Paulina Serwaa Antwi has always preferred professions often dominated by men. When she worked at Suame Magazine (an industrialized area on the outskirts of Kumasi, a city in southern Ghana), she asked her male co-workers questions about how they accomplished tasks like welding, grinding and spraying. This experience significantly increased her interest in pursuing a male-dominated industry. When Paulina heard about the INVEST project through a high school teacher, she saw it as an opportunity to pursue her passion.
Thanks to the project, women like Paulina can receive funding to study a male-dominated trade. Paulina decided to learn how to work with metal. She studied at Ghana’s Akenten Appiah-Menka University of Skills Training and Entrepreneurial Development (AAMUSTED).
Her father supported her decision to enter a male-dominated trade. Paulina is constantly encouraging her younger sisters and other young women, telling them that what men can achieve, women can do equally.
“Work is work, there is no such thing as work for men and for women. Women can equally do it, provided they have passion for it,” Paulina says.
Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) in Ghana has made huge strides in recent years, offering skills training in a variety of trades and technologies for individuals of all ages. From construction and hairdressing to electrical engineering and dressmaking, there is something for everyone. Yet many of these trades remain male-dominated, and there are a number of gendered barriers facing women who wish to pursue TVET. These barriers range from workplace harassment to family and community discouragement, to the need to balance domestic and childcare responsibilities. It is essential, therefore, to tackle the various issues that prevent women from taking advantage of the many opportunities that TVET provides.
Supporting young women’s participation in non-traditional trades
The INVEST project is an exciting initiative focused on enhancing the economic empowerment and well-being of young women in Ghana, particularly in the major cities of Accra, Kumasi and Takoradi. INVEST seeks to challenge the negative stereotypes associated with women’s participation in trades and technologies and to change public and industry perceptions around social norms. At the same time, it aims to encourage young women to choose non-traditional trades to find fulfilling and profitable work, so they can support themselves and their families.
Organized by WUSC, the project is using a number of communication channels including social media platforms, community announcements, TV and radio, religious gatherings and trade associations to reach the target audience of industry workers, unemployed young women, and their families and communities. To make sure that the project is successful, it’s essential that it reaches a broad audience and is accessible to all age groups.
Farm Radio is coordinating the project’s interactive radio component. This includes in-depth discussions, documentaries and other activities to help raise awareness about the project. Additionally, Farm Radio is producing a series of dramas and stories that demonstrate the value of TVET for young women in Ghana. Listen to the dramas here.
Overcoming barriers to work in a male-dominated trade
Since she was a young girl, Emelia Arthur has been interested in male-dominated trades. Because of her parents’ objections, her dream to work in a male-dominated trade almost never came true. In an effort to encourage Emelia to become a seamstress, her parents even bought her a sewing machine, but she showed little interest in sewing.
When Emelia was told, falsely, that working in fields with a large number of men would make her body more rigid and prevent her from getting pregnant, she became discouraged. However, she finally convinced her parents to support her decision to pursue a trade.
Emelia has never regretted signing up for the training (also at AAMUSTED). She had an interest in welding but had no idea how to do it; today, she can grind, spray and weld.
“Women shouldn’t be afraid to pursue traditionally male-dominated careers because, with the appropriate drive, we can achieve.”
— Emelia Arthur
Emelia has faced several barriers to pursuing her dream. One issue was that the necessary supplies for jobs were never on time. Emelia also lived far from campus, so transportation was very expensive. To avoid missing classes, she relocated to a community closer to her school.
Emelia would most certainly support other young women going into traditionally male-dominated fields, provided they are committed to the work and have a passion for it. If they are committed and persistent, she believes that women can thrive and even excel in this sector.
Advancing gender equality in Ghana
INVEST is an important project that is helping to transform gender roles, perceptions and attitudes. Through its various platforms and channels, the project is providing specialized TVET skills training and academic sponsorship for young women, as well as strengthening training providers’ capacity to offer gender-sensitive and relevant skills training. Ultimately, this project is promoting gender equality and helping young women reach their potential.
Through the INVEST project, WUSC and Farm Radio are helping to create a more equal and prosperous society in Ghana. We look forward to seeing the positive impact this project will have in the years to come.
About the project
Innovation in Non-Traditional Vocational Education and Skills Training (INVEST) for women in Ghana is a collaborative 5-year initiative (2020-2025) that will advance sustainable pathways to enhanced economic empowerment and well-being for 5,000 urban poor young women in Ghana, operating in its three largest cities — Accra, Kumasi and Sekondi-Takoradi — representing a total population of about 6.5 million people. The project is led by WUSC, thanks to funding from Global Affairs Canada.
About the author
Fonzy Louis Dela Fek is a communications volunteer at Farm Radio International’s Ghana office.