ said Crystal.
Crystal is currently balancing family life, work, and her studies towards completing her matric at Intec College. When she is not involved with nature conservation, Crystal enjoys reading, gardening and going fishing with her husband.
‘Everything you do, do it to the best of your ability’ and ‘make a change or positive impact in somebody’s life’ count among the mottos by which Crystal lives her life.
Principal property inspector: Sharon Damon
Unless you have invited Sharon Damon over to your house for a braai or potjie, it is not a good sign when she pays you an unexpected visit to your property.
For the past 36 years, Sharon has been working as part of the enforcement team in the City’s Development Management Department.
‘I manage the investigation of all complex complaints relating to land use contraventions as well as enforcing planning legislation and land use conditions of approval within the parameters of Council’s enforcement policy. This is to ensure that property owners and operators comply with all applicable laws, to give effect to Council’s statutory obligation relating to enforcement and contributing to effective service delivery. When property owners do not comply, we issue them with notices,’ said Sharon, who lives in Goodwood.
Being a principal property inspector, like any career, has its moments.
‘I love facing the new daily challenges that my job brings. I need to be professional and courteous at all times. I also try to be a person who makes a positive interpersonal impact on others. However, sometimes after showing empathy to a complainant by communicating that you understand where they are coming from and that you are trying to assist them, you can suddenly find yourself under attack from that same individual, which is quite taxing and stressful,’ said Sharon.
During her long service, Sharon (54) has seen a change in the perception of women in the industry.
‘There is a perception that certain careers, for example building inspectors and property inspector positions, can only be filled by our male counterparts. I believe that any woman can be employed in these positons if she has the necessary qualification, experience, and skill to perform this job.
‘In the past there was discrimination against females acquiring these positions. I think over the years it has become apparent that this organisation’s legacy has changed. I encourage women to believe in themselves, persevere, work hard, and always ensure that they are one step ahead of their male counterparts and they will achieve their goal,’ said Sharon.
If Sharon had to choose another career, she would be the ultimate braai master.
‘I love the outdoors. I enjoy a good braai or a potjie, as well as cooking and spending quality time with my family and friends. I believe that you must live life to the fullest; face those fears and regard them as a challenge. My faith in God sustains me through difficult times. I always remember the words quoted by Maya Angelo: “A wise woman wishes to become no one’s enemy. A wise woman refuses to be anyone’s victim”. I am also inspired by the saying, “If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude”.’
MyCiTi bus driver: Sisiwe Dase
Sisiwe Dase (29, from Khayelitsha) was inspired to pursue a career in the transport industry after seeing other female bus drivers. This was a shift from her previous career in retail and running her own business selling clothing and handbags.
Sisiwe, who has been married for 10 years and has two sons, aged nine and four, saw the bus driver learnership that was advertised as an opportunity to take on a new challenge.
When she worked in retail, she always worked with people and relished the idea of remaining in a profession where she could interact with a wide variety of people. She believed she would like the level of responsibility that came with being a bus driver.
Sisiwe says was anxious during the learnership and very concerned that she might not be able to complete it. However, with dedication and perseverance, she successfully completed her learnership and eventually obtained a job as a bus driver.
She explains that in the first few days she was anxious and did not want to make mistakes. She had learnt a lot during her time on training, but she soon realised that theory and application were different things. However, the more senior drivers at the depot were very helpful and guided her through the first few days.
Another challenge that Sisiwe faced, which other mothers may relate to, is balancing work and family. The nature of the public transport industry requires that bus drivers usually work split shifts. This means they work a portion of their duties in the morning peak, and the second portion during the evening peak. Thus Sisiwe leaves for work in the morning while her children are still sleeping and only returns home late in the evening.
However, she says that this is a very good career opportunity for her and that she is willing to make the sacrifice now in order to provide a good standard of living for her family in the long-term. She says that her family has adapted to the routine and that she is well supported by them in her career objectives. She loves that she can combine her two passions – working with people and driving a bus.
Job highlights for Sisiwe include when passengers compliment her on her driving and when passengers are happy to see that she is their driver when they enter the bus. She is proud that her passengers think she is good driver and that they trust her ability.
Sisiwe has a few humorous anecdotes about passengers being surprised when they realise their bus driver is a woman. She recalls one incident when a passenger who left her bus with a ‘goodbye bhuti’ was very surprised when he heard a female voice return his greeting.=