A Lady Engineer Blazing the Trail in Ashaka
A number of engineers move towards their control room. From a distance, it is hard to distinguish one from another as all are kitted in reflective overalls, hard hats, nose masks and boots. This makes it difficult to tell that among the group of process engineers is an individual who has surpassed the expectation of many to become a first in several ways.
As the engineers take their different position before computer screens monitoring all the equipment that convert limestone, iron, sand, gypsum and other materials into cement, Mrs. Debora Danladi takes essential readings on computer screens before moving to a console to continue the day’s work. It didn’t take a long time to notice that she is the only woman in the room. Yet she moves from one switchboard to the other with as much dexterity as anyone. She is an engineer; indeed the first in Ashaka.It didn’t take a long time to notice that she is the only woman in the room. Yet she moves from one switchboard to the other with as much dexterity as anyone. She is an engineer; indeed the first in Ashaka.
Apart from being a certified engineer, 30-year-old Deborah is the first and only female engineer in Ashaka Cement plant, Funakeye, Gombe State. The other 400 engineers are males. She joined the company in 2015 as a graduate trainee. She later moved on to work as a Control Room Operator, controlling the cement processing from the first stage of quarrying, through the over 1,000-degree Celsius kilns to the final stage of bagging. Even though many people who meet her for the first time want to talk about her life as an engineer, Deborah doesn’t think it is a big deal. Engineering is a passion that goes back to her secondary school days. Deborah is currently the Health, Safety and Environment manager in Maiganga community for Ashaka Cement, a subsidiary of LafargeHolcim, Deborah believes she has to do more in order to serve as a role model to youths and women in the area.“As the first female engineer in Ashaka cement plant, I feel that a lot more is needed from me to be a role model, because currently, all eyes are on me, and expectations are high and I feel a need to deliver,” Deborah says.Apart from the need to be a worthy role model in a region where early marriage is still prevalent and the fundamental rights of girl children are still treated with utter neglect, the University of Maiduguri graduate does not feel unnecessarily pressured to deliver on her job.
Deborah's colleagues at the cement plant have glowing regards for her and the feeling is mutual. “I never feel out of place working with my colleagues at the plant. They don’t do anything to belittle me and I respect them for that.” Certified by the Council for the Regulation of Engineering in Nigeria (COREN), the process engineer who has been happily married for a few years says she ensures the home front is equally taken care of. “It is all about work/life balance,” she reveals. “My work does not interfere with my good role as a wife at home. I balance both effectively, and the full support of my husband makes it easy for me.” Deborah's vision is for more girl children to get opportunities like hers. She suggests that parents have a role to play in making this happen. She suggests that parents must encourage their female children not to place any limitations on their aspiration. Parents should also not limit their children’s progress by unnecessary gender assignment to careers. “For example, when a girl says she wants to study Engineering, many parents around here still resist on grounds that it is a profession for men.
Deborah who graduated from the University of Maiduguri in 2012 with a degree in Chemical Engineering maintains that it is about encouraging girls to aspire for greatness and helping them to see life beyond getting married at a tender age. Deborah says she wants more women from the northern part of Nigeria to come into the field of engineering and push the limits of what can be achieved.'