recounts 38-year-old Kamala B. K. from Nuwakot in central Nepal.
Kamala is one of 149 women mobile masons hired by the National Reconstruction Authority in 14 districts most affected by the earthquake for providing socio-technical assistance under the World Bank-supported Earthquake Housing Reconstruction Project.
However, according to Nepal’s 15th Five Year Periodic Plan developed by the National Planning Commission, women’s labor force participation stands at 26.3 percent which is slightly less than half of that of men at 53.8 percent.
Data from Nepal Engineering Council shows that the percentage of women engineers who have received the license to work professionally at the national level is 12.5 percent, whereas the remaining 87.5 percent are men.
Post-earthquake reconstruction offered new avenues for women in occupations that were previously male-dominated.
But this stereotyping is gradually fading.
According to the Global Gender Gap Report 2020, Nepal ranks 101 out of 153 countries in economic participation and opportunity, which is an improvement from previous such assessments.
Increasing participation, changing mindsets
Post-earthquake reconstruction, including those under the Earthquake Housing Reconstruction Project, offered new avenues for women in occupations that were previously male-dominated.
Ganga Bhujel, a 21-year-old mobile mason from Okhaldhunga notices a change in behavior and perception from other people when regarding women working in the sector.
“When I started, there was a lot for me to learn in the field. However, homeowners encouraged me to continue working and assured me that with experience, I will also perfect the craft,” she shares.
Besides technical assistance,and providing support such as house inspection and grievance redressal for the vulnerable households.
Opportunities must be expanded to retain women in the sector and enhance their skill sets as the local context and market demand significantly increases.
As many field engineers are not able to be present on the ground due to COVID-19 related restrictions, the locally-based mobile masons have become even more sought-after experts in the villages.
“Villagers now consider us engineers as we are informing local people about resilient construction techniques,” exclaims Durga Bhatta, a mobile mason from Rasuwa.
Leveling the field for women masons: To sustain this momentum and to ease the debilitating impacts of the COVID-19 economic downturn, opportunities must be expanded to retain women in the sector and enhance their skill sets as the local context and market demand significantly increases. There are several types of skill enhancement programs that can be introduced. Such as;
Diversifying skill enhancement opportunities: Most women masons in rural areas are skilled in ‘stone with mud-mortar’ techniques. However, there is a growing trend of homeowners opting for RCC technique as their financial status advance. Similarly, there are alternative construction technologies introduced after the earthquake, which are being adopted by homeowners. Therefore,Likewise, educated women masons with entrepreneurial characteristics can be provided with entrepreneurship development training.
Facilitating linkage to opportunities: Trained masons, both men and women are already working in close coordination with the concerned local levels. Youth Employment and Transformation Initiative Project.Such centers are also supported by World Bank’s
Communities and governments at all levels should work together to further empower and create an enabling environment for women to endure and evolve to their full potential in the construction sector.
Promoting construction-driven micro enterprises: Earthquake reconstruction also introduced a number of alternative technologies, such as, interlocking bricks, compressed stabilized earth bricks and stone-cutting technology.
By entering the non-conventional sector,Communities and governments at all levels should work together to further empower and create an enabling environment for women to endure and evolve to their full potential in the construction sector.