'Women often face challenges when taking up non-traditional trades, particularly in Technical and Vocational Education Training (TVET),’ says Doris Meliwane, Australia Pacific Training Coalition (APTC) Automotive Trainer in Papua New Guinea.
Being the only female in a class of 46 students and the only woman during her apprenticeship, Doris never deterred from pursuing the course.
“As a woman who has played a significant role in a non-traditional occupation, I see it not as a challenge but an opportunity to be delivering training to the people of the Pacific and to show the world that I as a woman am equally important,” she said.
For many Pacific households, a university qualification is highly regarded while a TVET qualification comes as a second choice education pathway, despite high levels of graduate employment.
Employment data from TVET institutions reveals a very low percentage of female enrollments in vocational studies in developing countries.
“It will always be a challenge to change the mindset of the parents, the community and the stakeholders about vocational education being the second choice to academic education,” she added.
Speaking at the first ever Pacific Skills Summit held at The University of the South Pacific in Suva in June this year, Doris addressed the need to implement policies that will protect women from becoming victims of sexual harassment and discrimination.
“Organisations need to totally transform corporate culture into one that respects all employees regardless of gender. To make discrimination and harassment socially unacceptable, and to enforce policies to eliminate it,” she said.
Gender-related employment issues have become key issues in workplaces, especially with women taking up lead roles in areas of work that are traditionally male-dominated.
“Women can overcome gender-based challenges in non-traditional occupations if they are supported by their families, communities and employers to do further training and advance their skills sets,” Ms Meliwane said.
“My boss once told me, ‘Doris you’re an automotive trainer here at APTC, upon merit and not by gender,’ and that made me even more confident.”
The mindset held in most Pacific households is that white collar jobs provide better opportunities. This view proves to be one of the major challenges for nurturing vocational trade skills in the Pacific.
Doris is one of 18 female trainers at APTC, including three in non-traditional trades such as carpentry, light vehicle automotive and metal fabrication.