Nationally, Habitat for Humanity celebrates Women Build Week in May. It’s a week-long event created by Habitat’s Women Build program that invites women to devote a day to helping other families build strength, stability, and independence through housing. Women Build is a nationwide program that encourages women to break the stigma that ‘women can’t build’. The Fort Collins Habitat for Humanity has taken this a step further and encourages women to volunteer on site as well as help fund the home for the entire month of May.
The idea for Women Build began in Charlotte, North Carolina in 1991, when a group of women completed the first women-built Habitat for Humanity house. A few years later in 1997, US first lady Hillary Clinton, Kentucky first lady Libby Jones, and Oklahoma first lady Cathy Keating participated in a Women Build. From their teamwork, the idea for ‘First Ladies Build’ was formed. From 1999-2001, the Women Build department hosted the First Ladies Build. Female governors and first ladies from across the nation came together with Habitat for Humanity to help build homes for families in need.
Women Build as well as Habitat for Humanity underwent a few changes: the program increased in size and reach and gained a larger support system, namely sponsorship from Lowe’s. In 2008, Lowe’s sponsored National Women Build Week for the days leading up to Mother’s Day. The event was a huge success, and approximately 6,000 women volunteers participated across the US. In 2009 alone, 252 Women Build homes were constructed! That number would only continue to grow as a record number of over 1,650 houses were completed in 2010.
Today, more and more women are participating and giving their time and money to helping families in need. Women Build has an international reach, despite the fact that ownership and property rights for women can be an obstacle in some countries. Habitat partners with several organizations to help give these women a voice. “We at Habitat have the ability to provide opportunities for hands-on learning, and given these tools, women can succeed in changing their communities” (Habitat.org).
Many women feel insecure about volunteering with Habitat because they do not have experience with construction or power tools. But during the Women Build Week, Fort Collins Habitat for Humanity hosts a Power Tools Clinic. The clinic gives women the opportunity to familiarize themselves with many construction tools so that they can feel more confident going into the volunteer position at the build site.
Individuals as well as businesses are invited to contribute to Women Build projects monetarily, and/or donate their time on site. Often, Women Build homeowners are single mothers; one can only imagine what a positive impact this program has on a family’s life. We invite you to participate in this year’s Women Build Month beginning in May (men are still of course welcome to join, too!) Follow Fort Collins Habitat Women Build on Facebook for more updates on upcoming events, newly built homes, shared photos of our community’s empowered women, and more!