Cartier Philanthropy - Empowering women through construction

Empowering women through construction


The construction industry is one of the fastest growing sectors in East Africa, but also has one of the biggest skill gaps. We are supporting Buildher's pilot programme to train 400 disadvantaged young women living in Nairobi, equipping them with highly-marketable construction skills and an accredited professional certification that will increase their chances of stable employment and greater economic independence. In doing this, injecting a female qualified workforce into the male-dominated construction industry, Buildher will contribute to changing cultural attitudes around ‘gendered work’ and to promoting gender equality in the construction industry.

Focus area
Women’s Social and Economic Development Sustainable Livelihoods and Ecosystems


Africa is projected to have the fastest urban growth rate in the world. This urban transition offers great opportunities, but also poses significant challenges. In Kenya, an estimated 210,000 new residential units will be needed annually to keep pace with the expanding population. However, the construction industry faces an alarming lack of skilled designers and professionals. Moreover, less than 6% of its workforce is accounted for by women, none of whom are in skilled or leadership roles.


Buildher trains disadvantaged young women from informal settings, equipping them with marketable construction skills and an accredited professional certification, increasing their chances of stable employment and greater economic independence. The curriculum integrates technical and life skills, placing special emphasis on building confidence and leadership. It is delivered using an “earn and learn” approach: participants are given a modest stipend throughout their training, which they then gradually repay upon securing a job.

Expected results

  • 400 young women living in Nairobi will be enrolled in the programme in the first year and at least 320 are expected into paid employment. 160 trainees are expected to sit for and pass the National Industrial Training Authority (NITA) certification examination.
  • Buildher proactively supports the graduates through a network of construction employer partners, securing dignified-pay employment opportunities that enable them to dramatically increase their income (from approximately $3/day to $8-12/day post graduation).
  • The injection of a female qualified workforce into the male-dominated construction industry contributes to changing cultural attitudes around gendered work in Kenya.

Long-term strategy

Buildher is a recent offshoot of Orkidstudio (which rebranded as BuildX Studio), a Nairobi-based social enterprise that recognizes the design-and-build process as an economic empowerment opportunity for women. From 2013-2018, Orkidstudio trained and employed 1,500 women in construction, endowing Buildher with strong potential for scale-up growth.

In the next five years, Buildher aims to improve the livelihoods of 4,750 women living in informal settlements, and positively impact over 20,000 individuals, by increasing its training offering and creating access to safe and secure employment, social service and healthcare programs.