Cape Town – Two female contractors are cementing themselves in the male-dominated construction industry after being awarded contracts to build RDP houses in the greater Knysna municipal area.
As part of the first group of local contractors to build double-story houses on rough slabs as well as retaining walls, Nozuko Nyameko and Nontuthuzelo Yalezo are hoping to change the narrative about how women are perceived in the construction industry and the role they have to play in the betterment of housing conditions in the community.
Attending various training sessions by the municipality’s Local Economic Development and Public Works sections and the Small Enterprises Development Agency, in partnership with the various other parties, the two women are hoping to pave the way for other women in the community to take charge and prosper in the industry.
Nyameko, who owns Inyameko Trading 618cc, also constructed a fire-resistant house using biomass from alien trees, which she hopes will be the future of Knysna housing structures.
“The Inyameko Trading 618cc is a construction company with 16 years of experience in the industry. Inyameko trading was established in 2006 in Knysna. During the first RDP project in the Northern areas, my inspiration came from wanting to help my community by giving it the right housing and other things it needs.
“Growing up and witnessing communities without basic services, including proper housing, ignited a lot of emotion and I promised myself to be part of the solution. At first, I was just happy to be part of building a better Knysna and, subsequently, a better South Africa. Once I started my own company, it dawned on me that I could do more,“ Nyameko said.
“Women are often marginalised and not seen as worthy of the field. We are women, mothers, care-givers, and we know how to foster those capabilities that make us worthy and allow for a more mature approach,“ she said.
Drawing strength from one another, Yalezo, who also owns her own construction company, Ziniya Trading, says it is time women are recognised in the field and are given the opportunity to sit at the table with men and discuss strategies on how to move the community forward.
“The construction industry is not for the faint-hearted. You have to be strong and solid. If you look at us, we are only two women working with six other men, but one thing is for sure, our work speaks for itself because it is quality and we deal with situations from various perspectives.
“Solidarity is also key. Given what our community is facing, there is no time for jealousy or animosity. There is also time for helping each other achieve their goals. Given that, I think it is time the government recognises that women should also have a seat at the table with most men when it comes to discussions about how we could build homes for our communities. We cannot remain victims, and I think if a woman wants to get into the construction industry, she needs to have a passion for it.
“We have cemented our space in the construction industry. Hopefully, more doors will open and women will look at our story and be inspired to own their dreams. The journey has not been without challenges, but we have a solid support system through our families, Knysna municipality, who bought into our dream, and the entire community,” Yalezo said.
With hopes of bettering the community's housing issue, Knysna's acting municipal manager, Johan Jacobs, said that with women in this space, it will benefit the community in the sense that there will be growth for local entrepreneurs and contractor profiles will reflect diversity within the various categories of the construction industry.
“Local SMMEs were given an opportunity to construct slabs for the first time, and the two local female contractors towered over the male-dominated construction industry.
“This demonstrates our commitment to the growth and development of local entrepreneurs, our local economy, and the value these hard workers can contribute. Contractor profiles will reflect diversity within the various categories of the construction industry. We wish these captains of industry the best of luck. This is a wonderful example of locals working with us to build an inclusive, innovative, and inspired Knysna,” said Jacobs.
Nyameko said that, given that construction is always looked upon as a man’s industry, women can soften the idea that it has to be one way or no way.
"My hope is that my fellow mothers can speak up and deliver and not stand back and conform to the norm of men running the industry."
“Women of any background or race can get into the business end of construction because the joy on the faces of the beneficiaries receiving a decent house for the first time in their lives is what brings joy and gratification, because I know that I was a big part of it,” Nyameko said.