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close this book Daughters of Sysiphus
close this folder The building process
View the document Building a house
View the document Investing in improvements
View the document The stories behind the figures
View the document Vulnerability to natural hazards
View the document Recommendations

Building a house

Female heads of household proved less likely to have had the experience of managing the construction of their own house or its improvements. 13 per cent of female heads of household had built their own house compared with 18 per cent of male and 18 per cent of joint heads of household.

These figures are largely a reflection of the fact that fewer female heads of household have the land tenure that allows for investment in the construction process. When you rent you tend not to spend any money on either expanding or improving the unit you are in. However, women who are only renting the land that their house is on, or who own their own land or who are squatting, have almost invariably participated actively in the process of building a dwelling and installing the support infrastructure that a dwelling requires.

Different types of household vary in the kind of labour that they use when they are building. When women manage the construction process they are less likely to use their own physical labour than men. Whereas 42 per cent of joint heads of household and 56 per cent of male heads used their own labour in the construction of the house, this was true of only 21 per cent of the female heads.

However, women are more likely than other heads of household to mobilize construction assistance from their relatives. 47 per cent of female heads used family labour as compared with 24 per cent of male and 20 per cent of joint heads.

Female heads also proved more likely to employ artisans to do the work (with all the commensurate expense). While only 11 per cent of joint heads employed an artisan, 26 per cent of female heads did so.

Male and joint heads were much more likely to call on a network of friends to assist them with 50 per cent of male heads and 38 per cent of joint heads reporting use of friends' labour. Only 15 per cent of female heads used friends to help them do the work.

To a large degree, women who build their own houses or make their own improvements assume the role of financiers and managers of the building process. However, women have also often played a part in the physical work involved in construction as some of the stories that emerged from the case studies will demonstrate. It is unfortunate that this participation by women in the actual construction work has received so little attention in national vocational training systems which, all too often, assume that women are not capable of, or interested in, earning a living within the construction trades.