Sharing Knowledge, Giving Voice

Building Accra: Encouraging women and youth to enter residential construction sector

Madam Eunice Ado, who teaches welding and fabrication at GRATIS Foundation

Ghana is booming. Residential construction in the Greater Accra Region — a loud, crowded, sweaty metropolis of 4 million and rising — is now one of the fastest growing sectors of the Ghanaian economy. Accra, as well known for its trendy restaurants and nightclubs as it is for its hours-long traffic jams, is surging outwards to meet the needs of thousands of people pouring into the city in search of better opportunities. And those people need homes, ranging from the modest dwellings of ordinary life to large, luxury apartment buildings.

Yet, in a construction industry currently needing an additional 60,000 skilled artisans to meet this demand (and as many as 250,000 by 2020), women make up only about three per cent of the workforce.

Like in many places, construction work in Ghana is seen as the domain of men. Women are hesitant to involve themselves: According to a survey from the Ghanaian Council for Technical and Vocational Education and Training, over 65 per cent of respondents said females do not typically enter male-dominated trades because the work is “too masculine.”

However, in this Farm Radio International and Uniterra saw an opportunity. In partnership with WUSC and CECI through the Uniterra Communication for Scale initiative, FRI decided to challenge these stereotypes head-on through interactive radio programming.

So, for the past two years, and working closely alongside two radio station partners in the Greater Accra Region, Farm Radio has been helping these radio stations to design and deliver programming that shows just how valuable women can be in the construction sector. The program, called Kyere W’adwene (Express your mind), airs on Accra FM and Radio Emashie with the goal of increasing the number of women enrolling in trade schools.

To make the programming unique, entertaining and educational, experts from different fields of residential construction have been interviewed and profiled. One of the weekly stars included Madam Eunice Ado, who now teaches welding and fabrication at GRATIS Foundation. A student herself not long ago, Madam Eunice arrived at the Koforidua ITT school expecting to take a batik or tie dye course. When those were unavailable, she chose welding. She was initially intimidated and unsure whether she could succeed in a male-dominated field. However, befriending other female students gave her the motivation she needed to push forward and excel.

In the 11 years since she graduated and was hired as an instructor at GRATIS, the men and women she has trained have gone on to work in construction and engineering, many opening their own workshops.

Role models like her provide an inspiration for other young women hoping to work in residential construction. She has advice for other women looking to do what she did:

“I tell them not to fear learning the job, no matter how difficult it is. It is them that will benefit in future, they will not have learned in vain,” she said.

The feedback so far has been exciting, with hundreds of respondents interacting with the radio program. About 80 per cent of the listeners have indicated a positive change in their perceptions of women in residential construction. And one institution, the Youth Inclusive Entrepreneurial Development Initiative for Employment, reported that female enrollment in the training programs has increased from 10 per cent of students to 40 per cent.

Farm Radio International has partnered with WUSC and CECI’s Uniterra program to implement Communication for Scale. CECI and WUSC are financially supported by the Government of Canada through Global Affairs Canada, www.international.gc.ca. The third phase of the radio programming, including 12 weeks on air, is in development, with two years remaining.

About the author  

Connor Oke is a journalism student at Carleton University. He is a communications volunteer at our Ghana office through the Uniterra program.