CONSTRUCTION has generally been regarded as men’s work because of its physical demands and rigorous nature but one woman proved that to be wrong
It all started 27 years ago when just like any other parent trying to put food on the table for her family Elizabeth Chakudunga found employment in the construction industry working as an assistant to a bricklayer.
Her job description at the time was to mix mortar for bricklayers at a construction site building houses in the high density suburbs of Harare in 1989.
Two years into the job she was introduced to bricklaying by chance when one brick layer fell ill. The construction company owner wanted someone to temporarily fill the vacancy and there she was.
That was the beginning of her journey of building houses side by side with male bricklayers.
Chakudunga never looked back and in 1993 she decided to spread her wings by registering her won company Manyame Construction Company.
Little did the now veteran construction owner know that her rise to the top would be the classic “rags to riches” fairytale.
“After two years working as a bricklayer, I felt it was time to meet new challenges and I registered a company with the relevant ministry in 1993 and Manyame Construction Company was born,” said Chakudunga.
The company grew in leaps and bounds over the years and at one time employed more than 40 workers, half of them women.
It was important for me to employ and empower women because most households have women as the bread winners. I felt I was giving back to the community by employing women so that they can be able to take care of their families,” she said.
The 66-year-old mother of seven has over the years embarked on a number of major projects that include constructing the Murewa Hospital, a high school in a high density suburb in Harare and 45 houses in Budiriro.
Earlier this year, her hard work was recognised by the Zimbabwe Chamber of Small and Medium Enterprises when she was voted the Woman Business Person of the Year.
Being a company owner does not mean she leaves all the work to her employees.
“I work harder than before to give my employees a challenge to put extra effort in everything they do. I leave home at 6am to a construction site and I’m always the last one to knock off. I have a company reputation to protect so I have to make sure everything is done to perfection,” she said.
How does she balance family life and work?
“It’s not easy especially when working on an out of town project because I need to be around my children but they do understand that sometimes I have to make sacrifices,” she added.
Like most businesses that took a knock during the harsh economic conditions that hit the country in 2008, Manyame Construction Company also hit turbulent times but survived.
“It was hard for all the businesses in 2008 and I had no choice but to cut down on the number of my employees. Some of them just simply left for greener pastures to South Africa and Botswana and I lost a number of good brick layers. Business has been slow but I remain optimistic that it will improve with time,” she said.
She is currently constructing a lodge in the capital.
“I realised the need to diversify my business and venture into tourism,” she said.