Adama Lami Kawu is the pioneer president of the Association of Professional Women Builders of Nigeria, the female wing of the Nigeria Institute of Builders, committed to not only provide quality services but also bridge the gap between the number of male and female in the industry. In this chat with ENE OSANG she speaks on activities of the association and harps on the need for more women to explore opportunities available in the industry.
Who are the women builders?
We are shelter providers. We carry out physical construction processes at construction sites. However there is an under representation of women in the construction industry and we are working towards bridging this gaps because a lot of women are interested in this field. That is why we have a project called: “Catch them young,” where we travel across Nigeria to encourage young people to take advantage of the opportunities in the industry.
We have formed so many groups to catch them young including the student group at various schools across the country.
We also have assessed female artisans in the country and have called them for workshop to enhance their empowerment skills to enable them work anywhere.
Women are thriving in other sectors but the construction industry and so we are exploring different ways of encouraging them into the industry.
As pioneer president of the association what are your achievements?
I have been able to gather women builders into one fold. We were not up to 50 when we started but today we have more than 300 registered members, there are also many unregistered female builders.
We have now become a force to reckon with by the government of the day and even past governments were aware that the Nigerian Institute of Building has a female wing that has been touching lives in the length and breadth of this country, ensuring that we solve challenges that concern female builders.
Last year we held a seminar where we invited all other sister professionals in the industry including architects, builders, engineers, quantity surveyors, town planners, estate managers, for a collaboration seminar, where we trashed all issues concerning the increasing rate of building collapse.
You will agree with me that God has ordained women as managers in the home front and because we are managers we are able to combine these managerial skills to where ever we work.
So, we sat to deliberate on building collapses because as mothers anytime a building collapses we are most hit. Just two months ago, a woman took her own life after a building collapsed and she lost four of her children. The seminar became a catalyst for us to form a brand new registered association.
Also, we are getting our own secretariat including an expanded executive made up of state and zone coordinators, who form the Council of the Association of Women Builders and we have presence in all the states now.
Building collapse is on the increase in Nigeria, how do you think this problem can be tackled?
As professional builders, we have agreed that professional specialisation is key to solving the problem of building collapse because it happens most times because people who are not supposed to be part of construction are in charge of construction projects.
To address this problem, the regulatory bodies must ensure that before buildings are constructed a soil test must be carried out to ascertain the kind of structure the soil can carry and be sure that it can take the load of the construction. A female soil technician once confessed to me that a lot of buildings, even here in Abuja, are being done without soil test being carried out and this is risky.
It is also very important that all the professionals involved in building must be registered professionals belonging to their own council.
Again the clients sometimes patronise the artisans whereas the artisans are our foot soldiers and we give them instruction on what to do.
A lot of times some of these developers want to cut corners and don’t want to spend money for quality job that is why they go directly to the artisans but it is very important for developers to go to professionals no matter the kind of building.
So, how can your association assist in curbing the trend?
You know women have been ordained by God as managers. So, it is imperative that more women are recruited into the industry to bring on board these managerial skills they have been endowed with in order to enable the industry’s growth, especially as it concerns entrepreneurship, empowerment and training.
The industry, like I said earlier, is suffering severe skill shortage and so more than half of the population, including women, don’t have the opportunity to showcase what they can offer. So, we are here to provide recommendations that will enable the recruitment of women.
Why are you advocating women empowerment in this field? Is the construction industry not a rather challenging their biological makeup?
No it is not, in fact, there are so many female artisans now. Women have realised that there is a lot to benefit so instead of waiting for jobs, that are not available, you explore the opportunities that are available.
Women deserve empowerment in the built environment because they have the right to enjoy their right to control and benefit from the resources, assets, income and the ability to improve their economic status and wellbeing.
What challenges do women face in the industry?
There are so many barriers to women entering and working in the construction industry such as male dominance, cultural, and family barriers, as well as the fact that the general image of the industry is male.
The industry is one which requires strength and good tolerance for outdoor conditions but we are encouraging women to come onboard regardless.
We have taken our advocacy to school children because from way back the construction courses in school are dominated by men, most women do not consider a career in this industry even when there is a lot to benefit.
Some parents, teachers, and career advisors believe that jobs in the construction industry is limited to bricklaying, joinery, painting and decorating whereas there are many other career opportunities.
It is also believed that women who seek employment in the construction industries have to act like men to succeed or they will have to maintain unimportant positions
How often do you plan to train female artisans?
This is our maiden edition and we intend to organise the trainings twice a year because of the money involved.
Once these artisans we are training are fit you will see the difference because females have been ordained by God as better managers and the transfer this quality to whatever they are doing.
Any message to government as it concerns women builder?
Firstly, I congratulate President Muhammadu Buhari on his re-election. I am one of his supporters, particularly for impacting the lives of women and children through N-Power. I am very proud of this government for including construction that is the N-Power Built and it is this administrations benevolence that made us have and train N-Power female artisans in the built environment. We are assessing them and COBON will certify them.
We are calling on government to pass the Builders Act into law and the National Building Code that stipulates conditions for all professions in the Built environ. We feel it is very important that this bill should be passed into law so that we can curb the problem of building collapse once and for all. The National Building Code world over stipulates that once you construct a building and it collapses you must be held responsible. In the Unites States and in Jordan it is a very serious offence and that is why builders are serious.
Shelter is very important for everybody and just like Maxwell said, Shelter is the second most important need of man after food. So, we must take it very serious, and we must tackle the problem head on.