How Viola Bowen is paving way for female students into engineering profession

Viola Bowen at her electronics shop in Marigat Town, Baringo County.

Viola Bowen, a trained electrical engineer, is on a mission to change the norm of girls from the region shunning engineering related courses and instead opting to be teachers, nurses or pharmacists.

Speaking to Education News, Bowen revealed that she aims to ensure that the discrimination against women enrolling for engineering courses goes away.

She has registered her own contract company.

“Vikem Contractors Limited will be female-dominated and will be the first of its kind in Baringo County,’ she revealed, adding that the company will give priority to women wishing to practice their trade as electricians in general building and supplies.

She further notes that through the company, women will have a voice.

She also has a shop that sells electric cables, meter boxes, bulbs among other accessories to clients in Marigat town.

“Wiring services are on high demand hence I use the opportunity to market my skills through free installation services to my customers. The free services have helped me gain acceptance by proving that a woman can do what a man can do,” she said Viola.

She reveals that though she has now secured a huge client base, she is still unhappy that in the 21st century, an African woman must still go through so many challenges to gain acceptance in her field of profession.

“It’s sad that despite being a trained professional, clients, including women, still turn me down for job opportunities because of my gender,’’ she said, revealing further that while studying at Nakuru’s Kenya Industrial Training Institute [KITI], there were only five female students.

She reveals that electronics fascinated her from childhood, and she would occasionally collect parts of broken electronic gadgets and try to figure out why the items had been thrown away.

While studying at Kimalel Primary school, she came face to face with the power of electricity.

“We were tasked with the responsibility of washing the floors of Kimalel Health Centre. I splashed water on the walls, not knowing that an exposed live wire in the socket is dangerous once it comes into contact with water,’ she said.

She reveals that at Kapropita Girls High school, she got an ideal environment to interact with teachers who really encouraged her during Physics practical lessons.

She forgot that she is the alleged weaker gender in the eyes of the conservative African society and became a teachable student, and an achiever.

With a B- Grade in her 2008 KCSE exams, her professional dream was now within reach but still riddled with challenges.

She reveals that despite the strides made so far in uplifting the place of the girl child in education, gender discrimination in the job market is the reason many girls still don’t have the courage to study courses that are seen as a preserve of the men.

In Baringo, it is still hard to find women get chances to scale heights to install fluorescent tubes or peer into the rodent-infested ceilings where most wiring activities take place.

By Jeremiah Chamakany | jeremiahchamakany@gmail.com

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