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Ghana: Kankani Fauzia breaks barriers by pursuing her career in a male-dominated, non-traditional field

This story is part of a series called Stars in the Field, produced as part of the Young Women in TVET project. Through this series, we profile women working in the Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) sector in Ghana. While not a typical “Farmer story,” we think these profiles can inspire your listeners and start a conversation about traditional and non-traditional jobs for men and women in your community.

It’s a sunny afternoon and Kankani Fauzia is in her workshop getting ready to spray paint customers’ vehicles. Dressed in her blue work clothes, the 40-year-old woman is mixing two cans of paint while five men that work with her are busy cleaning the surfaces of three luxury SUVs.

Ms. Fauzani says: “When I was growing up, I always admired male-dominated fields like [auto] body work and mechanics. Although I have no formal education, I managed to learn spray painting skills through an informal apprenticeship.”

Ms. Fauzani is a car detailer and sprayer who has carved out a niche for herself in the automobile industry in Kumasi, the capital of Ghana’s Ashanti Region. 

Ms. Fauzia’s journey as a car detailer and sprayer began when she was just 14 years old. She explains: “At that time, a lot of women who wanted to learn a trade or pick up a vocational skill preferred to pursue careers in female-related traditional jobs such as catering, dressmaking, or hairdressing. But my interest was in spray painting, although it was regarded as a career for men.”

Gender-stereotyped beliefs continue to influence people’s behaviour and attitudes towards occupational choices. In Ghana, work done in the automotive industry by sprayers, welders, and electricians has long been perceived as restricted to men.

Ms. Fauzani says: “I had no support for formal education and my parents wanted me to learn dressmaking, but I refused and was looking out for opportunities in fields mainly occupied by men.” 

She continues, “I got the opportunity and decided to be a car sprayer. I am glad that … I have achieved my dream. Now I am a master with apprentices in spray painting.”

Ms. Fauzani says her mother was not in favour of her career plans. She explains, “My mother wanted me to follow in the steps of other girls who were pursuing careers in dressmaking [or hairdressing].”

In Ghana, men dominate both traditional and non-traditional technical and vocational education and training, or TVET. Ms. Fauzani explains: “Women in this sector are few. Many think it is solely for men. In most sectors, one out of ten employees are women because few pursue careers in traditional and non-traditional TVET.”

Ms. Fauzani says she faces many challenges as a woman trying to break barriers in a male dominated-field: “I think females in male-dominated fields get the upper hand for jobs only if they are [very] good. When customers come around, they want the woman to rather handle their jobs for them because the customer feels the woman can do it best.”

She adds, “However, some people underrate my expertise mainly because of my gender. Some people don’t give me work because I am a woman.”

Some customers always prefer women to work on their cars when one is available. Ms. Fauzani says this gradually breeds resentment amongst her male colleagues. 

She explains: “Most often, you are the only female in a male-dominated workplace, which is a barrier because every decision at the workplace will favour the men. You usually do not have women friends at work to relate with.” 

The other challenge women face in male-dominated careers like spray painting is threats to their health. It is believed that the chemicals that workers are exposed to are more harmful to women than to men. 

Ms. Fauzani says: “Due to the lack of appropriate protective clothes, many women do not venture into this field. In addition to this challenge, some women get married along the way and they get pregnant and their husbands tell them to change jobs.”

Despite these challenges, Ms. Fauzani has achieved a lot in a career that is dominated by men. She owns the workshop she currently works in and has male colleagues who help her do the work. 

Her clients are mostly prominent people in Kumasi with top-tier vehicles. She also has customers from countries such as Burkina Faso and Mali. She now boasts 13 years’ experience in the field.

During that time, Ms. Fauzani has trained many apprentices. The majority are men, but she has also trained two women. She says: “I am ready and interested in mentoring other females in this field through apprenticeship. Choosing to be in a non-traditional TVET has many advantages. It raises the standard of living for the individuals [and] their families also benefit.”

This resource was produced as part of the Innovation in Non-traditional Vocational Education and Skills Training Project, INVEST, implemented by WUSC with funding from Global Affairs Canada. 

Photo: Kankani Fauzia at work, spray painting a car. Credit: Gideon Kwame Sarkodie Osei.