Beatrice Nanyangwe is now used to seeing hordes of people watch her work at her carpentry workshop in Ndola, the capital of Zambia’s Copperbelt province.
“Most people are awestruck when they see me making furniture because they find it both fascinating and odd for a woman to be doing this kind of work,” said the 50-year-old Nanyangwe.Nanyangwe, who is based in Ndola’s Chipulukusu compound, has been making a range of furniture pieces for over a year, something she embarked on after undergoing training in carpentry and joinery at a correctional facility few years ago in Lusaka, the Zambian capital. She recalled that among the many skills training opportunities offered at the facility, she chose to take up carpentry because she is passionate about making furniture pieces.”Carpentry has always been my passion, but I never got the chance to do it when I was younger due to a number of reasons. It was when I was in incarceration for eight months that I got the opportunity to receive training and become a certified carpenter,” she said. She believed her move to venture into a male-dominated field is encouraging other women to exploit their abilities and better themselves and societies. “Most women that stop by my workspace indicate that they are inspired by my work and want to learn how to do carpentry works,” Nanyangwe enthused.
The mother of six further revealed that making a range of furniture pieces is now her main source of livelihood that is enabling her to earn enough to support her family. And her husband Caphas Mulenga, who is also a carpenter, said that having a wife in the same trade has made things easier for him and that he is not intimidated by her knowledge of a craft that is often seen as a preserve of men.”She often helps me whenever I get overwhelmed with orders from clients. It is good to have a partner that not only understands your work but is also able to help,” said the 42-year-old Mulenga.
While appealing to men to help women realize their potential by supporting them, Mulenga said that many women and girls are well able to contribute to societies but they are inhibited by gender stereotypes. “Assigning women duties using social constructs limits their potential. My wife has proved that women are capable of doing most of the work that society thinks can only be done by men,” Mulenga asserted.