Almost every single day we come across a building under construction with women labourers lugging cement or other raw materials over their head. This image of a woman smeared with dust is the symbol of all that a woman is allowed to do in the construction sector. India’s construction industry is overwhelmingly gender biased, patronising women to mere menial tasks at building sites with little scope for growth. For women to expect equal wages for the same work done against men is almost a redundant task. However, few Kerala woman has taken it to themselves to bridge this disparity with an all women scheme.
Women in Construction in India
Women account for half (51%) of the total construction labour force
Women workers are almost exclusively unskilled, casual, manual laborers:
- carrying bricks, cement, sand, and water
- digging earth, mixing cement, breaking stones
Women are rarely found in male-dominated skilled trades: carpentry, masonry, plumbing, electrical wiring
It is rather unconventional to witness an all women construction site in our country, but Kerala stands out as per a report by the BBC. Breaking the stereotype, women in Kerala are working as trained labourers and construction supervisors at a building site.
Women driven by poverty are trained and employed on construction site in Kerala under various government schemes to fight poverty. Dismissing any monopoly by men in the sector, President of Kudumbashree Construction Beena Paul said, “Men may be physically strong but women are mentally stronger. They just need confidence. Even jobs that are physically hard can be done by woman,” as told to BBC.
Although inequality in wages is still a raging issue for these women. Despite working rigorously like men, these women earn a maximum of six dollars only daily, half of what men are paid. The sense of entitlement among men and lesser participation of women in leadership role in industrial sector could be one of the reason. While the authorities blame the low profit margin for the disparity, skill development scheme is expected to radicalise the conditions they argue.
Tani Thomas, District Co-ordinator, Kudumbashree Construction said, “Women here are doing their internship and are acquiring technical and soft skills. Once they are trained enough to work outside the project, they are expected to receive equal wages like men,” as told to BBC.
However, this doesn’t change the societal condition of women whose primary duty is that of a home maker. For men their day ends with work, but these women who tirelessly do labour work at building sites have to do their regular household chores as well.
Well, in order to empower oneself economically and socially, these women are faring well in balancing work with their supposed primary duty.
Photo Credit: pbs.twing