Her name is Rahel Zekarias. She is an electrician. Fascinated by electricity and everything related to it, young Rahel was someone her neighbours would come to if they wanted to have their electrical gadgets fixed. With the big passion she had and her confidence, she did, indeed, give “first aid” treatment to the gadgets. Her passion for electricity didn’t just get lost as she was growing up. It grew bigger and when she finally went to Sawa she joined the electricity department and came back with a lifelong career. As an electrician, Rahel has won many awards for her innovations in traditional ovens.
We present you a short interview she had with the monthly Tigrinya magazine, Mene’sey.
- It’s a pleasure to have you here with us, Rahel. Let me take you back a little, how did you get to be an electrician?
Well, when we were at Sawa, all the students who didn’t make it to college were being assigned to learn a trade depending on their skills. So, when I was asked what skills I had, I told them that I could work with electricity and things related with it, when in fact I only had desires to become an electrician and didn’t know that much about electricity. Afterwards we sat for a placement test so that we could be assigned to a field which wasn’t that much challenging for us. The exams was not far from the high-school physics studies we learned.
- How did you get to be passionate about electricity in the first place?
Honestly speaking, there was no one around me who worked or even was interested in the field. I just happen to be keen on it. I don’t even know where I got it from.
- What memories do you have of your time in the electricity department?
I told everyone that I didn’t know much about electricity; I was really honest about it. Everyone from the department was helpful and shared their knowledge and experiences with me. I was lucky to work with such people. Our department was staffed by many skilled engineers and people who have been working in the field for years. They taught us everything and we practised the theories they used to share with us. My passion for this filed drove me so much ahead and I used to even go with people who I wasn’t very close to in my department to practise.
- Rahel, you studied electricity in Sawa, a place the Eritrean youth visit for various reasons. How would you describe your time in and the experience you got out of Sawa?
Sawa is a place of love. Well, I simply think of it that way. You go there and the place transforms you in so many ways; it shapes you physically and mentally. It is there that I transformed my dreams into a lifelong career. But not only that, Sawa is where you make friends and learn about the different cultures. If you asked me to describe it in a short sentence, it is a place where you learn everything you need to know about life.
- Why did you decide to focus your work on traditional ovens?
Working with electricity requires a lot of climbing up ladders, and that can be challenging for a lady, especially during pregnancy. One day, as I was working, standing on a ladder, I saw a pregnant lady passing by, and that is why I wanted to shift to working with electricity but on the ground. I was lucky to meet Mr. Ghirmatsion who owns a traditional oven making shop. When I told him my interest he allowed me to work as an apprentice in his shop for a year, for which I am forever grateful. Then I immediately opened my own shop.
- You have won many prizes for your talents in renovating ovens. Would you please mention some?
From 2004 till 2009, I competed at events in the festival. I am honoured to say that I won most of them. To mention a few, I won second place for transforming the Adhanet smokeless traditional oven to a portable oven in 2009 at the National Festival. I also got an award for an oven I renovated in 2010. Another one is an oven I worked with that you can use by pulling out of the wall and this conserves space. In 2012, I won an award for an oven you can use to make two injeras at the same time using the same amount of energy used to make a single injera. And this year I am fortunate to win first place for the Adhanet smokeless oven that takes in woods. But most of all, this year I was awarded the youth Soyra Award for all the works I have done over the years. I am thankful.
- What extra efforts do you make to upgrade your skills?
I try my best to come up with new ideas and creations. Nonetheless, my customers are my biggest source of upgrading my skills. They tell me what I did right and what I did wrong on my works and that motivates me even more to fix my wrongs and do great jobs. Also, my husband works as a welder and he teaches me many things that held me in my career.
- Anything you would like to say at the end, Rahel?
The reason I have this fantastic career which I lead my life with is because of the man who offered to teach me and share his knowledge with me, Mr. Ghirmatsion. He gave me a chance to follow a line of work I chose and he did everything to get me here. I want to thank him. I want to do the same for girls who want to join the profession. I am always ready to share my knowledge and, hopefully, influence Eritrean youth to have a skill that will help them lead their lives.