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“Take a girl child to work day” at the Addo Elephant National Park

30 May 2005

When I was in high school, I attended a careers evening. I arrived at the nature conservation talk full of eagerness and optimism. A huge man marched in to the classroom, belt bulging with a knife and pistol, rifle slung over his shoulder. I wondered if I had mistakenly attended the military service talk.

“Good evening”, he boomed, “I am here to tell you about nature conservation. First of all, if you are a lady, forget about it.” Feeling my heart sink, I listened to the rest of his monologue as he stated that only 11% of students selected for nature conservation would be women and that they would have to “settle for education or research” (the last phrase spoken in a tone usually reserved for cleaning toilets all day, every day).

I left the talk despondent and wondering if I should look for an alternative career. Years later, my resolve having led me to a career in national parks, I look back and marvel at the impact that such a man had on my young mind and how his attitude almost prevented my from following my dreams.

It was thus with great enthusiasm that I welcomed Cell C’s “take a girl child to work day” initiative to the Addo Elephant National Park for the second year.

Nineteen very eager and excited Grade 10 and 11 girls arrived on the 26th of May 2005 in the Addo Elephant National Park. Transport sponsored by Cell C safely delivered the girls from V.M. Kwinana Senior Secondary School in Uitenhage.

The day of opportunities began with an information session where the girls were briefed on the extent of the park and the structure of the different departments. After an impromptu warm-up singing session, the girls dispersed to spend two hours learning about different career opportunities, including conservation, tourism, social ecology, hospitality, finance & admin, human resources and game drives.

The work experience sessions included mock activities such as drawing up personnel files in the human resources office, inspecting chalets with the duty manager and checking the electric fence and bomas with field rangers. A second work experience session in the afternoon allowed the girls to experience an alternative career path, as well as educating them about the variety of careers on offer in national parks.

Feedback from the girls indicated that the experience had been a valuable one. “I would love to work in Addo Elephant National Park”, said Xolelwa Kefile, “everyone is so friendly and I learnt a lot today”.

Said Sonia Xinwa: “I would like to become a social ecologist because I enjoy talking to people about their needs and their ideas”.

The day ended with a game drive to spot some of the Addo Elephant National Park’s wildlife and a group of enlightened young woman left the park with new ideas about their future.

Nomawonga Komani, Nomandla Toti, Bulelwa Kana and Nomathamsana Lucas inspect chalets with Hut Cleaner, Maureen Bambiso, and Duty Manager, Lesley-Ann Meyer. Teacher, Mrs Sigwanda, looks on

Esther Truter gives advice to Nozuko Nomantla and Nomathamsanqa Lucas on a career in human resources

Robyn Woods explains boma care to (from back to front) Kholiswa Qengqa, Zandiswa Gadeni, Zoliswa Mnyakama and Bongiwe Gushe

Nomathamsanqa Puwe and Xolelwa Ngqonga learn from Admin Officer, Fonkie Ndiki

Megan Bradfield
Social Ecologist, Addo Elephant National Park, Tel: 042 2330556, E-mail