GNN.org is the exclusive media partner for the 2018 ‘Global Good Fund’ Fellows—12 extraordinary young social entrepreneurs who are making the world a better place. Chosen annually, the 12 Fellows are each matched with an executive mentor, leadership coach, and $10,000. Hand-selected from 2,400 applicants in 100 countries, these visionaries are being celebrated—one each day on GNN—leading up to the 6th Annual Global Good Fund Gala, on April 26.
Many women would be discouraged from pursuing work in the labor industry, let alone starting their own construction company – but not this woman.
Tim Immaculate Bih grew up in Bamenda, Cameroon, a community where technical education is regarded as “for men only” — a seemingly impassable wall for a young girl who dreams of becoming a civil engineer.
But, during her secondary school days, Immaculate became inspired by a woman who was studying construction. They never spoke, but Immaculate watched in astonishment as she drew up her building plans.
Following in the footsteps of her silent role model, Immaculate started designing architectural plans for people in her community in exchange for monetary payment so she could enroll in university.
After overcoming many challenges, she graduated with a degree in civil engineering, and in 2010, she founded ICON: a company that works to build sustainable infrastructures in Cameroon while bringing women into the engineering workforce. This made Immaculate the first ever construction-focused female entrepreneur in the region.
Through ICON, she designs and constructs private residential buildings, school buildings and ventilated improved pit latrines in schools, and currently controls all construction of Bamenda University and the Bamenda Referral Hospital. The social enterprise also offers tutoring and mentoring services for women interested in civil engineering careers.
“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 and mentorship, and I am currently advocating for women’s economic empowerment”, Immaculate explains.
Immaculate has built over 40 classrooms and 50 Ventilated Improved Pit Latrines in Boyo and Ngohketunia, divisions of the northwest region of Cameroon where students are privileged to study in decent classrooms and use these improved gender-sensitive toilets. The toilets have helped minimize the rate of disease outbreaks related to cholera, dysentery and malaria.
Immaculate, who won a 2017 award for Africa’s Most Influential Woman in Business in Building and Construction, is also working to address the GAP between demand and supply of affordable homes in Africa through her innovative Butterfly Housing concept.
Over the course of executing these projects as a female engineer, Immaculate has inspired parents to send their young girls to study technical education – and she is delighted to watch the stereotypical links between masculinity and engineering slowly fade away.
Through its Fellowship program launched in 2012, The Global Good Fund invests in high potential leaders committed to social impact worldwide. It also created the 360 MIRROR – the first evidence-based leadership assessment for social entrepreneurs and CEOs.
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