In Mozambique, where the construction sector is predominantly male dominated, the story of Cadria Cassamo stands out as breaking barriers and challenging gender roles.

At the age of 17, Cadria, originally from Macomia in northern Cabo Delgado, moved to the capital city of Pemba as her uncle offered to support her studies. Adapting to the unfamiliar environment brought both fear and excitement. "At first, I was scared, but also thrilled with the change. People welcomed me, and I made many friends at school. But I missed my family", Cadria recalls. 

Cadria and her family in the backyard of their home. Photo: IOM 2024/María Toro

However, her family had to abruptly move to Pemba because of a worsening conflict that has displaced over 600,000 people since 2017. With her family in Pemba, Cadria became a mother to little Cail. While they formed a new home, the challenge of unemployment loomed. "My father had passed away. My mother and I had to support our family of six, but as women, finding formal employment was challenging", explains Cadria.

Cail, Cadria's 3-year-old son, loves playing with her construction equipment. "Maybe when he grows up, he will work in construction like me," says Cadria. Photo: IOM 2024/María Toro

Cadria's fortune took a turn when she found a job opportunity as a construction assistant in her own neighbourhood, Mahate, as part of an IOM project centered on the sustainable urban integration of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs). The project, encompassing infrastructure, livelihoods, and psychosocial activities, required assistance for the construction of a laundry facility. 

"When I applied, some neighbours and relatives doubted about my ability to work in construction as a woman. While I initially thought it might be challenging, I believed in myself, and through dedication and learning, here I am," shares Cadria.

In her neighbourhood, admiration fills the air as Cadria arrives wearing her construction work uniform. Photo: IOM 2024/María Toro

Cadria manages tasks such as mixing cement and carrying stones and sand. While some duties were initially challenging and demanded significant strength, through continuous effort and practice, Cadria and her female colleagues can now handle any task with ease, bringing a sense of pride. Quina, Cadria's colleague, emphasizes, "Having women in construction inspires and motivates others. Since I started working here, my female friends, neighbors, and family ask me how they can join too." Their experience serves as a source of inspiration for women in their communities.

Quina and Cadria carry out their daily tasks, including cement mixing and carrying material.Photos: IOM 2024/María Toro

Despite societal taboos, the construction site where Cadria works is a secure space with supportive colleagues. Lucas Sairose, the site supervisor, expresses, "We're happy to have both men and women on our team. There are no specific jobs for one gender or another. We all need to learn and practice to do something well."

A diverse construction team of men and women collaborates on the laundry construction, sharing tasks for efficiency and learning from each other's roles. Photo: IOM 2024/María Toro

Looking ahead, Cadria envisions a future in construction. She aspires to learn more and eventually become a site supervisor, particularly for school projects, to contribute to children's education. Abdul, Cadria's colleague, shares his enthusiasm about Cadria’s aspirations: "Having a female supervisor would be great. We can learn a lot from women." 

Cadria's journey exemplifies the strength and determination of women in challenging environments, and her success paves the way for others to break gender norms and pursue their dreams.

This project is jointly implemented by IOM and UN-Habitat, made possible with the generous support of the Government of Canada.

SDG 8 - Decent Work and Economic Growth
SDG 10 - Reduced Inequalities
SDG 5 - Gender Equality