A Civil Engineer by profession, an Entrepreneur, a UN Women’s Empower Women Global Champion for Change, a VV Grow fellow and also a YALI fellow and the founder/CEO of Immaculate Construction (ICON), Tim Immaculate is Breaking grounds in Cameroon, and she discusses solving infrastructure challenges as well as bridging the gender gap in engineering, in this interview with Femi Tunde Okunlola. It is indeed an inspiring read.
– Kindly introduce yourself and what you do?
My name is Tim Immaculate Bih Eps. Koti, I’m a Civil Engineer by profession, an Entrepreneur, a UN Women’s Empower Women Global Champion for Change, a VV Grow fellow and also a YALI fellow. I’m the founder/CEO of Immaculate Construction (ICON); a Company which is passionate about solving infrastructure challenges in Cameroon, and bridging the gender gap in engineering. I volunteer in the north-west region of Cameroun in raising awareness on the importance of technical education for the girl child and mentor girls in this profession. I have a track record of successful completion of construction projects for primary and secondary schools, including residential buildings in Bamenda, North West Region of Cameroon. Currently, I am working on the Butterfly Housing real estate project in Cameroon to bridge the GAP between demand and supply of quality affordable, sustainable green houses for low- mid income earners.
– How did you get into Engineering and what prompted you to take action?
A lady who was in the building construction department inspired me during my secondary school days. I never had the opportunity to talk to her because she was my senior in school but I watched her build her model; Two block walls of four courses, joined at an angle ninety, during a building construction practical in the school workshop, and got inspired. The inspiration was not enough to drive me crazy about the profession because I still had lots of unanswered questions about the future of a girl in building construction.
Three weeks later a building construction teacher walked into the class with an architectural plan in his hand. He opened it, showed us and said “Girls should not think Building Construction is only for boys. Girls can study building construction and end up drawing building plans like this and this plan is not less than 25,000FCFA”. That answered all the unanswered questions I had and I became so passionate and enthusiastic about the field and no one could stop me except God.
I started looking up to the girl in the building construction as my role model without her consent but a year later she dropped the profession and enrolled in a female dominated field. This was a big challenge for me but my passion and enthusiasm in the profession kept me going. During my career, I came across some females in the profession who due to peer influence and gender discrimination, also felt discouraged. Those who successfully went through could only teach in schools because they thought it was so difficult for a female to work on a construction site.When I graduated, I had to make a difference in this profession by starting a construction company to actually practice what I was passionate about and to mentor girls in this field of study.
– What was your Aha moment that got you committed and stuck to Engineering?
My Aha moment was when I started designing architectural plans for people in my community and making money out of it. I did not have a sponsor when I took an irrevocable decision in my life to enroll in the university. My passion and enthusiasm in becoming a civil engineer pushed me to become an entrepreneur. From my small room, I could study and design architectural plans for customers in the community and was able to successfully sponsor myself in the university.
– What would you say is the best thing about what you do?
The best thing about what I do is that it serves as a source of inspiration for women and girls to join the building construction industry. I come from a community where women and girls are scarcely represented in this field due to the stereotype that links masculinity to engineering. Civil engineers’ handwork brings development to the community and like me; I always smile when I see a nice structure realized by my company because even if I am not alive today, the structure will definitely speak for me and keep inspiring more girls.
– What Impacts have you had on your community?
Apart from voluntarily mentoring and sensitizing girls on importance of technical education, I have successfully studied, designed and realized over 40 classrooms both in different secondary and primary schools in my community namely, Government Primary school Buh in Mezam division; ABC Achah comprehensive college, Elemighong Baptist school, Anyajua Catholic school, Government Secondary School Baingoh, all in Belo Sub Diviison; Government Technical High School Njinikom, Government secondary school Mulion, all in Njinkom sub Division; and Government school Abuh in Fundong Sub Division. I am currently supervising the construction of Bamenda University structures, like Amphi theaters, students’ hostels, Sport structures, and so on. I have also studied, design and realized many private construction projects. With the passion I have for gender issues, during the realization of these projects in the different villages, I always find ways of empowering girls through advocacy/mentorship and I am currently advocating for women’s economic empowerment.
– How are you getting more people on board?
Through advocacy and mentorship of women and girls in schools and organizing seminars in local communities and cities
– What are some of the challenges faced?
There’s a challenge when it comes to convincing a potential customer who doesn’t believe a woman can actually construct a building due to the stereotype that links masculinity to engineering. The absence of most of the construction equipment that can actually help to reduce tedious tasks in a construction site, hinders most women/girls from working in construction sites. The care burden women face also obstructs them coming on board.
– What is the major challenge you think that needs to be addressed in your field in your community and country?
Building and road Infrastructure is still a challenge in my community and country and needs urgent attention. Educational, Health, residential, and road infrastructures are the most needed.
– So where do you see your organization/ sector in the next five years? What do you hope to have achieved?
In the next five years, I hope to be the best real estate developer/manager in Cameroon offering esthetically beautiful, quality, affordable, sustainable green houses in Cameroon and bridging the GAP between demand and supply of quality affordable houses. I see my community a well-planned city in the next five years and more women/girls in the construction industry due to what I offer.
– How can interested people get involved?
If you are an investor interested in investing in the real estate, you are welcome. There is a large market for the tailor made beautiful, affordable sustainable green houses in Cameroon. The concept of this housing is African base meaning it can also work well in other African countries.
You can also work as a volunteer in mentoring girls in engineering
You may want to support this company with construction equipment that will help to reduce the tedious tasks in a construction site which will encourage girls to come on board.
If you are a construction technician interested in offering your services, you are welcome.
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Website : www.iconco.org
Tel : +237677471311 / +237694047437