On 15th March, Kirsteen and Ayasta from RAP3-MHLR participated in a workshop organized by UNOPS called “Challenges, resources, lessons learnt and ideas to promote the careers of women in the construction industry in Nepal.” The discussion highlighted the need for systemic changes to attain the Sustainable Development Goal for gender equality by 2030. Themes discussed included women in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM), succeeding in construction and leadership, reproductive health need, and violence and harassment.
Shifting the gender disparity in the construction industry and STEM to equality requires addressing issues like the need for female role models, removing early age gender stereotypes where toys for girls and boys are different, changing the societal perception of the industry and improving marketing from universities and the construction industry to encourage more females. While family support is critical, the workshop felt that the industry stakeholders should set leading examples from equal pay to mentoring, and that models to empower women that have been successful in donor projects need to have a wider impact.
There are, however, challenges for women who enter the workforce. One of such areas is reproductive health needs. From the lack of facilities to the lack of flexible working hours, several factors affect female participation such as the type of work a woman can perform while she is pregnant are limited and considerate maternity/paternity leave, care share facilities, equal pay and incentives for contractors to manage their workforce better. Another issue that needs addressing is harassment. This begins with understanding what harassment is and looking beyond sexual harassment and into mental/verbal or any other form of abuse and ensuring reporting/responding mechanisms are part of all project designs.