Women At Work: Venturing Into Construction Industry - Eastern Mirror
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Women at work: Venturing into construction industry

By Thejoto Nienu Updated: Oct 15, 2023 7:38 pm
Thejoto Nienu
A female construction worker preparing mortar at a construction site in Kohima. (EM Images)

JOTSOMA — Despite strides made in gender equality, the construction industry continues to pose formidable challenges for women, largely due to the physically demanding nature of the work. Nevertheless, there are women who have overcome obstacles and entered the construction industry to compete with their male counterparts.

Anjana, hailing from the Kachari community, serves as an example of a trailblazer who commenced her journey in the construction field as a helper (Jugali) and is gradually ascending the construction ladder.

As she reminisced about her introduction to the construction sector, Anjana shared that she initially served as a domestic helper for a family in Jotsoma village, located a few kilometres from the state capital, Kohima. She ended up in the construction business as a relative of the family she lived with a contractor. It’s been 20 years since she started as a helper for construction workers.

At first, she earned INR 100 a day, which later rose to INR 120, and then INR 150, all while she was learning the trade. More than five years ago, she had a breakthrough when she was recognized as a skilled worker, locally known as a ‘mistry,’ and now she makes INR 650 per day. Her husband also occasionally helps with loading and unloading in the stone quarrying business.

Anjana, in her mid-thirties, is a mother of four children. Her eldest child has stopped studying, while two are in Class 7, and the youngest is in Class 4.

She expressed her commitment to continue in the construction trade as long as her health allows, in order to provide for her children in Nagaland. They would only consider returning to their native place in their old age because their children have grown accustomed to the area and do not want to leave any time soon.

Anjana highlighted that her long-standing residence in the Jotsoma locality, dating back to her childhood, offers various advantages, both in terms of the working environment and finding job opportunities.

She mentioned that working from Monday through Saturday is no longer a significant challenge for her, as she has become accustomed to the demanding work schedule that runs from 8 am to 4 pm.

According to Anjana, the hardest part of work when they construct a big building is preparing concrete slabs, which is a back-breaking exercise. However, she is happy to be working and making a living to look after the family.

She believes that women can progress to become skilled workers instead of consistently staying in helper roles, but most female workers don’t seem eager to put in the effort, or learn how to, say, handle a trowel. Anjana mentioned that she frequently encourages female helpers to enhance their skills, but the majority of them are content with tasks like preparing mortar and other unskilled manual work.

Admitting that she too lacked formal training, Anjana said she was inspired by her male co-workers and she learned the skills through hands-on experience during her early years as a helper.

Another female coworker confirmed that Anjana is a skilled worker who can handle tasks like bricklaying and plastering just as well as any male skilled worker, which she finds inspiring.

This fellow female helper highlighted that the most challenging aspect of being in the construction industry is that she must carry her child on her back while preparing mortar, as there’s no one at home to babysit her child.

Conversely, she also mentioned that when she returns home after a challenging day of work, she feels delighted to find her children have prepared the meal and are waiting for her.

Her message to other women is that “construction work is also doable, if they give interest and try with their hands,” and they should not perceive it as exclusively men’s work.

Meanwhile, Sumong, aged 36 and a single mother of two children, shared that she has been employed as a daily wage earner (helper) for the past decade. She revealed that after her husband abandoned her and their children, she had no choice but to work as a daily wage labourer to support her family. In her role as a helper, she earns INR 500 per day.

During periods when there is a lack of construction work, Sumong shifts to tasks such as weeding gardens and other local opportunities in Phezhu, near Kohima Science College in Jotsoma, to provide for her family.

Sumong emphasized that, despite the difficulties, the construction industry is a sector where more women should consider participating. She believes that if more women enter the field, it can lead to increased work opportunities for them.

She also observed that with time, women are also making their presence felt in the construction industry.

Nevertheless, she pointed out that the underrepresentation of women in leadership positions within the industry serves as an obstacle for women in securing work opportunities compared to their male counterparts.

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

Also read: NIMSR will address Nagaland’s health issues, says Health minister of India

By Thejoto Nienu Updated: Oct 15, 2023 7:38:06 pm
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