KCJF Story - Transforming the Lives of Kenyan Women Through Construction - The Buildher + MoKo Collaboration Story

June 21, 2022

The Kenya Catalytic Jobs Fund is a £5M, 4-year program funded by UK Aid designed to test and support innovations that stimulate job creation in Kenya, especially for women and youth. Sinapis has been the fund manager for the KCJF since early 2020 and currently supports 19 companies in the KCJF portfolio.

Article written by Christine Mboya, Research and Digital Marketing Manager at KCJF

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Women's representation in Kenya’s construction industry is still extremely low, accounting for only 3% of the skilled workforce, and only about 15.4% of registered contractors. Despite an increase in the number of women venturing into construction work, gender bias continues to be a primary challenge limiting steady uptake and representation in historically male-dominated industries.

Cecilia Njoki, 34, has always held a dream to work in the construction industry. For years, she was discouraged from pursuing this path because to her family and friends, construction work was a man's job. And so for about 20 years, Cecilia pursued gigs acceptable for her gender until she heard about Buildher in one of her community support groups. Interested to try her luck, she signed up, attended an interview with the Buildher team, and was successfully accepted into the program.

"My life now is exactly how I dreamed it would be; working at my dream job, and being able to comfortably provide for my family. After successfully joining the training program at Buildher, I was trained in joinery, carpentry, and machine handling. In September last year, Buildher linked us with our current employer, MoKo, where I have since been working."
Cecilia Njoki, Artisan- MoKo.

Cecilia, like many of the artisans under the Buildher program, does not believe jobs are gender-specific. They are driven by a passion to deliver, a great work ethic, and a shared team spirit. Buildher breaks barriers to women’s entry into the construction industry through re-skilling, re-tooling, and job placement. By equipping women with accredited construction skills, Buildher gives them access to greater financial prosperity, while changing male attitudes and promoting gender equality within the construction industry.

Buildher works with employer partners to provide employment opportunities and linkages to their cohorts, and in September 2021, they partnered with MoKo Home and Living to provide job placements for 12 of their trained artisans.

MoKo Home and Living is Kenya’s first affordable, trustworthy furniture brand for lower-income customers. MoKo is the first company in Kenya to apply mass manufacturing techniques to the furniture industry in Kenya in order to allow it to scale. MoKo is shifting the industry value chain to local manufacturing with stable, higher-paying jobs.

"We recently built a new wood products line and were keen on working with skilled, efficient artisans who have sufficient training in carpentry, joinery, and industrial equipment handling. Normally we would have to recruit and train artisans in-house, but after we learnt about Buildher’s robust and accredited program, and got the chance to meet their artisans, we immediately had access to a richer talent pool that we could recruit from and grow much faster." - Fabian Louis, Process Engineer, MoKo.

Fabian adds that the Buildher artisans were taken through a short 3-month probation period, after which they were successfully onboarded as term employees with renewable contracts. "Our artisans go through a structured curriculum that equips them with practical and marketable skills that our partner employers appreciate. Because of the intensive training we provide, we receive great feedback on their discipline, productivity, teamwork, and leadership skills." - Daniel, Lead Placement Officer, Buildher.

The team at MoKo is happy to note that since onboarding the Buildher artisans in September 2021, productivity has significantly increased. The wood products line has seen an improvement in production numbers of over 300%, with a lot more room for further growth. This upward trajectory in production and efficiency holds great potential for scalability and enterprise growth at MoKo.

The two organizations share a common spirit, to create disruptions and give access to greater financial prosperity for the common mwananchi.

"This partnership was also important to us because it aligns with our values as a company. MoKo is a social impact company first, from the market we cater to, to the team of artisans we work with. We are keen on developing and promoting talent from lower-income communities." Fabian Louis.

The Buildher team visits the MoKo facility every 2 weeks to review the artisans' progress and performance, and in collaboration with MoKo identify gaps and collaborate on ways to ensure optimum growth both professionally and at personal levels for the artisans. The artisans have since grown into more senior roles, with most of the ladies leading various workstations. Both Buildher and MoKo actively work to identify key areas of skill and strength and leverage those to create opportunities for growth and advancement for their employees. The artisans regularly receive refresher training and advisory support cutting across technical and life skills.

Hilda Wanjira
"When I came in I had built key skills in joinery, and now at MoKo, I had the opportunity to try my skills across different roles at the workplace. I have since grown to lead the sanding team, ensuring all work is executed efficiently and on time." Hildah Wanjira, Team Lead-Sanding, MoKo.

The collaboration has also resulted in a refreshing gender dynamic at MoKo, with the Buildher artisans being the first women joining the wood products line. Working in a male-dominated space has presented interesting experiences and perspectives for the ladies.

"My dream career has always been to work in construction, carpentry, or welding, but years ago it was harder to get into these spaces because they are predominantly for men. I was instead advised to pursue tailoring. Now nearly 20 years later I am happy to be finally working in the space I desired, and happy to see the impact of my work on my life and that of my children," Cecilia Njoki, Artisan- MoKo.

The ladies also note a significant improvement in their quality of life, as they are now able to comfortably upgrade their living conditions and cater to their daily expenses and that of their loved ones. For instance, they have both been able to move into better and more secure neighbourhoods, and are now able to afford basic needs like school fees for their dependents.

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