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Ghana: Woman welder encourages women to pursue courses in male-dominated fields

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. 

Full of energy and vigour and with a smile on her face, Gladys Perpetual Awudi stands in front of a group of students. She is wearing gloves and a face visor because she is operating welding equipment that requires these safety measures. 

As usual, the 45-year-old woman is in a workshop in Ghana teaching students how to weld. 

Engineer Awudi says: “I love welding and I think I may do welding work till my old age. Although I have upgraded my qualification to a mechanical engineer, I still prefer to be called a welder because of the love and passion I have for this profession.”

Engineer Awudi is currently a lecturer at Koforidua Technical University where she teaches Mechanical Engineering. She also trains youth in welding science, arc and gas technology, structural steel works, and industrial mechanics at training workshops.

She has been teaching since 2012, and her ambitions don’t stop there. Engineer Awudi explains, “I currently weld and I also teach, but I am looking forward to establishing my own welding school to train more professionals in this field.”

Engineer Awudi says that she chose to pursue welding as a career when she was very young, although she had not seen any women welders in Ghana. She adds that the only time she saw a woman working as a welder was on television—and that woman was white. Now she is succeeding in a field which many people told her was suited only for men.

She says her passion was so strong that in senior high school, she switched from a home economics course to study welding. Engineer Awudi was the only woman among 40 men in her class, but she was never intimidated. 

She recalls: “I was so focused and very positive that I would make it in this course that has, for a long time, been dominated by men. I was proud of the field I had chosen and I did not [stand for] any form of intimidation or bullying from anybody.”

She adds, “Throughout my career, the majority of my colleagues have been men because few women join this profession.”

Being one of just a few women does not deter Engineer Awudi. She says that, despite the challenges, “I execute my work perfectly.”

As a teacher, Engineer Awudi trains and prepares young people and adults, both men and women, to enter the welding industry. 

She says, “Most of my students are working in the industry now and some are entrepreneurs. Others have joined the Ghana Police Service and the Ghana Armed Forces.”

She says, “This was just after I completed my three-year intermediate and advanced training in welding at the Tema Technical Institute.”

For over ten years, Engineer Awudi has worked in several heavy-duty industries ranging from oil and gas to construction and manufacturing. In her regular daily job, she welds pipes, plates, and storage tanks, and does inspections and general maintenance. 

Since deciding to become a welder, Engineer Awudi has advanced immensely in her career. She completed both a Bachelor of Science and a Master’s Degree in Mechanical Technology. She is currently studying for a postgraduate degree in Mechanical Engineering in Canada. 

Over her career, Engineer Awudi has won many awards, including best teacher in the technical category in Tema Metro district and the Greater Accra region in 2014. She has also helped to train many professionals in welding and mechanical engineering.

Engineer Awudi is also a self-proclaimed gender advocate who is fighting for more women to join Technical and Vocational Education Training (TVET)-related careers. 

She advises: “Do not just push ladies into TVET careers, but have a sustainable program to ensure they remain in the field. Unfortunately, so far almost all the ladies I know who pursued welding have diverted to other fields.”

Engineer Awudi says that though women shy away from technical and male-dominated fields, her profession is rewarding. 

She explains: “In the well-established heavy-duty industries, salaries are calculated per hour and I remember during my peak years, I was making about 150 Ghanaian Cedis (US $19.36) per hour, so you can imagine [your income] if you do ten hours in a day.”  

She adds: “People and families who think TVET professions such as welding and engineering are not for women should refute such claims. I have been doing this since before I got married. Now I have my family and I can do welding till old age. I am even looking younger.”

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: Gladys Perpetual Awudi in a workshop in Ghana. Credit: Linda Dede Nyanya Godji.