METALLIC SMILE: Silence Vainah Ziko has always been passionate about how metals join

Silence Ziko: That young female welder who passionately does it in all positions

By Nancy Samuriwo, HourlyHits Editor

A 24-year-old Harare lady claims she can do it in all positions and that 100 percent penetration is guaranteed. Well, before you race your thoughts to places far and beyond we’re talking about welding here.

Silence Vainah Ziko, the last born and only female in a Sunningdale family, is a welder of note, and a talented wordsmith. Just to make things straight, the paragraph above is based on information gleaned off her Twitter handle.

In an effort to know Silence deeper, HOURLYHITS.COM sat down with her for an interview.

Despite her young age, the Sunningdale-raised Silence is already a certified class two welder with four years industrial experiance in the bag. She has worked on tanks, pipes, pressure vessels and basically any form of light and heavy industrial welding, and views hard work as a guarantee to success in the male dominated job that she’s so passionate about.

Raised by a hardworking single mother who was a vendor and a retired nurse, chips didn’t fall far from the block for Silence. Raised by her mom and supported by her three brothers, Silence has very few words for her father who wasn’t “that much in the picture” as she grew up.

Chips didn’t fall far from the block for Silence Ziko, a hardworking female welder.

“My mother was a vendor and tailor who worked really hard to see us through,” Silence said with great fluency and eloquence. “Dad was around but not that much in the picture, so it was mum hustling all the way to keep us going.”

Silence explained how her mother’s hard work made life decent as she went through primary and secondary education at local schools that include Harare High School in Mbare. She also attended Herentals College in the city centre for her Advanced Levels, after which funds for university dried up.

She was not going to sit idle and mourn over varsity fees. After all, Silence was among the first female students to take up Wood Work as a subject while at Harare High. A lover of all things practical, she flirted with the idea of getting into dressmaking, probably taking after her mother who she saw rolling a sewing machine all her childhood life. But that career path, it turned out, wasn’t meant for her.

“I did get a qualification in dressmaking at Chinembiri Training Centre in Mbare, but honestly my heart wasn’t in it,” Silence admits. “I was just tailoring to make ends meet as that was a better alternative to just sit by.”

As a high school student, Silence served as a Junior Councillor for Harare. In this photo, she receives a recognition from then Harare Mayor Bernard Manyenyeni

The Chinembiri training facility is owned by the Harare City Council, and offers training in a wide range of arts and crafts.

Towards the end of 2016, Silence’s welding journey started in earnest when she got a scholarship from the then Ministry of Youth Development, Indigenisation and Empowerment to study a craft of her choice at Chaminuka Training Centre in Mt. Darwin. Out of all the dozens of courses she could have chosen, Silence opted for Welding.

In a sad turn of events, her mother died before she graduated. That was one big bulb that got switched off Silence’s life, but her passion for metals wasn’t extinguished at all.

The immense passion she has for welding is evident even on her Twitter space under the handle @thatfemalwelder. Silence shares her daily journey as a welder, mesmerizing her followers with hair raising moments of herself blazing at anything metallic, from tanks to pipes, gates and sky-high scaffolding.

Individuals and organizations wishing to give her jobs to grind can reach and DM her on that handle.

The 24-year-old has welded in South Africa, Mozambique and Swaziland, and regrets that women artisans are not appreciated enough in Zimbabwe compared to neighbouring countries.

“In these countries I have done jobs in, when they see a female artisan, they’re amazed and they appreciate you more. But here, I hope that with time there will be an improvement on how women artisans are treated.

“I appeal for metal fabrication companies in Zimbabwe to start appreciating us, at least by giving us same pay and benefits as our male counterparts,” Silence pleads.

Silence Ziko upon her graduation

Silence appreciates that her current employer allows her to take up jobs outside of work, but with the economy depressed by a Covid-19 lockdown, there aren’t many jobs out there. Zimbabwe has been under various levels of lockdown since March 2020, and the impact on her trade is immense.

Silence believes growing economies such as Zimbabwe’s have immense potential for technically skilled personnel and that gives her hope everyday.

“We’re hands-on people with good training, but we don’t have the machinery or capital to set ourselves up,” Silence bemoans.

She says Zimbabwe as a developing country has many building and construction projects going on and the potential for her trade is huge, but she is just not sure as to where she should go for loans.

Welding is a male dominated industry with lots of inherent prejudices, but Silence Ziko has other artisans supporting her.

Silence loves her job and enjoys the support her local community in Sunningdale gives her. She runs a group called Gears of Progress which takes up welding projects from both individuals and companies. Silence works in the group with Tinomuvonga Madhaba, a talented machinist engineer, draughtsman and fitter.

“Given resources, we’re planning on growing this group and employing as many youths as possible, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds.

“Our clientele base is still low as we’re a start-up, but the year end must see us in a much better place than now,” Silence says.

She rarely goes out for fun, unless it’s family related. However, outside work, Silence does meet up with fellow artisans and discuss business, industry issues and other matters over drinks.

“I play volleyball and can’t wait for the Covid-19 lockdown to end so I get back to the sport which I enjoy outside of work,” Silence says. She adds that her family has been very supportive of her craft and makes sure she can focus on work.

“My immediate family is very supportive and concerned about by welfare. I  urge the girl child out there to take crafts and technical jobs. Be a plumber, a builder, a fitter, a farmer, a painter, dressmaker, culinary arts… As a girl child stop limiting yourself to white collar jobs only.”

“The Female Welder is not single,” she re-emphasizes with an infectious, metallic chuckle

Such advice is great, especially coming from “The Female Welder” who is still single and hasn’t got any kids yet.

“I’m not married yet, and I’m not single as well,” Silence emphasized. “The Female Welder is not single,” she re-emphasized with an infectious, metallic chuckle. – HOURLYHITS.COM □

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