Ingabire overcomes stigma, stereotype to become a builder

It is Wednesday afternoon at around 4pm; Domitile Ingabire is still busy working on a construction site as a builder in Rulindo District.

It is Wednesday afternoon at around 4pm; Domitile Ingabire is still busy working on a construction site as a builder in Rulindo District.

Ingabire, 18, is the only female among over ten builders at the site and says she is proud of doing a job often seen as the preserve of men. She has enrolled to study construction at a vocational institution.

“I have always wanted to be a builder,” she said during an interview.

“The idea of studying construction came into my mind when I was in primary. I used to wonder why no women were engaged with construction or other technical courses and wished I could be one of the few in the field,” she adds.

She was also inspired by her brother and uncle who were also in the construction industry.

The most stumbling block for her was her mother, whom she says never supported her ambitions.

As a teenager, Ingabire’s mother saw it as unladylike for a woman to hold a sledge hammer, climb rooftops and get exposed to dangers that come with the trade.

Construction is among options offered under the Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) programme.

Officials believe TVET is key to skills development among the youth and an answer to unemployment.

“I chose technical education to avoid being jobless and to prove that technical activities were not a preserve for men,” she said.

Ingabire, the third born in a family of six, is a S5 student in construction option at Centre pour la Promotion de l’Education et Métiers ( Copem) in Burera District.

She says the skills she has so far acquired enable her to get temporary work during holidays.

“The practical work we do has enabled me acquire necessary skills that I put to use during holidays,” she said, adding that she earns between Rwf3, 000 and 3,500 daily.

She has been doing this since S4 and says it helps her meet her financial needs.

“I do not beg everything from my mother. She gives me school fees and I buy scholastic materials by myself. I sometimes pay part of my school fees,” she adds.

Facing stigma

Ingabire says she faced stigma after she joined school. She says both her classmates and family members on several occasions advised her to drop out and go for mainstream education.

“My mother and relatives would tell me that no young girl should climb rooftops or touch mud to build a house. They wanted me to study accounting,” she says, adding that she braved the odds and continued with her education.

“It is a job I am proud of and though I am still I student, I am already earning while others from mainstream education remain dependent on their parents,” she said.

Despite the current outcry where most young graduates complain of unemployment, most parents, like Ingabire’s, still look at TVET as the last resort for their children and usually discourage them to pursue TVET courses.

Ingabire’s workmates at the site describe her as a hardworking and kindhearted employee who does her work well.

“She is a hardworking and courageous girl,” said one of employees only identified as Twizeyimana.