Luthfia Cader, a veteran within Working on Fire has a thriving career, and is a devoted wife and mother. In our Annual Women’s Conference, Luthfia shared with us her definition of a woman in leadership in Working on Fire, in her compelling talk titled: “Defining Women in Leadership”
“I joined Working on Fire in 2004 as a Communications Liaison in the then Advocacy Department and I currently hold the position of Executive: Fire Awareness and Social Development. I proudly claim my space as being a product of WOF.
I have been with Working on Fire for the past a17 years and I have had the pleasure of seeing the organisation grow in numbers. We have expanded our portfolio to include other projects like High AltitudeTeams, Forestry Support Programme and Value Added Industries. We have hosted the International Wildland Fire Conference in 2011 at Sun City, participated at the World Forestry Conference in 2015, and we have responded to several international deployments to Indonesia and Canada. The highlights throughout my tenure have been immeasurable and it is something we should be proud of. For me, the biggest highlight has been to see how we have developed participants into management and in particular how we have focused on women empowerment.
WOrking on Fire has committed itself to empower and uplift women into management. We proudly boast 30% female firefighters, the highest numbers of female firefighters comparable to any other firefighting fraternity globally and we proudly fly that flag. More recently in 2019/2020 we recognised that our leadership component has 50% female General Managers, the first of its kind, prior to which those positions were held by our male counterparts. At the same time we had 25% female leaders in our Executive Committee and now, a year later we have 45% female representation in Executive Leadership – that is something we should celebrate. Notably, in recent days, we have successfully deployed 109 firefighters and management staff to Canada, 28% of whom are females – led by two female Agency Representatives (AREPS): Antoinette Jini and Phumza Dyantyi, two of our General Managers. Phumza Dyantyi is the highest ranked former firefighter within our internal alumni. An additional two female Strike Team Leaders, both of whom are former firefighters, Ongezwa Nonjinji and Wanda Siximba – both Ground Operations Manager’s from the Eastern and Western Cape respectively. For the first time ever, we had a female International Incident Commander for an international deployment – all during a global pandemic. We need to recognize the collective efforts put into ensuring the success of the programme. We applaud all our Working on Fire women in leadership.
What do women bring to Working on Fire and why should women be celebrated?
I believe when women become leaders, they bring various skills, different perspectives and diversity which ultimately drives effective solutions in any organisation. With our varied perspectives and a sense of awareness, women can investigate finer details to determine what is really going on with either a challenge or issue at hand. Women bring a different perspective to general operations. Women leaders are generally transformational, they function as role models for their teams, they inspire their teams and they spend a lot of time coaching their teams. They care about their personal growth and more importantly, they care about their team’s personal development. Women leadership emphasizes teamwork, values and communication as key to individual and collective success and accomplishment.
It is important to recognize that a woman has many roles to play and she gives so much of herself. In the home, at work, in a project, at church, regardless of where a woman finds herself. A woman always gives of herself and it is important to recognize that the woman herself is the best gift of all. The best of her is when she is healthy, happy, confident and cared for as well. A good leader is not only one who inspires her team, she also inspires the world.. A woman should not have to sacrifice or compromise herself to be her best…she is enough. You are enough. A woman can rise – be it an opportunity or a challenge, more so if she is fulfilled and happy.
I am proud to be a product of Working on Fire and I claim my space as a woman in Working on Fire.
I want to leave you with these questions: Are you well? How will you take up the torch as a female leader in Working on Fire?