Women Build is a Habitat volunteering program that invites women of all ages, cultures and religions to join the fight against poverty. Women get together and travel far and wide, learning construction skills as well as building homes and communities.
The three core principles of the project are building, investing and advocacy. Women are not only building houses, but also supporting Habitat’s international projects financially and giving a voice to orphans, single or widowed mothers to secure property rights and safer communities.
Eva is plastering the walls with mud for a proper insulation
From paperwork to construction work
Eva Zentko, a finance consultant from Habitat’s area office in Bratislava, Slovakia, led her first team of women in August 2012. Nine volunteers from the UK and USA came to build Akyl’s and Zootbeck’s house in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan.
Akyl was out of hospital after two operations, trying to recover and find a new place to live for her family. Zootbeck was the only one with a stable income, working on the construction of private homes. Both of them, along with their twins, Chyngyz and Ilgiz, lived in one room, part of an eight-room house made of concrete blocks.
“I was in despair.”
Around 40 people lived in the house and there was no running water inside. The toilet was outside, in the yard. “We suffer a lot here as there is no heating system in the house and we use an electric heater during harsh winters, but that is not enough to warm the rooms. I did not know how to live and raise our boys after recovering from my illness,” said Akyl.
She registered with the local municipality to obtain a plot of land to build a house, but no progress was made for a long time. Then her family was on the needy list that the municipality handed over to Habitat Kyrgyzstan. In a while, they were selected for a new cane reed house.
The team finished plastering one of the rooms of Akyl’s and Zootbeck’s house
Working women in a different culture
Eva’s team arrived on the site and found the wooden structure of the house. “The family couldn’t get it that women from all over the world were paying money to come and help them build the house. They thought we came to take some pictures” said Eva.
“Until we started to actually work on the house, they couldn’t believe it”, she continues. “In the first two days, we didn’t interact much, especially because in the Kyrgyz culture women don’t build. But when they saw how fast the work went, everyone started working with us and sharing their stories.”
By the end of the build, the team finished walls and insulation for one room. “After we finished the room, you could feel the difference the insulation makes. Outside it was hot, but the cane reed and the mud kept the room cool.”
What is next?
Habitat wants people not only to read about poverty housing but do something to fight it. You can support Habitat’s work in Europe and Central Asia in a number of ways:
• Visit our Euro donations  page to support projects in Kyrgyzstan.
• Visit our U.S. Dollar donations  page to support projects in Kyrgyzstan.
• Go to country profile  pages to learn about other programs in this country.