Meet the single mother winning in a male-dominated industry

Women are no longer dependent on men to make things happen for them, they are breaking barriers and moving up, proving that they are very much capable of occupying spaces that any man can occupy.

One such figure is Jeminah Mofokeng.

The local single mom of two is making a living for her family in a traditionally male-dominated career: she’s an oil collector.   

Used oil is dirty, hazardous stuff yet Jemina works with it every day in a bid to provide for her children.

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She spends long days on the road in her collection vehicle, searching for used oil, which is purchased from the generator and then taken to a licensed refinery for recycling.

Despite it being a competitive industry dominated by men, for the past ten years Jeminah has managed to make a sustainable living for herself and her children. 

“While I have seen many male oil collectors come and go in my industry, I have stuck it out and persisted,” she says. “I have worked hard and do my best for my family. I work with a dedicated heart and a committed soul – I refuse to be conquered.”

A ‘mans world’

As a woman she receives a fair share of criticism for working in what is seen as a ‘mans world’, she told Parent24. And whilst she has made a success of oil collection it is not without its ongoing challenges.

Jeminah is a tough cookie, but the physical side of oil collecting can be taxing.

“Don’t underestimate the physical demands of doing this job,” she warns. “Over the years I have hired people to help me and they all find the work too hard, so don’t stick it out for long. I mostly go out there alone to collect oil.”

She adds that she does need to be careful about safety – especially when working with money – as being alone on the road presents challenges for woman.

“Used oil collectors often go around carrying cash to pay for the oil we collect from the small workshops, who do not have electronic machines,”she says, “so it’s can be a very risky job for a woman on her own.”

Jeminah minimises her risk by doing electronic payments to her clients so that she doesn’t carry cash at all. “That makes you less of a target,” she says.

Recycling Oil Saves the Environment

Jeminah is registered as a used oil collector with the ROSE Foundation (Recycling Oil Saves the Environment).

ROSE is a national non-profit organisation “established to promote and encourage the environmentally responsible management of used oils and related waste in South Africa.”

The business is funded by major stakeholders in the lubricants industry, and enables them to meet their environmental and extended producer responsibilities.

The collection and recycling of used oil is an environmental priority. Oil collectors ensure that it is not being poured into drains, onto the ground, painted onto poles, used as a dust suppressant or dumped into landfill with domestic refuse, all which contribute to polluting the environment. Just one litre of used oil can contaminate one million litres of water.

Bubele Nyiba, CEO of ROSE, says “ROSE collectors such as Jeminah are the heroes of the industry. They are the ones who go out there and collect every possible drop of used oil that could damage the environment – it’s hard, messy work, but they are making a difference.”

Jeminah agrees. “I like knowing that in the years I have been collecting oil I have not only continued to provide for my children but I have contributed to keeping the used oil out of our environment,” she says. 

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Compiled for Parent24 by Elizabeth Mamacos