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Elsie Manaswe: Engineering a brighter future

UNICEF South Africa/2019
© UNICEF South Africa/2019

Johannesburg, 17 May 2019 - In her neat and tidy townhouse in the leafy northern suburbs of Johannesburg, Elsie Manaswe explains her TechnoGirl Programme journey from the township of Soshanguve outside Pretoria. It is a journey that is about to culminate with her graduation in Chemical Engineering at the University of Cape Town later this month.

As a Grade 11 at Soshanguve Secondary School, she was selected by her teacher to be part of a newly-launched TechnoGirl programme. That journey has led to today where Elsie is employed as a Global Management Trainee at a company called AB Inbev. The programme, implemented by the TechnoGirl Trust, initially with both technical and financial support from UNICEF, entailed job shadowing sessions at Transnet over her school holidays. Transnet is among the state-owned entities that was recruited and trained to deliver the programme. It is well positioned to be a partner in this programme not only because it covers most fields in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, but also because it is relatively accessible to under-resourced communities. “We wore overalls and it was all very grown-up and exciting” Elsie recalls when explaining the job-shadow experience.

“Before TechnoGirl Programme, I never thought I would study engineering because I did not know anyone who had and I have often heard people saying how hard it was. But the job exposure gave us the confidence and courage to believe in ourselves, to see myself as an engineer and a game changer.”

For several weeks in her Grade 11 school holidays, Elsie was, through the TechnoGirl programme, mentored and supported thereby leading to her deciding to study Chemical Engineering. Through the Department of Basic Education she received a bursary to study at the University of Cape Town. This did not however cover all her study costs. Upon hearing of this shortfall experience by one of their alumni, the TechnoGirl Trust secured her a full scholarship from her third year through the company Reckit Benkisser.

While undertaking a Bachelor of Science: Chemical Engineering over the required four years period, Elsie was a subcommittee member for the organization Engineers Without Borders thus providing her with further exposure of the global nature of her field of study. In her current job, Elsie is exposed to a wide range of activities from sales and supply to marketing and procurement. She explains the pride of her family in her achievements, particularly her father, who works as a salesperson in a fruit market and her mother who is unemployed.

Elsie attributes this life-changing programme, which UNICEF helped establish in South Africa, with exposing her to the world of work. “Coming from an under-resourced township,” she explains, “I was exposed to crime, teenage pregnancy and other challenges and it was difficult to see success stories.” Her work experience, however, gave her hope of a better future as she and her fellow girl learners were exposed to various engineering projects while given guidance and information on how they can get involved in them. “The exposure that TechnoGirl gave me, including meeting the Minister of Women, allowed me to see the world differently and live the life I wanted to,” she says.

Elsie firmly believed in ‘paying back’ and has begun a mentorship programme in Soshanguve where career assistance and guidance is given on an ongoing basis to young people, especially girls. Acknowledging her own journey, Elsie says she is “thankful for the opportunity to dream and for the investment made in my future because TechnoGirl believed in me.”





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