17 August 2007
South Africa’s once male-dominated construction industry has become attractive – and lucrative – for women, says Ingrid Verwey, specialist in contractor development at the Development Bank of Southern Africa and founder of the South African Women in Construction Association.
Verwey said in a statement this week that the association’s database of women contractors had grown from 60 at its inception in 1999 to over 2 000.
A 2005 survey commissioned by the body had revealed that, in Gauteng province alone, the association boasted seven member companies involved with in million-rand deals, 13 medium-sized construction companies owned and managed by women and 43 smaller companies that were gender-compliant.
Women building houses in Gauteng
Earlier this month, Gauteng Premier Mbazima Shilowa said that, since 2004, the provincial government had awarded tenders worth over R359-million to women-owned companies for the construction of thousands of houses.
And this week, 50 houses built by three women-owned companies – Ndilekaluzuko cc, Kopano Creative Concepts and L&R Welding and Suppliers – were handed over to beneficiaries of the Gauteng government’s Doornkop Thulani Housing Project in Soweto.
Gauteng Housing MEC Nomvula Mokonyane, who handed over the houses, said the companies were three of 10 women-owned firms awarded contracts worth around R200-million by her department in 2006.
Realised that there was a need to build capacity and management skills for women in the industry, Verwey established the SA Women in Construction Association (Sawic) in 1999.
The association works closely with the Development Bank of Southern Africa (DBSA), the Industrial Development Trust (IDT) and government departments to build up skills, create career opportunities, and provide networking platforms for women in construction.
Skills development and business training courses are run throughout the year at the DBSA and by service providers such as PPC, the Cement and Concrete Institute, Rocla and Plascon.
Sawic also conducts monthly provincial workshops to enhance the capacity of women in the construction industry.
Verwey acknowledges that Sawic is in competition with other “women in construction” organisations, saying she believes that cooperation among these organisations is key to improving women’s working conditions in the country.