NCWD: Bridging gender gap in construction

In this piece, ENE OSHABA looks at how women are breaking the norm especially by delving into professions hitherto assumed to be for only men through the Artisanship training by the National Centre for Women Development (NCWD).

Traditionally, certain jobs were seen as mainly for a particular gender, irrespective of skills or proficiency the opposite sex.

Most jobs in the construction industry were seen as difficult for women to handle, hence the stereotype against women who dared to delve into the industry.

This mind set has discouraged many women from venturing into the industry due to discrimination, lack of support and mentorship, finance among widening the gender gap.

According to the Global Gender Gap Index, 108 years was needed to close the global gender gap, while classical economic models predict that discrimination on the basis of characteristics such as gender should naturally disappear.

It is as a result of this that the National Centre for Women Development (NCWD) committed to ensuring concerted efforts to reverse the trend by adopting a gender approach in the policies of vocational training institutions.

According to the NCWD, Director General, Mary Ekpere-Eta, the centre had so far trained over 1,000 females under its artisanship skills development programme to work in the construction industry.

The female artisans were trained on different vocations such as plumbing, pipe fitting, plant, generator mechanics, tiling and masonry, refrigeration and air condition repairs, Plaster of Paris (POP), electrical fittings and wiring.

Speaking during the graduation ceremony of 200 female interns, recently in Abuja, Ekpere-Eta said that the centre planned to train 600 more women across the six geo-political zones to reduce poverty and improve women empowerment.

She maintained that injecting women into the construction industry would remove the stereotype that only men can work in the field, which would, ultimately, reduce unemployment rates in the country.

“It is our projection that in the course of active practice for a ten year period, a million female professionals employing at least 10 persons, will take out 10 million unemployed youths from the streets.

“This will help to drive social transformation in order to achieve poverty reduction through inclusive growth and sustainable development,’’ she said.

The DG expressed optimism that training female professional artisans would break barriers and enable them excel well in the construction industry.

“In the course of implementing this programme, we have challenged stereotype, fought gender bias and broadened the perceptions of the participants to learn, develop and boldly utilise the acquired skills to improve their economic lives,” she stated.

She noted that having certified the high level of knowledge during the training, the female artisans would undergo Industrial attachment programme at various construction companies in the country to get firsthand experience.

She added that the training of female artisans was in collaboration with a German organisation, Duetshe Gesellschaft Fur Internationale Zusammenarbeit.

(GIZ), to enhance the skills of identified female artisan to be agents of change in the construction industry.

“These female professional artisans launched into the construction industry will break gender barriers and make available affordable and excellent artisanship services, while being economically empowered in the Nigerian construction industry.

“The idea is to empower female youths as skilled workers who will have a competitive edge over their male counterparts by empowering them with the driving force to start small-scale economic activities and gain employment,” she said.

The NCWD boss further disclosed that the artisans would also attend seminar organised by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and Bank of Industry (BOI) on how they can access start-up funds between N1 million to N10 million.

It is worthy to note that stakeholders in the construction industry agree that having a well trained female artisan compete with their male counterparts would further enhance capacity and boost local content.

While, stressing on the need to empower women in Nigeria, the UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Nigeria, Mr Edward Kallon, said economic empowerment of women was critical to achieving Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), realising women’s rights and ensuring gender equality in Nigeria.

“This is especially important as we work to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, embark on economic transformation and strive to build resilient and inclusive societies,’’ he said.

He assured that training of female artisans to work at the construction industry would change the narrative that certain jobs or skills were reserved only for the male gender.

“The beneficiaries are a testament to the fact that women can do anything and there are no skills or jobs reserved for a certain gender,’’ he said.

Kallon, also stressed the need for gender-responsive budgeting and robust gender sensitive policies that mandate women’s equal and fair participation in society.

Similarly, the Ministry of Women Affairs has also thrown its weight behind various empowerment efforts for Nigerian women.

Speaking, recently, the Minister of Women Affairs, Dame Pauline Tallen, emphasised the need to empower women with skills that would give them a source of income and reduce over-reliance on their spouses.

Tallen, while speaking to some female artisans urged them to be outstanding and bridge existing labour gaps in the male dominated profession.

According to her, women empowerment remains a priority to the government as it would aide in job creation, promote national development and achieve gender equality.

“This programme has been structured to give you a voice in a male dominated profession, bridge existing labour gaps in the artisan sector and boost your confidence to cope in an environment where competition is the order of the day and innovation is needed to stay afloat.

“It has become imperative to empower female youths as skilled workers who will have a competitive edge over their male counterparts in a competitive environment as ours,’’ she said.

The minister encouraged the artisans to be role-models to other girls, as well as ambassadors of Nigerian women in the quest for gender justice and the future of women and girls.

Also, in a bid to cushion the effects of Covid-19 on women the federal government during the virtual E-Launch of the National Survey on the impact of COVID-19 on women-owned businesses reiterated its commitment towards reviving businesses that were affected.

Tallen said that the government had commenced the implementation through the UN Women Assisted Palliative Distribution Project in 17 states of the federation, targeted at poor women.

She said that the project would focus on women owned businesses in states as a measure to revive their businesses.

“We can only achieve this if we patronise women vendors. We have started implementing this through the ongoing UN Women Assisted Palliative Distribution Project in 17 states of the federation targeting the poorest of the poor women in the communities,” she said.

She suggested that it was important to address gender gaps in designing Covid-19 response and recovery programmes, and build strategic partnerships that would be protect women’s well-being and livelihoods. While the need to encourage women into fields that were hitherto dominated by man so as to bridge gender gap has become unarguable, addressing the of access to capital for start-up investment for them remains critical.

Similarly, the Chairman, House committee, Women Affairs and Social Development, Adewumi Onanuga, assured that plans were underway to increase budgetary allocation for women empowerment and training.

She said with such small number of females working within the construction industry, the need to change the perception that the sector is a male dominated career requires genuine commitment from stakeholders to encourage more women to pursue a career in the industry.

Nigerians, especially women, are waking up to their new realities with industry offers an enormous variety of jobs in different parts of the country, and the involvement of women promises to be of immense benefit to the industry and the country at large.

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