While its Community-Based Approach to infrastructure construction and project management is widely recognized, a different approach was employed by The Mvula Trust in order to stimulate a greater participation of female contractors in sanitation and water facilities construction.
In an attempt to achieve greater participation from female entrepreneurs in its sanitation construction programmes, The Mvula Trust lowered the entry requirement for contractors to CIDB1, with no construction experience required.
This strategy required additional support to the widely recognized community-based approach to project management and infrastructure creation methods of The Mvula Trust.
As most of the contractors had little or no construction experience at the time of appointment, on-the-job construction techniques and invoicing training, mentorship support and regular monitoring was provided by The Mvula Trust.
The nurturing of the emerging contractors included assisting with cession agreements with selected building materials’ suppliers in order to minimize cash flow challenges and delays in delivering supplies to sites.
These and other measures form part of The Mvula Trust’s approach to the empowerment of contractors and community workers. The understanding and partnership of key role players including the National Department of Human Settlements and the Joe Gqabi district municipality was vital, as additional challenges surfaced including low accessibility of certain villages due to poor road networks.
This “dis-incentive” of social grant payments often contributed to a lack of available labour in villages and these often delayed project completion.
The household sanitation programme in the Joe Gqabi district is funded through both the Municipal Infrastructure Grant (MIG) and the Rural Household Infrastructure Programme, as coordinated by the National Department of Human Settlements. A number of achievements are noted.
Firstly, only women were trained as village health workers (VHW’s) in order to compensate for the virtually male-exclusive areas of construction work such as pit excavation. Also, 194 (71%) of the contractors are women.
90% of the 272 emerging contractors participating are residents in or near the project villages within Elundini and Senqu local municipalities.
Of the 20 493 toilet units, 17 280 were constructed between April 2011 and June 2013 by emerging female contractors. A focus on women participation in construction activities was coordinated by The Mvula Trust from 1 November 2009 to the end of June 2013.
A total project spend of R54 105 288 was achieved; 272 emerging contractors participated in the sanitation programme; and 20 493 Households had been served with precast concrete VIP toilets in conjunction with hygiene and user education in Elundini and Senqu local municipality rural areas.
Certain construction activities are not women-friendly and therefore do not lend themselves to significant women participation. This includes pit excavation (zero participation), construction-related work such as brick-laying, plastering, and assembling slabs. On average, only 10% of women participation was achieved despite efforts to increase the female numbers.
In conclusion, the deliberate changing of certain requirements in favour of women has yielded many positive results. The socio-economic benefits include actual infrastructure, skills development, job creation, income generation, as well as user and hygiene awareness. The Joe Gqabi district municipality, in partnership with The Mvula Trust, will extend this programme to rural water supply including spring protection and rain water harvesting.