• April 19, 2024
  • Last Update April 19, 2024 7:23 AM
  • Nairobi

Women Reaching Out for Skills Development in Construction Industry

Women Reaching Out for Skills Development in Construction Industry


Monday March 26 2024,

KNA by William Inganga

The hospitality industry is never complete without the element of culinary arts. Food processing cleaning, cooking and presentation plays a critical role in sustaining lives.

Christine Gitonga, 29, had this course as a lead-up to her preferred career, serving as a waitress or a chef at a hotel.

At the moment, however, she’s not immersed in the kitchen chores of an eatery. Nonetheless, she’s working as a volunteer construction worker, on premises that will be churning out a different kind of food.

Since October 2023, she has been stationed at Serene Park Estate in Machakos, located near the Nairobi-Machakos junction.She’s mastered painting and tiling. She does some carpentry too.

“I have been helping in installing doors and drop seals and kitchen cabinets,” she disclosed.

An assortment of brushes and a roller make up part of her invaluable tools for applying the desired coats of paint to surfaces as specified. She’s been at this work since 2020.

“I saw how happy those who came to help us in constructing our Kingdom Hall were,” she recalled.

“That motivated me to volunteer myself.” The Kingdom Hall is the building where Jehovah’s Witnesses regularly meet for worship. According to the spokesman of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Kenya, Victor Karoki, there are about 600 Kingdom Halls in the country.

Before Gitonga joined the construction field, she had no experience at all. She attributes the acquisition of the knowledge and skills she possesses to her fellow volunteers who have been guiding her on the job. She now acknowledged how fascinating painting is.

“I do paint almost daily and tiling several times a month,” She said. One of the supervisors, Robert Chenje, has noticed.

“When painting, men may have the tendency to rush over an area. Women are keener.”Gitonga has been working alongside more than five other women discharging similar or different duties. It could be electrical or plumbing.

All these women are keen to learn new skills.They receive training on various construction safety matters. Orientation is a must for first-timers. It’s ensured that the safety guidelines are understood by all.

Before work begins , safety overseers carry out a job hazard analysis. They figure out the possible on-site threats that could be experienced and how to mitigate them. A document is prepared and shared with everyone who would be participating in the work.

Personal protective equipment has to be worn.A to-do list is issued to Gitonga and her colleagues whenever they report to work. Tasks are specified.

“If I don’t understand how to perform an assignment, I ask the overseer or someone else that I’m working with to help me,” she said.

She added, “I can also watch videos to help me accomplish that task.”

At the time of visiting the location, the kitchen floor and wall tiling in all the three units she’s been working on, are completed.At the wall tiling stage, calculations were done to determine where to begin fixing the white rectangular tiles.

“We love white in the kitchen. It makes someone more comfortable,” she explained.

She understood the appropriate terms to use, “Grouting is finished. What is remaining is to put the sticker flakes to prevent water from entering the tiles.”She reveals that she installed the door locks and drop seals to bar insects from entering the rooms and fire from spreading beyond the kitchen.She cites one of her sources of delight.

“Giving makes someone happy more than receiving. I have received these skills and so when I give them out, it makes me happy.” She stated.

Gitonga’s occupation is not immune to challenges. “Some work like lifting a 20-litre bucket of paint needs strong muscles,” she said.

“If she doesn’t enlist the help of a fellow volunteer, “I have to reduce it to 10 litres.” She continued.

Another concern she contends with is making friends, developing a close family-like bond with them and then moving to another construction site.

She missed the physical interaction with the friends she leaves behind. Nonetheless, her new engagement opened a more than compensatory fresh opportunity to widen her circle of friends.

Passing a locality with a facility that she participated in constructing humbles her. She considers herself an insignificant lady doing significant jobs.

“I feel good when I see the outcome of the work.”“There are 30 full-time women volunteers,” Karoki said.

“Many are wives who work alongside their husbands as volunteer construction workers.”

Christine’s husband, Joshua Gitonga, an assistant supervisor, has been striving side-by-side with her at various construction sites.Many couples hardly work together on projects.

“But for us, working together brings us closer to each other. We love each other more,” she said.

Other works that have been undertaken at the facilities are solar backup installation and drywall partitioning.

“We have benefitted from local and international volunteers who’ve offered their time and effort to support the project,” Joshua said.

During optimum working days, there was an average of 10-12 workers daily. More than half each day have been women.

“These offices will be used for translating spiritual publications from English to Kamba,” says Joshua. “We want the message to reach the people in the language of their heart,” Karoki says.

“Having a remote translation office where the language is spoken allows the translators to live and speak that language.”Joshua clarifies that some of the volunteers have a construction skill set background, whereas others don’t.

“Those who don’t are assigned to a team undertaking a specific task,” he said.

“With time, they can master the skill. As they get used to the work they may continue with minimal supervision.

”A few of the local volunteers are from Nakuru. Since the site is within a residential area, Joshua recollects that initially, there were restrictions on how many people could be allowed on site.

However, after the management of the estate understood the purpose that the buildings were intended for, permission was granted to allow in more personnel.

Some of the residents have been regularly popping in to peer at the progress of the work. They’ve not been disappointed by the quality of the electrical, plumbing, finishes and other works.

“March 29, 2024, is set for completion of the works,” Joshua says. “Commissioning is expected at the end of April.”Karoki, the spokesman, stated that there are five regional translation offices in the country.

These are in Kisumu, Nyeri, Kitui (moving to Machakos), Meru and Nairobi.

“These offices oversee the translation of Bible-based literature from English to Luo, Kikuyu, Kamba, Meru and the Kenyan Sign Language,” Karoki said.

Construction volunteers at the sites straddling the country are cognizant of the fact that their roles might be temporary, driven by circumstances.

Armed with the skills that Christine has gained at several construction sites, she anticipates confidently sharing her knowledge with others.

Furthermore, “These skills can also bring food on the table. I can even paint my house,” she says.

Courtesy; KNA

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