Bridget Mavhimira Features Writer
It’s dawn and Memory Bere (30) of Unit J in Harare’s dormitory town, Chitungwiza, jumps out of bed to take care of urgent business.
A client in need of her services has just called her, and at the same time, her nine-year old son wants breakfast as soon as he wakes up.
Taking a quick shower, she wears a royal blue work suit,feeds her child eats, and gets down to business.
Being a mechanic, Bere is quite a busy woman and multi-tasking has kept her going over the eight years she has been in the trade.
Bere is one of the few women in the field of mechanics.
Growing up in Chipinge, east of Zimbabwe, she loved playing with her father’s automotive tools.
While in primary school, her father’s Datsun 1500 became her best friend, she recalled, adding she would spend hours on end watching him repairing it.
“My father would fix the car at home because he knew one or two tricks.
“So while he fixed the car, I was the spanner girl. If he finally decided to take it to the mechanics he would always take me along,” she told The Herald on Saturday.
From that tender age, Bere developed an interest in mechanics and never looked back.
“My mother would argue with my father saying that as a girl, he should not entertain me when I go to help him fix the car,” she added.
Instead, her mother told her father to encourage her to do house chores.
It seems Bere got her stubbornness from her dad because he never listened to his wife.
Yet, all her mother wanted was for her little girl to become a nurse like her, and not play around with grease and oil.
Being in the industry for close to a decade, not seeing many female mechanics worries Bere.
“I have been in the motor mechanic field for eight years and so far I have never met or worked with female mechanics.
“I don’t have a female mentor to encourage me and that has been one of my biggest challenges.
“I had to put it upon myself and become that role model I was searching for.
“I had to accept the challenge to show young ladies out there that a woman is more than capable of being anything she wants to be,’’ she added.
In her journey to becoming who she is today, Bere has come across pessimistic people who give discouraging comments.
“Negative comments are always going to be there, and in my case the fact that I chose to work in a male dominated field.
“Some even concluded that I chose this job because I wanted to snatch their husbands from them,” she revealed.
She said such negative comments came from elderly women who she expected to support and encourage her.
“Some would even reprimand my mother saying she did not train me well.
“There was this lady in particular who asked if I still saw myself as a woman because I was a mechanic. I won’t lie I felt attacked at that moment because this is me just doing my job,” she added.
Bere faced a lot of challenges and the biggest was she was “a woman’’ with a motor mechanics certificate.
Who would hire a woman to be a mechanic, how will she lift the heavy engines?
On many occasions, she was turned down.
“After getting my mechanics certificates from City Study Centre in Harare in 2012, I relocated to South Africa in 2013 because I could not get any job here in Zimbabwe because of my gender.
“I would go with my curriculum vitae to companies applying for a mechanic’s job. They would look at me and judge me from my appearance. As you can see, I am light skinned, so some would say I am too pretty for the job,” Bere added.
It was not easy to also get a job in South Africa, the gender stereotypes followed her there, too.
“In my pursuit to find a job, I went to this company called Water Front Motors where the boss was a white man by the name Charles Oliver.
“So he interviewed me and was happy that a woman was so passionate about being a motor mechanic and promised to groom me as best as he could since I had no experience,” she said.
“I had just finished school. I started fixing and servicing luxurious cars such as Mercedes Benz, BMW, Range Rovers. My boss always made sure that every car that would come to the garage I would fix it and learn about it.”
For a woman mechanic she does not have to lift anything heavy, there are cranes for lifting engines and jack plates for gearbox lifting.
While she does not have a female mentor in the motor mechanics industry, she wants to see more young women take up the trade.
“I have managed to inspire fellow women to venture into motor mechanics.
“I am now mentoring over 10 girls and some are not in Zimbabwe. I receive calls from women in Kenya, Ghana, Uganda who testify to have been motivated by my story and have started going to school for motor mechanics and that’s a win for me.”
Bere’s story proves that women and girls have to educate and challenge society that women can work in any field.
It is important for parents and society to support and not judge girls.
If a girl wants to be a builder, plumber it is important to allow her to do so.