By Jenna Lipinski, Canadian Bricklayer
On Nov, 4 2019, a group of us visited a Mason Jobsite in Kottayam, Kerala. Members of our group included myself, Jenna Lipinski (Bricklayer, Canada), Jan Jenson (Retired Ironworker/Photo Journalist, US) and Chantal Krcmar (PhD Candidate/Researcher, Mumbai).
We arrived at the jobsite and were greeted by Amala who is a Social Worker for The Archana Women’s Center and Shiny who runs the CAG Program (Community Action Group). Our visit started with introductions to the women working on site. Rhadika is the Chief Mason for the Archana Women’s Center (28 Years in trade). Working with her was Ambily, Ancy and Smitha. They were rebuilding a house that was destroyed by the devastating floods of 2018. The home owners were still living on the property in a temporary shelter. This new house was built on a raised solid foundation to protect it from future flood damage.
They showed us the different tools and demonstrated how they all work the blocks they used for the walls (each one weighs 23kg) and let me get in there and lay some blacks with them.
The whole crew on site loaded some blocks into the unit to assist in making their day perhaps just a little easier. The Workers wore hardhats and flip flops. Some had gloves to wear. In the heat it’s not pleasant for them to have workboots on. As the women took lunch we had a chance to sit and have a discussion with Amala and Shiny about the role CAG has in their outreach work with women: empowering them and supporting them to take the first step in starting a job in the Trades and joining the Archana Team. We were enlightened on the different barriers and obstacles the women in India have to overcome in this Industry. We learned the history, where the program currently stands and their hopes for the future.
Kerala is a leader in this movement and some areas of India are very far behind in viewing the trades as an acceptable career choice for women. No matter the struggle, they are devoted to continue raising awareness and empowering women. After our discussion we were joined by a government official who was responsible for the funding that was given to this family to rebuild their home. We got everyone together to snap a few photos and share with the women just how incredible and inspiring they are to us. This was a truly an inspirational day and I will continue to share the stories of these women and support the future endeavours of the Masons and the Archana Women’s Center.