Insights_‘THE CONSTRUCTION INDUSTRY AND WOMEN WORKERS’_Webinar 3 Mahila Housing Trust (MHT), on the occasion of its silver jubilee is organizing a Webinar Series, The City-Makers: Responsible Urbanization through Women’s Participation, with support from SELCO Foundation and Dasra.

Under the series, six webinars are scheduled between January and March 2021. The second Webinar on: ‘The construction Industry and Women Workers’ was scheduled on February 11, 2021 from 6:00 PM to 7:30 PM (IST). Kindly visit this page for more details about the Webinar and information on the Moderator and Panelists.

This webinar series is an integral part of the 25 years of celebration of Mahila Housing Trust that we have launched last year, which includes the publication of a book ‘The City Makers’ .

We focused on the following Key Question in the Webinar:

What are the major factors leading to women workers lagging behind men and remaining in unskilled work in the industry even after years of hardship?

­­­­­­The objectives of the Webinar were:

Examining the successes, issues and challenges in mainstreaming the women workers in the industry.
Understanding the obstacles that women face in construction industry to obtain skilled jobs.
Exploring the perspective of the Construction Industry on the matter.
Sharing the efforts taken by other organizations and the Government on enhancing the status of women and their work in the sector.
Our esteemed panel shared insights backed with their experiences and perspectives towards bridging the gap.Panelists and Quotes:

Thresiamma Mathew, Director and Founder, Archana Women’s Center shared her experiences on her interventions in transforming timid, unskilled, exploited, low paid, discriminated women construction helpers to be skilled mason – dignified, equally paid and respected women of power and determination. She also shared her experiences on what led her to establish an entity which focuses on women’s empowerment and social transformation. Talking about how the women agreed to come for training sessions, she shared, “For upward mobility of the women workers from vulnerable families, they were trained and given a stipend to sustain. They were introduced to the concept of savings, pension & insurance schemes to enhance the quality of their lives.” She shared her experiences on adaptability of machinery by women workers as against the general belief of women not being skilled to operate machines. However, she believes that Machinery and technology for the construction workers need to be more women-friendly. Citing an example of how the mind-set of people is towards female skilled workers she remembered an incident, “We equally trained a group of 20 women and 1 man on a particular skill for a work-site. Though women were more skilled, the hirers chose to spoke to the man worker who was less skilled. This is how the general mindset is and it needs to change!” She concluded her talk by assuring that women can do anything by saying, “Instil confidence and courage in to a group of women, they will make the impossible possible.”

Dr. Swati dutta, Associate Fellow, Institute for Human Development presented an impact study that IHD had conducted on activities of Karmika school of Construction Workers. She presented the following significant changes in work done by the women workers after receiving the training.

More than half of the women workers who were engaged in the unskilled work during the training programme shifted to semi-skilled work and 17 percent were shifted to skilled work in post-training.
Almost 80 percent of the trained women construction workers have reported an increase in daily wage earnings in the post-training period.
The majority of the women have reported an increase in self-confidence in the post-training period.
Although there is a shift from unskilled to semi-skilled and skilled work in the post-training period there is still a gap due to lack of acceptance among the employers who were not recognized women workers in the semi skill or skilled nature of the work.
Karmika-MHT training programme should play a major role in terms of sensitization of the programme and increase the awareness among the employers or contractors for acceptance of the women trainees as skilled workers.
Ratnamala Swain, Director, D.N. Homes talked about challenges she faced as a woman in Construction Industry- Personal, Societal, Market and Government factors attached with her experiences in this industry. She raised her voice towards the wrong doing of mafias who threatened her to make the tender paper in their name. She fought a 12 years long court case and was served justice. A determined woman, she held her head high and fought the injustice. Commemorating the struggles, she has faced over the years, she shared, “There is more acceptance for women workers now as compared to 90’s”.

Brajesh Singh, Project Head/Developer, Star Engicon Pvt Ltd shared his experiences as a hirer of not just women construction workers as mere labourers but also as a hirer of skilled women construction workers into masonry, plaster pointing, tiling, carpentry, plumbing etc. On his sites. Suggesting to Construction Companies on better work opportunities for female masons, he shared, “We invite the fellow contractors to check the skilled work by women, once they are assured of their skills, we have dialogues on changing the mind-set for good to encourage more work.” To comfort the women skilled workers on his site, he says, “Communicating with the women workers enhance their comfort and confidence at work place in importanrt.”

Huda Jaffer, Director, SELCO Foundation shared her concluding remarks. On work opportunities for women, she said, “Strong and equal opportunities are to be assured for women workers.” In context to access to finance for better work eco-system she explained, “Financing in terms of investment to enhance the work eco-system has to be facilitated. Access to finance is also pivotal for encouraging potential women entrepreneurs in the construction industry.” She added, “The commitment from the government to not only encourage women but also set high targets to give better provisions is needed.” She backed Thresiamma’s opinions and shared, “We should exploit the potential of inclusive and women-friendly technology and mechanization for growth of women in this sector.’ Lauding Brajesh’s consideration towards women workers, she shared, “There is undoubtedly a need for awareness, training and capacity building of women workers along with changing the patriarchal mind-sets of people which can help women gain higher acceptance for their work in male-dominated sectors.”

A pre-recorded video of Galaben was played. A woman of unbreakable spirit- Galalben, a Master Mason, didn’t lose herself to the darkness of domestic violence. Instead, she upgraded her skills, has built for herself two-storeyed home and also flies high in air! Learn to fight your demons from her! Reportage of the Webinar in regional newspaper: Divybhaskar | City Bhaskar | Ahmedabad Edition | Feb 12

The webinar was hosted on ZOOM platform and LIVE casted on MHT’s Facebook page: @Mahilahsg. It was LIVE tweeted on MHT’s Twitter handle: @mahilahsg. The recorded version is available on MHT’s Youtube channel. Policy makers, researchers, international organisations, NGOs, academia and many others participated to discuss and debate !

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