Date: Tue, 21 Jul 98 15:14:36 CDT
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Rich Winkel)
Subject: S.AFRICA: Single Mother Fights for Women in the Trades
/** headlines: 128.0 **/
** Topic: S.AFRICA: Single Mother Fights for Women in the Trades **
** Written 11:28 AM Jul 20, 1998 by mmason in cdp:headlines **
/* Written 9:18 AM Jul 18, 1998 by email@example.com in list.beijing95 */
/* ---------- "[B95: ] Chiya Shows Her Mettle" ---------- */
From: Jennifer Gagliardi <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Single Mother Fights for Women in the Trades
By Sechaba ka'Nkosi, Mail and Guardian,
10 July 1998
Johannesburg (Mail and Guardian, July 10, 1998) - A single
mother of three is conducting a lone mission to ensure that the largely
masculine metal industry respects its female employees.
So determined is Rain Chiya to prove that women are as
capable of controlling massive machinery as men are, that she pushed her
way into a position as a crane driver after being employed as a cleaner.
Today, Chiya is a full-time health and safety
representative at a Germiston company that once tried to frustrate her
every attempt to tackle male supremacy.
She uses phrases like "women's empowerment" and "male
domination" when describing her rebellion against the establishment. "For
me combating male domination has always been a challenge that I had to
accept as personal. It has never been an easy choice. It is not easy to
persuade men that women are equally capable of doing the kind of jobs they
do," she says.
Chiya's revolt - albeit isolated - has given hope to the
mostly black women who are employed in South Africa's major industries at
low wages as tea ladies and cleaners.
Statistics point to the catering, commercial, hospitality
and cleaning industries as being dominated by women holding prominent
positions with wages equal to men. But the domestic-worker and farming
industries are women- oriented, with wages far lower than their male
Chiya's association with the metal industry dates back to
1980 when she joined Rand Scrap Iron as a sweeper, office cleaner and tea
Five years later, a male chef was fired. When the company
could not find anyone to replace him, they moved Chiya into the position
with a R3 increase per week. It took another five years before she fought
for a promotion.
"After much frustration I felt I should occupy one of the
cranes to get an increase. The company told me I would not get anything
because I wasn't a crane driver. I asked them what it took to be one, and
when they realised that I was serious, they introduced a new system that
required certificates for crane drivers."
Chiya was asked to write an aptitude test. She says the
company was surprised when she passed with 98. "They thought teagirls
could not read and write English. Fortunately I had high school education
so I was a different kind of teagirl. After that I got my job as a crane
But her frustrations did not end there. When she fell
pregnant with her youngest child four years ago and could no longer drive
a crane, she was demoted to a sweeper, because "the bosses told me they
did not have any other position for me. I think it was more of a strategy
to get rid of me. But I was determined to stay on."
Chiya's experience helps her in her new position as health
and safety representative. Her experience as a student and a youth
activist in the mid- 1970s in KwaThema also drives her attempt to improve
Two years after she joined Rand Scrap Iron she tried to
introduce her fellow workers to unionism. But she says her employers tried
to use cultural differences between males and females to turn the workers
'It was viewed as a family business then. The bosses
employed more women because they could pay them less. They were paying us
below Seifsa [Steel and Engineering Industries Federation of South Africa]
rates. Each week they paid us in brown envelopes. The amount was
different each time.
"When Anglo American took over the company in 1982, the
director was a union basher. He capitalised on African culture. He said to
male shop stewards, 'How can you have a woman as a shop steward and a
For Chiya this attitude was more of challenge than a
defeat. She started defending her fellow colleagues - including the men
who did not have much respect for her. In time, she was elected to the
company's shop steward committee.
Today she is chair of the Congress of South African Trade
Unions's Witwatersrand region, a councillor in the Greater Springs Town
Council, head of the Gauteng Association of Local Government and its
representative in the South African Association of Local Authorities.
Copyright 1998 Mail and Guardian. Distributed via Africa