Two of a kind

SHARE   |   Tuesday, 15 March 2016   |   By Keitebe Kgosikebatho

Kesego Jarona and Onalenna Godie are two of a kind – working in two different areas but commanding hundreds of men in the deep pits of Orapa and Jwaneng mines respectively. Down in the deep pits of Jwaneng and Orapa mine  hundreds of miners go down having been briefed and prepared for the their daily shifts by their seniors. At the top of the hierarchy there are among others mining engineers. hile most people may at take it that hundreds of these strong built men, armed with their tools, in their overalls and boots complete with a helmet, can only be managed by strong big men, who not only command respect but are the definition of respect, it is not the case in Kesego Jarona and Onalenna Godie’s case. he two have not only trailblazer their way to attain senior mining positions, but they are women. They count among the first crop of women to break into the high echelons in the mining sector and are now in charge of miners and mining activities in the two Debswana diamond mines - Orapa land Jwaneng - respectively. While the two may be donning the same title and working for the same diamond mining company (Debswana), their journey to the top share some similarities and striking differences at the same time.

* As senior mining engineers the two oversee a range of 150 -400 miners when on duty.
* the two have to pass through several levels before attaining their current positions - being learner officials, acquiring  blasting  licenses from the Department of mining, shift foremen, working shifts, assistant mining engineers, mining engineers up to the current senior mining engineer positions they hold.  
* As senior officials the two are now more of managers; they monitor key performances in the mining process and make sure vital objectives are delivered on.
* As women working in the mining industry, the two tell of how they have to work in the same environment and conditions as their male counterparts but even then, have to shine a little bit brighter to earn and prove their capabilities.
* They both hold degrees in mining engineering

However the two senior mining engineers also have two different stories to tell:
Kesego Jarona
She is 45 years old and started with Debswana as an apprentice back in 1994, training for the National Craft Certificate (NCC) as an auto-electrician. She was given an opportunity to partake in the Artisan Development Programme from 1999 to 2000 where she worked on all range of vehicles used in the mine from light to big earth moving ones. After the programme she worked only for a year before being awarded a scholarship to study mining engineering at Leeds University in the United Kingdom. Apon completion she returned to work as a learner official, and went through all levels up until she finally landed her current post where she is tasked with offering technical support to the Pit services team across the three mines (Orapa, Letlhakane and Damtshaa mines). part of her job entails off the road (OTR) budgeting, analyses and improvement  intiatives to prolong their life  as they cannot stand a mine if not managed well  and can be costly. She also deals with fuel management. While she was a young mother with one small boy, she o forgo lengthy university training to enrol for the Debswana apprenticeship programme as a safer option to see her new family through.

By the look of things it was a wise decision. She is now a mother of two kids, a boy and a girl who were both little when she went abroad. She also did a year long diamond professional graduate certificate (Diamond Pipe Line course) with Leicester University sponsored by Debswana. Jarona is in fact the first female to take up apprenticeship at Orapa mine and obviously had to break several glass ceilings to reach where she is today. As much as she enjoyed being the centre of her male colleagues attention, Jarona says she knew that she had to snap from being a woman and prove her worth and this meant working double as much in most cases. “I looked at it as making an opening for other women,” she says. Her word to other women is that they should not give up easily. As a woman who ventured into the industry in the 90s, Jarona says she still feels though some things have changed, a lot still has to be done.

Onalenna Godie
Unlike Jarona, Godie joined Debswana as a fresh graduate with a Bachelor degree in mining from University of the Witwatersrand in 2008, the same year of her graduation as a learner official. She scaled up the heights to ultimately land at the current senior mining engineering position. As a senior mining engineer at Jwaneng mine she was initially tasked with supervising the drilling and blasting section. However, from January this year she now works with the load and hauls section. Godie credits her success to discipline. According to the 31-year-old married mother of two from Sefhophe; “if you give good results nobody can question your capabilities”. She loves her job and aspires to be a General Manager one day, and says she knows with time she will achieve this dream. She believes as a results-based industry no one can say women engineers only get where they are because they are favoured.