13 August 2019
Women's Month Feature: Lilanie Stander
This Women’s Month 2019, the George Municipality is celebrating some of the increasing number of female municipal staff doing work previously considered a man’s job.
On most days, when things go smoothly at the water purification plant outside Uniondale, Lilanie Stander’s job doesn’t feel like it used to be a ‘man’s job’. “Generally, the ‘manliest’ thing I do is drag a 25kg bag of chemicals up some stairs – which is heavy going but becomes easier the more you do it.”
The picture can be quite different if something breaks, especially at night or on weekends when it may be just Lilanie at the plant. “When I am dragging pipes around or standing spanner in hand and soaking wet, it sometimes briefly occurs to me that there are few women who do this kind of work, but I like it anyway.”
Thirty-year-old Lilanie is a process controller, one of only three personnel who manage the small, remote facility known as ‘Die Gat’ (The Hole). The job entails monitoring water quality, checking the facilities and equipment, related administration and water awareness programmes with locals.
Unlike central and larger facilities with more personnel and equipment on hand, the Uniondale staff may have to jump in and resolve issues themselves when things go wrong. “It’s about being hands-on and solution orientated and, when the problem requires outside help, making a plan until assistance or spare parts arrive,” says Lilanie.
Originally from Great Brak River, Lilanie and husband Stefan took a step of faith in 2015 and left their jobs in Brakpan to relocate to Uniondale where Stefan’s parents still lived. “We didn’t have jobs to come to, but we had had enough of Gauteng and wanted our children to have small town lives like we did.”
The couple and their one-year-old daughter, Annabelle, temporarily moved in with Stefan’s parents and set out looking for jobs. In a tiny town like Uniondale, the municipality is the most likely employer and they would eventually both find work there – Lilanie as process controller and Stefan as electrical assistant.
“I didn’t know what a process controller was, but I had a solid matric with maths and data capturing experience which counted in my favour. The work is specialised and specific to each plant, so the municipality provided basic training and the rest required on-the-job learning.
“It was so interesting to learn that water purification on the George side of the mountain would be different from the Uniondale side because the water sources on our side contained less organic material and therefore was a different colour and required less chemicals to purify.
“I like that the work requires know-how about different fields including chemistry, mechanics, technical information and even people skills. We host educational tours at the plant and teach people the value of drinking water.”
Since Lilanie and Stefan are both responsible for operations that require 24-hour monitoring, the couple often work the same or overlapping shifts that can complicate family life. “It’s been a great blessing to have my mother-in-law, Oumies, around the corner to help babysitting, but it can be tough juggling it all, even more so after the birth of our daughter Elsa in 2017.
“Sometimes I feel that we miss out on time with the kids because of the awkward hours we work (shifts are 6am-2pm and 2pm-10pm on weekdays and 8am-8pm on weekends), but we believe the overall choice to return to the southern Cape was the right one for our family,” says Lilanie.
- Profile by Athane Scholtz, Communications Officer, George Municipality
Last published 13 August 2019