Naga Women Yet To Break Glass Ceiling In Construction Sector - Eastern Mirror
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Naga women yet to break glass ceiling in construction sector

By Thejoto Nienu Updated: Oct 22, 2023 7:53 pm
Naga women
A woman construction worker preparing a slab shuttering. (EM Images)

KOHIMA — Many Naga women pursuing different careers have become trendsetters, even outshining their male counterparts in some professions. 

However, they are still yet to break the glass ceiling when it comes to the construction industry

Recently, Eastern Mirror, interacted with some trained women construction workers of the ‘Year of Construction Workers’ (YoCW) 2016-2017, to understand the problems and challenges faced by them.

It may be mentioned that the Government of Nagaland, in an effort to bolster the construction industry, had launched the ‘Year of Construction Workers’ (YoCW) 2016-2017, under the Directorate of Employment, Skill Development and Entrepreneurship, in collaboration with YouthNet and Zynorique Initiatives Society.

According to data furnished to this newspaper by the Employment, Skill Development and Entrepreneurship department, as many as 559 persons including 531 males and 28 females from 11 districts, were trained under the initiative.

The district-wise break-up of female construction workers trained was Zunheboto (13), Kiphire (seven), Mokokchung (four), Longleng (three) and one from Kohima.

However, amidst such efforts to promote and train women construction workers, the challenges are deeply rooted in societal norms, industry traditions and gender biases, as per interaction with some female workers.

Health and family responsibilities

Akali Yeptho from Zunheboto district shared that post-training, due to health complications, she could not continue with the heavy work. Besides, she had to give up the profession as she got married and relocated to the village.

However, she was of the view that if a person is healthy, it should not be a challenge, even for women, to be in the construction industry.

Another woman disclosed that the nature of construction works demands that a person leaves home early and returns late in the evening, which is a challenge for women since they have to do household chores, as per expectations of the society.

Lack of opportunity for women

Apila Sangtam from Kiphire district maintained that in Nagaland, construction works are generally taken up by men and revolve amongst them. This has become a challenge for women, she said.

Meanwhile, Apongla, also a trainee from Kiphire district, informed that the training was an enriching experience and she was keen to work.

Yet she had to give up due to the fact that she could not find any co-female worker to work with.

Need for hand-holding

Apongla was of the view that if hand holding is provided, women can foray into the construction sector for works such as laying bricks, fitting tiles and painting.

She maintained that the training should be augmented by follow-up actions and more skilling programmes, as awarding certificates alone cannot find them work in a male-dominated sector.

Sharing her personal experience, Apongla said that since women rarely venture into construction work, even the employers are hesitant to offer them jobs.

2931 registered women workers in 5 years

Interestingly, since 2019, there have been 2931 registered women workers under the Nagaland Building and Other Construction Workers Welfare Board (NBOCWWB), Government of Nagaland.

Initially, the NBOCWWB was constituted to provide social security to the construction workers with various benefits such as annual tool grants, insurance coverage, medical assistance, education scholarships for the children and maternity benefits for the registered workers and their families.

Year-wise registration data of construction workers

(Source: NBOCWWB)

It may be mentioned that any person who is engaged in building and construction works – be it mason, plumber, carpenter, electrician, painter, driver, operator or helper of construction machinery – for a minimum of 90 days in a year, can become a registered worker.

Few women takers for ITI courses

Meanwhile, officials from the Industrial Training Institute (ITI), Kohima, informed that there are few takers from women in the construction-related trades such as carpentry, plumbing, welding, masonry and electrician at the institute.

Recalling that there were a couple of females who took up carpentry courses a few years back, the officials disclosed that female candidates prefer courses in non-engineering trades such as knitting, cutting and sewing.

Apparently, this is the case of jobs being defined on the basis of gender owing to the mentality and the inherited culture of the society.

Construction work physically demanding for women

According to Medozho Zango, an architect and retired regional chief of Housing and Urban Development Corporation Ltd. (HUDCO), construction work often involves strenuous physical labour, which can be physically demanding and pose challenges for some women.

 Pointing out exceptions, Zango suggested that there is feasibility for Naga women, like their counterparts from outside the region, to engage themselves as ‘helpers’ or seasonal workers in the construction sector.

He also admitted that owing to the physically tasking nature of this sector, it might not be viable for women to take up construction work as a lifelong profession.

This story is the third in a series of reports as part of the KPC-NBOCWWB Media Fellowship 2023).

Also read: Nagaland bye-election: Nomination papers of NDPP, INC candidates found valid

By Thejoto Nienu Updated: Oct 22, 2023 7:53:49 pm
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