Within the last three months after completing training on tile-laying, Ms Samata Ibrahim, a 25-year-old resident of Zujung in Tamale, has not been idle again.
If she is not assisting a master craftsman on a tile-laying contract, she will be working on her own contract. So far, not only did she assist her master craftsman to work on a number of tile-laying contracts including a two-bedroom house in Tamale, but she, on her own, also secured a number of contracts, where she laid tiles in containers for some provision stores at Dungu in Tamale.
Ms Samata told the Ghana News Agency (GNA) that “I gave estimates to a client and I am expecting him to call me this week to lay tiles in his container.” She spoke about why she decided to learn tile-laying saying “I just like it. It is my passion and I know I will succeed in it.”
On challenges she faced as a lady working in a male-dominated field she said “People keep telling me you are a woman. Tiling is not a job for women. Some people do not want to give me work because I am a woman. They will only give me work when they see my good works.”
Ms Samata dropped out of school at primary five about 15 years ago. Whilst home, life became difficult, and she hoped for a push to acquire some self-employable skills. Her dream came alive in 2021 when she was selected to undergo training on tile laying. She said “Things are getting better for me now. I am now able to afford my needs.”
Having dropped out of senior high school six years ago, and going through a lot of difficulties to cater for her six-year-old son as a single parent, Ms Bushira Yussif, a 29-year-old resident of Choggu in the Sagnarigu Municipality, knew she needed to acquire some skill to turn her situation around.
As fate would have it, in 2021, she was selected to undergo training on tile laying. She completed the training in November, that year, and got attached to a master craftsman, who she has been assisting to execute tile-laying contracts all over the country.
Two months ago, she spent more than a week in Kumasi assisting her master craftsman to lay tiles in a storey building.
She recently put to practice the soft skills she learnt alongside tile-laying by posting some of her works on social media, which attracted interest from people, some of who called her to do similar works for them.
Ms Bushira told the GNA that “I have filed papers at the Registrar General's Department to register my tile laying company to formalise my operations and bid for bigger contracts.” She spoke about the challenges facing women in the sector saying some men were always surprised seeing me laying tiles adding “Even though there is a lot of work in the sector, some people are hesitant to engage females.
However, I am not perturbed. I will keep pushing. I want to own one of the biggest tile-laying companies in the country within the next few years.” She added that “Things are better for me now. Now, even if I do not get it, someone will get it and call me to join him or her to work and I will have something to take care of myself and my boy.”
Samata and Bushira were not the only unemployed young women, who were trained. A total of 1,133 other unemployed young people in the Tamale Metropolis and the Sagnarigu Municipality of the Northern Region were trained and gained proficiency qualifications in various construction-related trades issued by the National Vocational Training Institute in Tamale.
The training, which lasted at least six months, has equipped them with various skills in the construction sector including carpentry, tiling, Plaster of Paris (P.O.P) ceiling fixing amongst others to enhance their chances of landing jobs and or creating their own jobs. This formed part of a project dubbed: “Pathways for Sustainable Employment for Women and Youth (PASEWAY).
The PASEWAY Project
Youth unemployment is a major socio-economic and political problem in the country. The 2021 Population and Housing Census put the country's population at 30.8 million.
A third of this figure is between 15 and 35 years, and another 38.2 per cent is under 15 years of age. This means the size of the working-age population will significantly increase in the coming years. This calls for concerted efforts to create not only the badly needed jobs but also to have the requisite skilled labour to take up those jobs.
This gave birth to the PASEWAY project implemented from 2020 to 2022 in the Tamale Metropolis and the Sagnarigu Municipality by the Regional Advisory Information and Network Systems (RAINS). The project, which is the initiative of Plan International with funding from the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development of Germany, involves other implementing partners in Greater Accra and Ashanti Regions in the construction and the hospitality sub-sectors.
The PASEWAY project empowers young people between the ages of 15 to 35 with tile laying, carpentry and P.O.P ceiling fixing skills to enable them to find employment and or set up their own businesses in the construction sector.
They, among others, also benefit from a combination of opportunities including internships, ongoing monitoring for newly-appointed young people, tailor-made business development support and advice, access to youth-inclusive financial services, a platform to offer services, providing links to industry representatives and members of the youth-led association of young people employed in the construction sector.
Results so far
So far, the project has achieved 1,133 of the 1200 beneficiary targets through support in technical skills training, certification of prior learning, business formalisation and soft skills relevant to the construction sector supplied start-up basic tools to 100 youth entrepreneurs constituting 61 females and 49 males to facilitate access to employment and business growth and supported 521 young people to acquire technical knowledge and skills relevant to the construction sector.
It has also successfully facilitated 509 young people to certify knowledge acquired outside of formal training, supported 117 informal businesses in the construction sector to formalise their businesses by registering with the Registrar General Department, improved access of 1,133 young people to information on business planning, financial literacy, product development through coaching session on Business Advisory Services, and facilitated access of 150 young people to short- and long-term employment in the construction sector.
Ghana's construction sector and job stereotypes
Ghana's construction sector, which includes housing and urban development and infrastructure, contributes substantially to gross domestic product (GDP) and employment.
Provisional estimates released by Ghana Statistical Service indicated that the construction industry recorded a growth rate of 18.3 per cent year-on-year for the third quarter of 2018 and provided employment for approximately 420,000 people.
A large number of building and construction contractors ranging from indigenous micro-enterprises and individual contractors to foreign multinational civil engineering and construction giants operate in the sector in the country.
With the huge contribution to the economy, one would have thought that there would be a balance in terms of workers in the sector.
Unfortunately, only three per cent of workers in the sector are women. Factors such as stereotypes and perceptions, societal norms, and the costs of training and education have been identified as some of the reasons accounting for the low involvement of women in the sector.
People, generally accept the norm that the construction sector is a preserve for men. In most instances, some clients think women cannot do a good job and therefore do not like to offer such jobs to them. This results in limited job opportunities for women.
It is expected that the waves being made by the beneficiaries of the PASEWAY project will help break the stereotypes, perceptions and norms to ensure increased involvement of women in the sector to earn decent incomes.
The way forward
Ghana's construction sector is expected to continue to grow, remain lucrative, and be labor-intensive. Women being the majority of the population cannot and must not be left out of this sector.
Women have demonstrated a high level of professionalism in the construction space by executing jobs in the sector.
It is time to do away with the stereotypes, perceptions, and norms, and offer jobs to women in the construction sector as they are highly qualified and can do even better than men can do.
The PASEWAY project amongst other similar interventions is, therefore, showing the way to ensure increased employment opportunities for women in the country's ever-growing and lucrative construction sector.
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