August is Women’s Month in South Africa and a time to reflect on equality between women and men. Equality in the workplace is one of the main issues of modern society, but a lot of headway has been made to offer women the same opportunities as men. These opportunities also stretch much further than before, incorporating jobs on construction sites far from the big city lights. Morati Kemokotlile, procurement officer on the Sener Kathu Solar Park project, explains how she exchanged her stilettos for work boots.
When I completed my BCom degree at Wits, majoring in accounting and finance, I would never have believed it if anyone told me then that somewhere along the way I would join a firm that specialises in an industry that was so unpopular.
I work on two Sener projects: the Kathu project, which is in its construction stage; and the Bokpoort project, which is in its operation and maintenance stage, where we are basically responsible for the warranty period.
As part of the procurement team, in the position of procurement officer, my specialities are sourcing and contracting. I am permanently based onsite in the Northern Cape.
My journey with Sener started in January 2016, but management had already showed interest in me when I joined the Bokpoort Project under Crowie Concessions in 2013, which was one of the JV partners. I was also procurement officer there and the only woman in our team. A feather in my cap was that I carried our department onsite throughout the commissioning phase to hand over under difficult circumstances.
It has been quite an exhilarating experience to be part of a team of well-experienced professionals, exploring technology that is new to our country. I have always been interested in and curious about construction, but the idea of being part of a solar-powered plant pushed me to want to enter not only construction, but the renewable energy sector.
However, like everything else, there was a downside to working on a project, especially the Bokpoort project, as it was in a very remote area. This has meant spending long stretches of time away from my family, especially from my little daughter. Every weekend that I went home, I would find she had learnt a new word, but I find comfort in the fact that I helping to level the playing field for her and her friends one day.
There have been so many positives working in solar construction. My work has helped me to grow and my exposure to the engineering and construction industry, with a focus on renewable energy, has opened many doors for me.
To make it in the construction industry, you have to be brave and have courage and stand out. I like to think that I am one of the most experienced procurement officers in the country with CSP experience. In the end, it was all worth it.
• Morati Kemokotlile is the procurement officer on the Sener Kathu Solar Park project