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Empowering women in the construction sector: our partnership with Buildher

By Madeleine Eastwood, Head of Communications  |   Posted 22nd November 2021

A new partnership between GIF and social enterprise Buildher will help disadvantaged young women secure skilled employment in the traditionally male-dominated construction sector.

The latest deal to join GIF’s portfolio will improve incomes while challenging gender norms and generating learning on how to overcome gender barriers to expand employment opportunities for women.

Founded in 2018, Buildher trains women from Nairobi’s informal settlements through a 12-month programme, which includes workshop-based training and paid employment placements. In addition to accredited construction skills and technical skills in areas like carpentry and joinery, woodwork, painting and decorating, and tools/equipment maintenance, women on the programme are offered life skills such as financial literacy, mental health coaching, leadership, and communication.

Buildher also works with partner firms in the construction sector to make their workplaces more gender inclusive, including through changing workplace facilities and enacting sexual harassment policies.

Buildher will use a $230,000 pilot grant to expand the current programme by onboarding new partner firms and training hundreds more women. GIF investment will also enable Buildher to strengthen its monitoring and evaluation function to better assess the impacts for women, including the agency gains they experience from succeeding in an industry from which they have traditionally been excluded.

The proportion of skilled female employees in Kenya’s construction sector has been estimated to be as low as 3%. Those who enrol in Buildher’s training course are typically mothers, often single parents, earning less than $3.10 per day prior to enrolling in the programme.

Buildher graduate Mary Wanjiku, a 34-year-old mother of three, was in the second Buildher training cohort. Before enrolling, Mary experienced difficulties securing sustainable employment. As a result, keeping up with her family’s living costs, and education costs for her children proved hard. Upon entering the second phase of the programme, Mary’s weekly income has increased from $10 per week to $42 per week, and her children are pursuing their education. Mary has since gone on to establish her own carpentry business, which now hires other women who have completed the Buildher programme.

Buildher graduate Mary Wanjiku


Tatu Gatere, Buildher Co-Founder & CEO, said: “Buildher is a young and ambitious organisation. At this stage of our growth we are interested in learning through both our successes and failures, while constantly innovating to maximise our potential. Having partners like the Global Innovation Fund who not only value and invest in gender equality, but also support and encourage multi-layered and multi-sectoral approaches is so critical to us shifting barriers and biases, and growing our impact in all socio-economic spheres that affect women and the changing world of work, from the community level through training, to employment and industry level.”

The grant comes from GIF’s Innovating for Gender Equality Fund and GIF is excited to support an initiative that, under the leadership of a female founder and CEO, is working to tackle gender inequalities in Kenya’s construction sector.

GIF Managing Director Malcolm Spence said: “Female labour market participation rates in Sub-Saharan Africa compare favourably with other regions, but all too often women are shut out from sectors that are growing and offer good wages and a premium on skills, or traditionally male dominated. Achieving better labour market outcomes for women requires that we learn more about overcoming gender barriers to participation. Buildher’s model is about finding new ways to expand choice for women in spaces from which they are traditionally excluded. They have an ambitious yet humble team, and I am excited about how GIF funding can support them to better assess their impacts and their costs, and explore how best to achieve scale.”