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Interview 7/7: YWP-ZA showcases inspiring women contributing to South Africa’s water sector

Zanele Precious Sifundza, YWP Mpumalanga branch chairperson and water care technician at the National Department of Public Works

Water&Sanitation Africa magazine interviews Zanele Precious Sifundza, Young Water Professionals South Africa (YWP-ZA) Mpumalanga branch chairperson and water care technician at the National Department of Public Works. YWP-ZA is a division of the Water Institute of Southern Africa (WISA).

1. What are your current professional activities?

I’m a water care technician at the National Department of Public Works. My duties involve monitoring and evaluating water and wastewater treatment plants, determining industrial discharge compliance with pre-treatment and source control standards, and the preparation of reports, charts, and graphs on water status as required. I also update Blue and Green Drop System data.

2. As a ten-year-old, what did you want to be when you grew up?

An actress –I would imagine myself winning the Oscars and preparing my acceptance speech.

3. What has your journey as a water sector professional been to date?

It has been a roller coaster. Straight after my tertiary qualification I did quite a bit of marketing, including door-to-door sales. After no luck for two years, I finally ended up on that lucky doorstep where I got hired as an assistant resident engineer in a consulting firm working on water and sanitation projects for schools.

From there, I took a leap of faith and left my well-paying job to take up a graduate development programme as a process controller because I wanted to add more value to the sector. Today, I am a professionally registered process controller (Pr. process controller) with WISA and I am happy in my chosen profession.

4. What personal strengths have assisted you in your career trajectory?

Patience, ambition and perseverance.

5. What drives you day-to-day?

Young people give me the drive to wake up and be the best I can be.

6. How do you balance work-personal commitments?

I am a fitness fanatic, doing a lot of running.

7. Now that you are working, what tip would you give your ten-year old self?

Be true to yourself and find your niche.

8. What inspires you about the water sector?

Innovation.

9. What are the main challenges to implementing water and sanitation for all?

Firstly, people’s perceptions (social-psychology): if people’s perceptions can be changed it would be easier to do a joint implementation of projects through public participation and decision making.

Secondly, social balance: eradicating preferential treatment, for example, when it comes to service delivery disparities in urban and rural areas, would make a huge difference.

10. How are women’s experiences in the water sector different from men’s?

Women understand the significance of access to clean water and dignified sanitation because they are more affected by changes in these systems.

11. How do women need to be supported in the water sector?

Through social development programmes, career orientation initiatives and information centres.

12. What role has YWP played in your life to date?

It has changed my way of thinking and brought leadership qualities to the surface. The YWPs have made me believe that everything is possible and achievable. The experience has also caused me to value the power of youth.

13. How is YWP helping increase the women’s share in the water sector?

Through the promotion and recognition of woman in the water sector. With YWP you will never go unrecognised.

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