Uphill battle for women in construction

WOMEN in the construction sector still face discrimination.

On Friday the Public Works Department held a round-table discussion in Alexandra, northern Johannesburg, on the abuse of women in the industry.

Deputy Minister of Public Works, Hendrietta Bogopane-Zulu said the aim of the gathering was to enable her to interact with women contractors and learn from their experiences.

Bogopane-Zulu said: "As one of its core mandates our department is tasked with monitoring and promoting the construction and property sectors of the economy. I believe that ameliorating the lot of women, youths and people with disabilities in this industry is paramount.

"We need to enhance the profile, image and performance of the construction industry. We need to talk about problems that are hindering transformation in the industry."

Lufuno Mugwena, with Diana Mafada, Surprise Shoba and William Matlhaku, run the Juskei River Embankment Protection phase in Alexandra. The project employs 58 people and involves the installation of gabions and Reno mattresses to protect the river embankment.

"When people come to the site they ask us who is in charge of the project. When I tell them I am they think I'm lying because they expect it to be directed by a man," Mafada said.

"When I go to the bank to cash huge cheques it's as if I'm a criminal. They call the bank manager and most of the staff to verify that the money is really mine. It's as if women don't deserve money."

Mafada said women also faced problems to get funding.

"Banks always want the man who runs the company. At the same time we have to compete with companies that have more experience than we have.

"Sometimes things are easy because we have a male partner and people take him more seriously."