Kerala

Skilled women break the barriers in masonry

Capable hands:Women masons trained by Archana Women’s Centre at work.

Capable hands:Women masons trained by Archana Women’s Centre at work.  

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AWC, Thellakom, has trained more than 2,000 women so far

“It all started when a Catholic nun refused to budge. They were doing the same job, but women were getting just one-third of what their male counterparts received as daily wage. And I was not ready to accept this situation. Something had to be done, I said to myself,” Thresiamma Mathew, founder of Archana Women’s Centre (AWC) at Thellakom, said.

That was in 1989. The Catholic nun was associated with the Dutch-Danish supported Water Supply and Sanitation programme undertaken by the Socio Economic Units, Kerala. The programme involved construction of latrines in large numbers in rural areas.

While the all-male mason community was getting Rs.45 a day per head, women, termed helpers, were getting less than Rs.25, though they were mixing concrete, breaking granite, and taking the mixed concrete to the masons as head loads, she said.

This was exploitation at its worst. There was no scope for these women to upgrade their skills and as long as this prevailed, the trowel and the pendulum, which marked the authority of the mason, will remain elusive to them. Thus started the training programme for women in masonry, she said.

The training part was much easier, compared to the resistance the newly-trained women masons faced from prospective employers. Sr. Mathew found a way out by utilising their service in the various rural developmental and sanitation programmes.

2,000 trained

In 2006, the AWC moved to its own premises at Thellakom, near Ettumnaur, into a building constructed by an all-women team. More than 2,000 women have been trained by the AWC so far. All of them, right from the first batch, who have been selected from the helper category, are still working.

Today, AWC provides proficiency for women in all areas of construction, carpentry, concrete block making, ferro cement technology, bamboo technology and even in modular kitchen designing. ARCHITECH, (Archana Institute of Technology) is now collaborating with the HUDCO-Kudumbasree sponsored project for establishing an all-women construction company.

“However, the biggest satisfaction for us was that we could not only break into a male dominated work place, but also ensure equal remuneration for women, thus helping them to stand tall, on a par with their partners,” she said.

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Printable version | Jan 20, 2020 9:44:24 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/kerala/skilled-women-break-the-barriers-in-masonry/article6580190.ece

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