Female monumental mason, Pikitayi defies odds

Shelly Guni

Finding success in a male-dominated industry is a challenge for many women, but it is not impossible.

 If you are willing to put in the work, show up with results and use the resources available to you to expand, you will be able to overcome any obstacle in your path.

 This is the story of 37-year-old Melody Pikitayi who has defied all odds to become one of, if not the only woman Monumental Mason in Chitungwiza.

A monumental mason is a stone carver who designs and creates tombstones to commemorate a loved one’s legacy.

If you have been in Chitungwiza lately, just by the conjunction of St Mary’s and Zengeza, you would probably have seen this woman.

 “This work is very difficult. No wonder why it’s dominated by men,” she told Review and Mail.

 But again, tell me of a job which is very easy,” she adds.

 Pikitayi is only a year old in this industry but she is happy with the little progress she is making.

 “I started last year. I didn’t go to any special school for this, but the passion and zeal drove me here.

 I was lucky to have a number of people taking me through this journey. Now I’m doing my own thing. I am yet to see a woman in this industry.”

 “Prior to this, I used to do vending and I had to leave that. I was tired.”

 Unfortunately, Pikitayi suffered a disappointing loss a week after she started displaying her work.

 All her tombstones she had put on display were vandalised by the Chitungwiza Municipality following a warning by then acting Town Clerk Evangelista Machona to all vendors and residents who were involved in illegal activities.

 “It was a challenging time for me because that was the very same week that I had put up my work on display.  I was left with so many debts, you know when you are starting something, you get into so many debts trying to make things work and hoping that everything goes according to plan. But that was a different story for me.

 “I however didn’t go backwards. I took that challenge as a lesson and moved on. Yes I still have some debts to pay but I will soldier on,” she said.

 Pikitayi says she is now eyeing for a stand where she can be able to work freely without any disturbances.

 “When I get money, I will try to enquire from the Chitungwiza Municipal to see if I can be able to get this piece of land.”

 Asked on what she specialises in, Pikitayi said.

 “I do everything granite, this ranges from polishing, designing to the shape the client wants, writing amongst many other things.”

 Pikitayi says she has received some positive responses from the community but is worried that most women have not shown interest.

 “I have seen that women are not interested in this job. They say it’s for men and some even mock me saying I’m doing basa revarume (a man’s job).”

 Asked about her advice to other women she said.

 “Remember, you are an asset and someone who brings value to the table. Do not limit yourself to the expectations of others. Think bigger. Do bigger. There is always room at the table for those who are willing to earn their seat.”