Saturday, July 2, 2022

Young woman ‘fundi’ working to build her own construction company

Mason Jobs in Kenya: “My name is Nathalyn Muthoni. I am 24 years old. I was born in Baragwi Ward, Gichugu Constituency in Kirinyaga County. I am the first born in a family of two children. Throughout my life, my father has been working as a fundi (mason). My mother has been doubling up as a house-wife and a hairdresser. Today, many people who are familiar with my father say that I took after him. This is because at age 24, I work as a fundi (Mason Jobs in Kenya) at various construction sites in Kirinyaga County.

This was not always my dream. Initially, during my primary school days, I had dreamed of going to a prestigious university one day and pursuing a career in civil engineering. This dream may have begun to shatter when I sat for my KCPE exams at Kiburia Primary School in 2011. I did not perform very well. I scored 260 marks out of the possible 500 points. These points meant that I was nowhere close to joining any provincial secondary school, leave alone the highly ranked Kabare Girls high School which I had dream of joining. I began my Form One studies at Kimwathi Mixed Secondary School in February 2012. In 2015, I sat for my KCSE exams.

Just like my KCPE exams, I did not do well either. Perhaps I would have done better had I not suffered from a series of nervous system medical problems in my form three and form four classes, which made me miss too many classes. I scored a mean grade of D + (plus). My dreams were shattered. My hopes and aspirations were broken. On one hand, I was dejected that I had disappointed my parents despite the hardships they had gone through to pay for my school fees. On the other hand, I was the laughing stock among my age-mates. I had to watch in shame as some of them proceeded to university and technical colleges to pursue their careers. What would I do with my life? What would become of me? Would I ever make something out of myself? These questions became a daily torture, and a constant reminder that I had failed.

Nonetheless, even with all my hopes and dreams scattered irredeemably on the ground, I could not sit back and continue to burden my parents. I needed to find something to do that would bring me some income. From 2016 to early 2018, I was employed severally as a house-help in Kirinyaga County. I also worked as a door to door Mama Fua washing people’ clothes.

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In July last year, I was invited by a friend to Machakos County with the promise that I could find better and higher paying casual jobs in the county. A few weeks after moving to Machakos Town, I heard that the CAP Youth Empowerment Institute (CAP-YEI) in Machakos was offering free technical courses to youths aged between 18 and 34 years. CAP-YEI is a non-governmental organization that trains youths out of school in job entry-level skills. The free courses were sponsored by the German Society for International Co-operation (GIZ).

I enrolled for the training in September 2018. I was first trained on life skills, time management, and conflict resolution. I sat for an interest inventory test, after which I was referred to the Building and Construction class for further training. This training on building and construction took three months. It included 30 per cent theory and 70 per cent practical tests. This course came as a natural choice since my father was already working as a masonry.

Mason Jobs in Kenya

As I came close to completing this course, I was also trained on how to write application letters and resume. I also underwent mock interviews and on-site training, and attended construction seminars that were conducted by the National Construction Authority (NCA). In January this year, I graduated and received a certificate from CAP-YEI. Armed with my certificate, I walked to the nearest hardware shop and bought a masonry shovel, plumb bob, a wooden float, a line and torpedo level, and a bump screed.

I returned to Kirinyaga and started looking for a job as a fundi at construction sites within the county. Perhaps it could have been easier to get a job since my father worked as a fundi. But initially, he did not like the idea of me working as a fundi. My mother, too, supported him. They both feared that I would not hold my own in the male-dominated sector. Construction was an activity that was best left to men. But I could hear none of it.  I was determined to forge ahead and prove that a woman could also make an outstanding and honest construction fundi.

Working in the construction sector as a woman fundi and at such a young age has not been easy. Most men have many times wondered if I could not find anything else more feminine to do. Some have even suggested that I should just quit the hard work and get married. But the worst have been uncouth sexual insults and advances from men who think I work as a fundi out of desperation. Nevertheless, I have managed to hold my ground and through my work as a masonry, foreperson and site supervisor, I am now commanding respect. In my current construction site, I am the only woman. You will hardly notice this because my fellow fundis have decided to keep our genders out of the work place and instead concentrate on skills. In a normal working day, my work will entail constructing and supervising construction works. I am glad that our daily remuneration has increased to decent levels. In most cases, I get work from referrals from happy customers and potential clients who watch me turn a design from paper and into an actual house. My father has also been a major influence in my work. He has built a reputation as a reliable fundi and I am determined to carry on his good reputation. There are times, too, when I have called upon his experience and customer network.

Above all, my destiny shall not end with being a fundi or doing Mason Jobs in Kenya. My line of work has birthed a new set of dreams that I am hoping to achieve in the near future. With God’s help, I am hoping to start and register my own construction company. This will make my work and pitches more professional. I’ll have a set of ready forepersons, casual workers and construction equipment that will enable me to take on major construction projects. This will enable me to have adequate time for my family when the time comes. Currently, though, I am not in any relationship as my focus is wholly on developing my career as a site supervisor. I am also hoping to advance my knowledge on construction through trainings and courses. Currently, I have been lucky enough to have CAP-YEI sponsor me for my grade 3 exam with the National Industrial training Authority (NITA). I will be sitting for this exam in December this year.

I do not wish to look back at the troubles and misfortunes I have had as a young woman. I know that the road ahead is long, but I am determined to break the gender glass ceiling. I want to show the world that there is no field for which women are the weaker sex. It is all possible if we can put shame behind us, fold up the sleeves of our blouses, and get to work.”

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