Gillian Mallouw from Port Elizabeth Cape Town is the first woman in Africa to navigate a submarine. Mallouwis a lieutenant in the South African Navy and is based at the Simon’s Town naval base.
“I was in Grade 9 when I decided I was going to join the navy once I completed school. I was already exposed to the navy as I joined the Sea Cadets in Grade 7 and this taught me so much about the maritime industry,” said the Naval Officer.
The South African Navy is the naval warfare branch of the South African National Defence Force and its role is to conduct and prepare for naval operations in defence of the nation, its citizens and its interest. The navy also carries out peacetime operations in support of other national objectives.
Asked if she had to work extra hard in a seemingly male-dominated field, she said it never bothered her. “I just didn’t worry about anything like that. In our line of work you have to go through so many things to get where you want to be. It doesn’t matter whether you are a male or female, all that matters is hard work and determination. There are lots of women out there who are not allowed to read or drive, and it does feel great that I am in a position without limitations, except for myself, to move forward,” explained Mallouw.
It took Mallouw three years of intensive theory and practical training to get to where she is, but she is determined to go even further. “I feel I am still very young in what I do. I need to learn more. I don’t feel as if I’ve made it, I feel there’s still much more to do. At times, it is quite scary as the safety of everyone on board (the submarine) is in my hands, but there is always a need from me to learn more,” she said.