THE trailblazing journey that Elizabeth Deuthigilwa Amutenya has travelled needs to be celebrated as it has led her to becoming the first woman high voltage electrician at NamPower to attain Level 6 authorisation for operating on high voltage.

This is the highest grading that a high voltage electrician can attain within the transmission department at the power utility and authorises her to work on any part of the national grid and train others that have not reached her level of attainment.

Amutenya grew up at the Ohainete village, Oniipa constituency in Oshikoto region and attended St Isidor primary school situated between Grootfontein and Tsumeb before matriculating at Otjikoto High School at Tsumeb.

Her journey as a high voltage electrician started after she was awarded a bursary by NamPower to do general electrical course at the NamPower Training Centre in Windhoek.

She was the only woman in a class of six and contemplated dropping out because it was difficult at first, but a classmate encouraged her to persevere as she was proving to be good at the subject and she became more focussed.

“Besides I did not want to look a gift horse in the mouth as this would have jeopardised chances for other women to be afforded the same opportunity by NamPower. I then followed my inquisitive intuition and stayed on the course,” she says.

She said as a schoolgirl they were taught that electricity is generated at Ruacana power station but being in NamPower she was learning how it reaches our homes for safe use.

How did she get into NamPower?

“By a dint of luck, we passed by the NamPower office when they were giving out application forms for the apprenticeship and I also collected one which I filled and submitted,” said Amutenya who added that she does not limit herself but takes all opportunities that come her way.

“You really do not know your potential until you put it to test. I believe anything is possible if I put my heart, mind and effort to it.”

As a first born of three sisters she is a pillar of strength for them and her mother.

How she juggles these roles?

Amutenya says everything has its time and all you must do is plan. “We have stand-by duties after work, and you must be ready to attend any unforeseen breakdowns, but this does not affect my family time because it is not all the time that you’ll be called out.”

“We do inspections and preventative maintenance to minimise breakdowns that gives us the opportunity to have time to ourselves.

Amutenya said as a Level 6 authorized high voltage electrician she can operate on the entire NamPower transmission grid – from the power station to the customer.

“We go through training from Leve1 to Level 6. Throughout the training we are taught safety precautions and how to carry out our operations. Besides the theory, we also do practical training in the field with people who have already been exposed to the job and authorized at a specific level.”

Amutenya says she is comfortable working with men because the male colleagues have not exercised any discrimination or judgement based on her gender.

“Male workmates have learnt to trust me on the job because they have seen me doing the work at different levels. Besides they are eager to share knowledge and skills. When you are learning it is important to get knowledge from everyone because everyone has different skills,” she said.

And the motto is not to undermine subordinates because they have practical experience, having been with the power utility for a long time.

Amutenya says after her apprenticeship at NamPower Training Centre she joined the NamPower Construction department which is responsible for constructing of substations in the country. However, upon joining the Network Operations section she was stationed at Gobabis in Omaheke region then and this is where she obtained her levels 1, 2 and 3.

She then transferred to Swakopmund in 2016 where there was more state-of the art equipment and where she was exposed to the transmission network which boosted her experience to attain levels 4 – 6.

“My current duties include ensuring continuity of supply to mines, ErongoRed and many other customers.”

She said that biggest challenge she meets is driving offroad under the power transmission lines to restore power because of the challenging terrains which can happen any time of the day or even at night hours.

She however finds motivation in the slogan: “Powering the nation and beyond”.

Amutenya advises other women who might want to follow her footsteps not to fear the unknown but come and experience it and see if they are equal to the task. The taste of the pudding is in the eating, she advises.

“Working with electricity appears dangerous from afar but there are safety precautions in place to protect us,” she said.

NamPower has three safety priorities which everyone must abide by – safety of the person, safety of equipment and continuity of supply.

“We do hazard and risk assessments to ensure the environment is safe before we start working and strictly enforce the rules on wearing protective clothing,” she explained.

She said in the next five years she wants to see more women taking up the trade, move to management position and continue training others who are coming up the trade.