PHOTO: Bulelani Portia Mfino is Sea Harvest’s first female Electronic Equipment Mechanician and one of several phenomenal women working for the company.
As Women’s Month in South Africa draws to a close, Sea Harvest is taking stock on the progress that it has made in fast-tracking the growth of its female employees and the next steps needed to improve. About 1,300 women alone are employed at its Saldanha Bay plant, Sea Harvest’s largest facility, on the Cape west coast. The majority of these women are from the local communities in and surrounding Saldanha Bay.
Given the large number of women employed at its facilities, Sea Harvest has, traditionally, hosted various interventions to support its female staff, including wellness programmes; a holiday programme for their school-going children; and parenting workshops. This is in addition to the benefits offered to all Sea Harvest employees.
Simone Gounden is the company’s Strategic Services Manager and a Director at the South African Fisheries Development Fund, which is co-funded by Sea Harvest. She completed her Bachelor of Laws degree in 2012 at the University of KwaZulu-Natal and is an Admitted Attorney of the High Court of South Africa, as well as a member of the Maritime Law Association of South Africa. Her motivation to succeed is driven by her goal to continuously evolve and acquire knowledge. “I am appreciative of the support and encouragement that Sea Harvest has provided me in attaining my goals, which has included funding my completion of two university courses in Financial Management and Commercial and Contract Law. My belief is that you have to have confidence in your ability, and then be resilient enough to follow through. Wathint’ Abafazi, Wathint’ Imbokodo: You strike the women, you strike the rock,” says Simone.
Chipo Machiri holds the position of Management Information Sytems (MIS) Manager at Sea Harvest with a Master of Commerce and Honours degree in Information Systems from Rhodes University. She explains that she arrived at Sea Harvest in June 2018 as a Graduate Intern with no clue of what the industry was like. “However, I have been able to grow and learn a lot. They say the fishing industry is dynamic. I believe that defines my time at Sea Harvest – constant change and progress. Regardless of the fact that the fishing industry is male-dominated, Sea Harvest is an inclusive environment that realises the potential of women as catalysts for growth and change,” says Chipo.
Quality Systems Manager, Nelita Coetzee, says, “Five years ago I started working as a contract Quality Control Technologist at another company after completing a National Diploma in Food Technology. I secured a position elsewhere thereafter before joining Sea Harvest as a microbiologist and within a relatively short space of time was promoted to my current position. Sea Harvest has given me the opportunity to set an example for my two year old daughter, so that she can know that your possibilities as a woman are endless.”
One of two female Shift Factory Managers in Sea Harvest’s Fresh Fish Operations (FFO), Gillian Felaar, has worked in the fishing industry for 15 years. She says, “What motivates me to succeed is my passion for my work – I feel powerful when I am able to resolve issues at work – and providing for my family, so that they don’t need to ask for anything because I know how it felt wanting things as a child that my parents couldn’t afford. To me, my mother is the strongest woman on earth who did everything in her power to provide for her children. She is my role model; my woman of strength.”
FFO Shift Factory Manager, Idolene Moses, was one of several women who recently completed a Sea Harvest funded Management Development Programme. She joined Sea Harvest seven years ago and says her experience as a woman working in the fishing industry has been positive. “The roles I have occupied have not, traditionally, been held by women but I have succeeded due to the great support from my Managers and mentors and determination from my side. I believe that, as a woman, I bring more compassion and empathy to the role as factory manager and I would like to encourage other women to be true to themself and live their best life now. Don’t let being a woman stand in your way of succeeding in life,” she states.
Bulelani Portia Mfino is Sea Harvest’s first female Electronic Equipment Mechanician after completing an apprenticeship and theoretical course in electronics at the Tswane South College in Pretoria West. Her journey with the company started in 2014 when she was appointed as a Distribution Clerk. The opportunity to study arose when she approached Sea Harvest’s Learning and Development department to voice her interest in the Electronics field. Bulelani says, “As women, we should not limit ourselves. We need to stay positive while focusing on ourselves and where we are going.”
Group Company Secretary and Legal Advisor, Nondumiso Seshoka, says, her motivation comes from knowing that there were women who came before her who have fought hard to enable her to occupy the spaces she currently occupies. She says, “I owe it to those women to take advantage of all the opportunities that are presented to me by showing up, working hard and ensuring that I lift other women as I rise. There is more than enough space for all us at the table and it is up to all of us to create an environment that is conducive for the advancement of women, especially in those spaces where women are still perceived as less than.”
Sea Harvest Group CEO, Felix Ratheb, says in conclusion, “As an organisation, we are cognisant of the many hats that women wear and the fact that some are single parents, so we consciously strive to support our women, which includes ensuring that they have opportunities for career growth and skills development. We are proud to have some really inspiring women working in our company.”