Aysha Gaffoor Richards builds ships by hand

Aysha Gaffoor Richards builds ships by hand

Hard, physical labour is often seen as the domain of men. Aysha Gaffoor Richards always loved a challenge. Watch how she became one of South Africa’s few female boilermakers.

Beautiful news 13 August
Supplied/ Beautiful News

This is a man’s world. When women entered the workforce, roles of nurse or teacher were the only options, jobs considered for the soft and gentle. Aysha Gaffoor Richards always knew she wanted to be different. 

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When she chose her path, countless people told her she couldn’t, shouldn’t. It only fueled Gaffoor Richards further. She is now one of few women in a traditionally ‘male’ industry: shipbuilding.

Gaffoor Richards got her start as a boilermaker with an apprenticeship in 2012, and within two years she became a qualified artisan. Now, Gaffoor Richards builds ships from start to finish, her hands responsible for constructing a vessel’s entire skeleton. “To do my job you have to have a lot of courage,” she says. “You will come home with bruises and cuts and burns, but it’s all part of a day’s job.” 

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Gaffoor Richards has won awards for her work, and been named employee of the month. “I always felt like I had to prove myself to people so that they would not underestimate my capabilities,” she says.

Gaffoor Richards knows of only two other qualified female boilermakers, and she is often the only woman on a team. But her male colleagues provide her with support and motivation, respecting her knowledge and aptitude. As she makes advancements in the industry, Gaffoor Richards hopes to set a new standard for other women. Definitions and limitations are made to be undone. 

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“There are more and more women doing groundbreaking things,” Gaffoor Richards says. “If we all work together as equals we can truly create something great.”

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