When we were young, we used to hear the adage: “What men, can do, women can also do better.” This has been marvelling my mind until I found a non-government organisation championing the course women empowerment in the Northern sector. Women are perceived to be for the kitchen and the farm but the current encouragement has inspired many young girls and women to take up roles believed to be for men and execute them perfectly.
Securing gender equality rights in every aspect of life is essential to achieving a just and sustainable world. Gender inequality arises from established and often institutionalised cultural beliefs and behaviours that play out at personal, societal, institutional, and political levels according to the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 5.
For women and girls, gender inequalities have consequences for income as well as other basics of well-being, such as health and education, the goal explained. Within countries, economic and social policies need to be explicitly geared towards reducing gender inequalities pertaining to job acquisition in the country.
While entrepreneurship has been identified as crucial to solving the unemployment problem in Ghana, gender stereotypes are forcing women to limit themselves to trades that are deemed fit, only for them.
However, the Women’s Economic Empowerment in Northern Ghana [WEE – North] project under the Alinea Foundation, a non-governmental women empowerment organisation has been preparing the minds of young women to break through gender stereotypes and venture into male-dominated trades or vocations.
The WEE-North project is a five-year project funded by Global Affairs Canada and implemented by Alinea International in northern Ghana. The project works with families, technical training institutions, and industries to have young women from remote and underserved communities break gendered stereotypes by introducing them to trades such as bricklaying, electrical installation, plumbing, carpentry, welding, and small engine repair.
It aims at empowering young girls from Junior High school to acquire the needed skills so that during their adulthood and marriage stage, they could also have a source of income through valuable and decent work.
Many young girls from northern Ghana have been trained and inspired to help change the face of industrial trades perceived to be meant for men but now could break the stereotypes in order to achieve greatness through the WEE-North Project. The females are trained on how to manage issues relating to gender inequality, sexual rights and harassment to navigate a male-dominated workplace.
In the rural areas of northern Ghana, women often ask their husbands for consent to work in jobs where they earn money. At the same time, this region struggles to find skilled workers for industrial trades. In response, WEE-North launched the initiative to help women join the workforce as welders, plumbers, carpenters, bricklayers and electricians, etc.
These opportunities are aimed at increasing productivity, profitability and access to decent work for women. To overcome prevailing gender stereotypes and barriers, the project uses approaches that engage men in creating change in gender relations in their communities. The project provides personal protective equipment for every trainee that is appropriate for her trade specialisation.
This step ensures physical protection for trainees so they can learn to safely operate equipment, reduce hazards and dispose of waste materials in an environmentally-sound manner during training and in the workplace.
It provides high-quality, intensive training in selected industrial trades for young women to build the hands-on skills and experience needed to access decent work.
The project partners with selected Technical and Vocational Education and Training centres (TVETs) across northern Ghana to offer practical industrial trades training programmes, focusing on achieving competencies through using hand tools and equipment in the workshops.
The Director of Youth Alive, Agnes Talata Chiravira believes that women should begin venturing into the sector to acquire skills in order to create job opportunities as well bridge gender equality within the trade sector. She believes that trades or vocations like hairdressing, fashion designing, etc which are also considered the preserve for women, are becoming a limiting factor to women who have other potentials that they may want to explore.
“Trades like hairdressing and dressmaking are choked. They are not well–paying anymore. We know that there are trades which are doing well but which are perceived by the public as male areas. But there is no trade where it is written that it is only for males. All these are stereotypes – society has prescribed trades for different sexes,” Madam Chiravira said.
Grace Yakubu, a graduate and beneficiary, also shared her experience saying, the training turned out better than she had expected. “I feel veer empowered right now. I have developed a lot of passion for my trade. I now believe in the saying that what men can do, women can also do better. All thanks to Alinea Foundation for the WEE North Project,” she said.
Field Manager at WEE-North, Dr. Nancy Drost, noted that the project was all about training young women in men-dominated trades in order to breach the gaps in these areas. She however called on all stakeholders such as parents, teachers and all community leaders to encourage more young women to take up such trades to ensure the welfare of the young girls.
“We will continue to provide them with both soft and hard skills in order to keep them empowered. There is also a savings group and multi programme which will help to keep them empowered for the rest of their lives,” she said.
Per the contribution of the organisation and others in the fight against gender equality and stereotypes, there is a need for the government and other agencies to help support the agenda by allocating some resources to achieve the set goals.. We need to also encourage more potential young girls to venture into the sector to create job opportunities.
Parents need to be advised to motivate their girls to pursue such skills which have a ready job market rather than pursuing programmes with fewer job opportunities that lead to unemployment. The ability of the less endowed to be able to acquire skills and job go a long way to enable them to contribute to the development of their society and the country as a whole. We need to support the agenda to train more young girls in industrial skills to bridge the gender gap.
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