Dominating a male dominated construction sector

By Kamo Seekoei

FROM rolling fondant to constructing buildings.

This is how 29-year old Bloemfontein born businesswoman Thato Sakwe’slife can be summarised.

Perhaps not that simplistically because after opening a small bakery in Bloemfontein where business was beginning to boom, Thato realised that she would rather be erecting buildings that baking cakes.

This was despite the impediments including gender bias posing as an obstacle for her.

Thato had studied construction but because of lack of jobs started a small bakery.

It was while she was running the bakery that her real passion started biting and she resolved to start her own company in construction.

She had no previous construction experience, only a heart to see real change and a determination to make a mark in an industry that is still far from transformed, and she went for it.

“I just took a decision one day that I wanted to pursue my passion”.

"I woke up that day and decided that, girls too, can do it, she says admitting to having met several barriers.

She says she would have regretted a decision to stay with the bakery.

All she wanted was to break the stereotypes attached to theconstruction industry.

“I was a black young female going into a white male dominated sector, going against many who disagreed. I choose to partner with Avela Sakwe, and together we birthed the baby that is Sakwe Projects," she says.

She admits that things are not as difficult as they used to be. Adding that with time things have changed and it has become easier to accept women in the male dominated industry.

“Being a woman in construction is not as hard as it used to be so I take the challenges as a man would take them because I see that we all face the same challenges.”

The young lady is mainly focused on renovations, civil works, infrastructure and general building.

“We have built storage sheds, double storey houses, we have renovated, we have altered and we have even done plumbing,” she says.

Thato and her partner have a clear mandate and that is to make Sakwe Projects the most premium solution firm that provides world-class leadership of engineering and technical solutions for the engineering and the built environment.

“We are still under the R10m threshold but we are working hard to improve that”.

She employs eight people on site and three in the office and currently working on a home renovation outside of Bloemfontein.

Thato attributes her success and determination to all the young females that have told themselves that anything is possible and to every black child that works hard to make a living.

She is however most grateful to the generation that paved the way.

“I wake up every morning with a need to make a difference, not only in my life but in the lives of

others, especially the youth by creating sustainable employment and jobs,” she says.

“In every projects I undertake, I believe I'm always learning something new, or a new way to look at a problem, just by changing my attitude towards the problem, and that excites me for the next day”.

“I hope that I can inspire the youth of today, by leaving my footprints in concrete, in an industry that is so male-dominated, so that the black girl child, in the future can know that it is all possible,” beams Thato.

She has aspirations for the youth of the future and hopes that in 10 years, they will know to go after their dreams.

Advice: “Start working on that dream, wherever you are in life. That dream, that passion, start somewhere and work on it every day of your life until you attain everything you hope anddreamed for.”

Pics: By Baleseng Mosotho

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