Tell us about yourself?
I am Jacqueline Dias. I was born in 1971 in Dedza. My father comes from Ludzi Village, T/A Mduwa in Mchinji while my late mother came from Ndeve Village, T/A Namitete in Lilongwe. I was born in a family of eight boys and four girls. I am married with three children—a son and two daughters. I am a Christian. I work at Southern Region Water Board (SRWB) as a planning engineer.
What is your education background?
I did my primary school at Mtendere in Dedza where my father, as a civil servant, was teaching at St Kizito Seminary. That was in the 1980s. I used to walk six kilometres every morning to school. From there, I got selected to Ludzi Girls Secondary School where I did my Form One to Four. I did well in my secondary education and 1991 I was selected to The Polytechnic, a constituent college of the University of Malawi (Unima) to study for a degree in civil engineering. After working for a while at Southern Region Water Board, I went to Zimbabwe for a Master’s in integrated water management at The University of Zimbabwe.
How does it feel working in a male-dominated job?
It is challenging, of course, because women are mostly looked down upon by men. Men think they are the only ones who can perform in such jobs. It is difficult for them to appreciate a woman’s efforts. But, as a woman, you need to be objective and focused and, only then will start respecting you—after they see that you believe in yourself.
What makes you feel proud as an engineer?
It gives me much satisfaction when a project is successful. For example, we had a situation in Balaka where some residents had no access to safe drinking water and my team had to sit down and see how best we could provide water to those outside the region’s catchment area. It was challenging working around the clock every day, but as I am talking to you now, people in that area have access to safe drinking water.
What does your job entail?
As a planning engineer, I look at the organisation and plan in terms of where we must grow and how. My job entails looking at the potential of projects to supply water in the whole region, except Blantyre. I ensure that water supply is a priority.
What made you choose this profession?
Growing up as a child, I always had the passion for the profession. I loved playing with electrical appliances. Sometimes I could even fix doors in the house, which grew my passion for engineering. And, until I achieved my dream, I never stopped focusing on my goal.
How did your family influence your success?
Although we were coming from an average family, my father always strived to provide for us, both in terms of education and basic necessities at home. As I already told you that he was a teacher, we the children took that to our advantage. We often asked him to administer mathematics examinations each time he was giving a test to his class, although we were years behind the class he taught. That improved our mathematical skills. He has always supported our family.
Now talking about you successes in the fields…
I cannot talk of success without mentioning God. He has really done a lot for me. My first notable achievement was when I was registered with the Board of Engineers in 2007. I was the first engineer to be registered and, the first woman engineer for that matter. I have also served as vice-chairperson in the board of Malawi Institution of Engineers (MIE). Currently, I am serving as a member in the board.
How do you reconcile family and work?
I always make the best use of my time so that when I go home, I must attend to my family unless if there is something more pressing at work; otherwise, there is time for work, time for the family and time for relaxing.
Advice to young women out there?
I would urge them to always know what they want in life. Be focused. Sometimes girls go to school without really knowing what they want to be in life, which is wrong because this is a foundation to success. Women should always find the right way of fighting their obstacles. Have goals and cling onto them and you you will achieve a lot in life. Be confident of yourself and, above all, put God first in everything you do.
What do you do in your free time?
I prioritise church activities and social gatherings. I must also say that my family always enjoys a large part of my free time. We sometimes go to the lake for vacations