Egypt’s 1st female underwater engineer breaks traditions

|     Marwa Yahya     |

HURGHADA, Egypt (Xinhua) – In Egypt, females are often expected to apply for suitable jobs that could enable them to stay more at home and take care of kids.

However, Basant Bastawy, a 26-year-old female oil engineer, chose to break the taboos of the only-for-men career.

Specialised in the metals department in Suez Canal University, Bastawy dreamt of working in the underwater welding when she was a student.

“I was attracted to binding pieces underwater which is one of the most dangerous occupations in the world,” Bastawy said.

In her diving suit with the welding electric and carbon tools in hands, Bastawy said that underwater, “the odds are stacked against you.”

Basant Bastawy, a 26-year-old female oil engineer, speaks during an interview in Hurghada, Egypt. – XINHUA

To start the underwater welding, Bastawy said she took many courses on commercial diving, safety and submarines from the International Diving Schools Association as well as French and British organisations.

Her tasks also include inspection of oil pipelines’ connection and painting. According to Bastawy, she is one of the five females in the Arab countries who practice commercial diving, but she is the only female in the Middle East who work and give training course on the underwater welding.

However, what frustrated her is that most of the companies working in the field of welding in Egypt prefer males who are even not qualified as her.

“My family supported me all the time though I see worries in their eyes when I travel for work,” she said.

“The society’s conservatism which doesn’t accept a girl to work under the sea with men stands as an obstacle for me to continue in the field,” Bastawy added.

To overcome the social challenges, she decided to work also in the field of recreational diving until she could establish her own business in welding.

Underwater welding is considered as a highly-specialised field. It can be very lucrative and the career opportunities are unlimited.

Underwater welders work in construction, surveying, and repair in both fresh and saltwater.

Diving is one of the biggest risks for underwater welding, which exposes welders to hypothermia, drowning, and decompression sickness.

According to Bastawy, underwater welding is done in lakes, rivers, ponds or the ocean with many environmental risks. But she has never been exposed to any accident under the water because she strictly obeys the safety rules.

Bastawy has trained 200 men in the commercial diving and underwater welding. In 2017, she trained 16 Chinese, Russian and German technicians in Dubai.

Most of the training courses are carried out in the Red Sea because the vision is clear under the sea, she reiterated.

Bastawy said she will never give up seeking a good job opportunity in a big company in Egypt in the underwater welding which is completely controlled by men.

“With patience, high qualification and determination, I’m certain that I could be a famous welding engineer in the Middle East,” the girl said confidently.