Holding her own in a men’s world of construction

CROSSING the Mediterranean Sea 18 years ago in search of greener pastures, it never occurred to Shamiso Machaya that one day she would return to Zimbabwe and be instrumental in the country’s infrastructural development.

Back then, little did she know that a venture which started as a mere carpentry business, building kitchens for the diaspora clientele, would diversify into a fully-fledged construction business.

“I developed an interest in entrepreneurship in 2016 and decided to walk away from a finance executive role with an established international charity in the UK to set up my own social enterprise,” Machaya told the Daily News on Sunday.

“In 2018, I spotted the talent of a cousin who was a kitchen fitter and approached him to find out if he was accessing clientele database in Zimbabwe, and his response was a no, which led me to investigate a marketing campaign of his services within my network.

“This initial advert attracted 250 enquiries within one night, and straightaway I knew there was a strong need of this service and ultimately tested the business whilst developing a business plan for two months before official registration within Zimbabwe on 24 April 2018.”

Today, the 46-year-old heads the C&R Home Designs and Construction Company that specialises in offering quality property renovations and construction service to domestic and commercial clients throughout Zimbabwe and for people living in the diaspora.

Although not covering construction of commercial properties yet as the new kid on the block, C&R has built new single storey and double storey houses and is involved in architectural drawings for domestic constructions, while also specialising in carpentry, tiling, painting, electrical fittings, and plumbing.

“The company is a brainchild of the need to cushion investments by many diasporans who have on countless times fallen victim financially to relatives and friends alike in the process of building houses back home,” Shamiso said.

“To date we have completed several houses in different areas like Warren Park, Bulawayo, Mutare, Chitungwiza and Rusape, while numerable projects are ongoing on in Gletwyn, Chishawasha Hills in Harare, and the company employs over 60 tradesmen who include qualified carpenters, plumbers, builders and general hands.”
The new company has undertaken various construction projects such as kitchen renovations from scratch to bigger housing projects in the leafy suburbs dotted around the country. According to the lady who is rocking the boat in the male-dominated construction industry, her burning passion is to pursue construction stems from the aspiration to honour her father who was a carpenter.

“My daddy was an entrepreneur throughout my early years of growing up and he always gave us lessons about entrepreneurship,” she said.

“I used to be my daddy’s assistant whilst he worked from home doing his carpentry work. His creativity with wood inspired me such that I took up woodwork within my first years of secondary school.
“I was also inspired by seeing his direct contribution to building Zimbabwe via his supervision of teams during the construction of many local buildings like the Monomotapa Building.”

Born in a family of five in Mufakose, Shamiso acquired her first accounting degree from the University of Zimbabwe in 1998 after which she worked for Edgars from 1998-2002 as a senior clerk in the accounting department before leaving for the UK in 2002.

“I am an entrepreneur who has passion in helping others to realise their goals, this vision allows me to spot opportunities and capabilities of others,” she said.
“I am passionate about promoting entrepreneurship among migrants and I am alongside the Newcastle business school as a student alumni and advisory board member for Gender Entrepreneurship North East.”

Working alongside her elder sister, who is a proactive director at C&R Home Designs and Construction, the Machaya sisters have managed to offer a full range of construction services, ranging from new builts, full property renovations, electrical, plumbing, borehole drilling, and solar installations.
Shamiso told this publication that being a woman who is leading a business in a male-dominated industry brings its challenges and satisfactions.

“To date, we have recognised that it is harder for the majority of men to own up to commissioning us to deliver our services to them as evidenced with our clientele database that composes of 95 percent women and five percent man,” she narrated.

“Research indicates that women in construction are underrepresented and we have taken it upon ourselves to push this underrepresentation and bring change for tomorrow through an increased capability of women within challenging industries.

“Although construction is still largely regarded as a male domain, change should take place in the industry to rectify this specific train of thought and culture, and those women equally deserve to participate in construction even though it may be considered as a place for men only.”

According to a United Nations study, infrastructure projects are gender blind with women being the least represented in employment in the construction sector with only 3,5 percent women and 96,5 percent men.
The construction industry is still largely regarded as a male domain where women are not taken seriously as professionals in the construction industry and society, tradition, organisational culture and sexist attitudes play a major role when appointing women in construction.

In the neighbouring South Africa, despite the increase in the number of women being employed in the construction industry, they still constitute a very small percentage of the industry’s workforce which is less than 10 percent.

However, according to Zimbabwe Building Contractors’ Association, a third of the nation’s 300 000 construction workers are women.

Shamiso is also the founder of the SME North East Networking, which aims to identify, articulate and clarify the needs of the black community, and overcome barriers to successful entrepreneurship in North East England and aspires to be one of the most competitive construction companies in Zimbabwe.Holding her own in a men’s world of construction

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