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Ghana: Women metal fabricator fights the odds to prosper

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 about half past seven in the morning, but Ruth Dzigbordi Medufia is already in her workshop. The 31-year-old metal fabricator is busy teaching her apprentices how to properly finish a piece of metal work.

She says, “My work is demanding, sometimes difficult, but it’s lovely as well. I love welding and fabrication because I am making a lot of money that I didn’t expect.”

Ms. Medufia’s workshop is located at Kansaworodo Mampong Kokompe in Takoradi, in the western region of Ghana.

She says her love for metal work started when she was nine years old. She explains: “At that time, I already knew what I wanted to be because I used to visit a welder around our vicinity to learn welding at his shop using leftover metals. This is the period I started making my own metal designs.”

Ms. Medufia’s passion and desire to become a welder has always been so strong that not even her parents could discourage her. 

She says: “My parents and siblings used to discourage me, [saying] that I would be infertile because of fabrication, and that a girl cannot make it in welding. All these words could not stop me pursuing my childhood dream career in metal fabrication.”  

She adds: “My mother wanted me to become a soldier while my dad wanted me to become a lawyer. They tried their best to stop me from learning metal fabrication, but I stood my ground.” 

After finishing junior high school in 2012, Ms. Medufia wanted to pursue metal fabrication at a technical school. But her parents refused. She was forced to pursue general arts at Ideal College at Takoradi. 

A few months after completing senior high school in 2015, Ms. Medufia took a bold decision to fund herself for an apprenticeship as a metal fabricator. She says, “Because I knew that my family could not support my decision, I decided to find ways of supporting myself.”

She recalls, “I did meagre jobs and saved money to pay for my apprenticeship training. In November 2015, I started my apprenticeship training in metal fabrication.” 

Samuel Koomson is Ms. Medufia’s master in fabrication. At first, he was unwilling to accept her as his apprentice in metal fabrication because she was a woman. But finally, she convinced him and since then, her master has supported her throughout her career.  

Ms. Medufia says she was able to finish her training because she was disciplined at saving money. She explains: “I continued to save money, and while I was learning, I managed to buy a fabrication machine, which helped me to do some piecework. By the end of my three-year apprenticeship training, I [had] bought a number of welding and fabrication machines that helped me to start my own workshop.”

Because she was good at saving money, Ms. Medufia was also able to buy land from the side jobs she was doing during the second year of her apprenticeship. This helped her establish her own workshop after completing her three-year training in November 2018.

Ms. Medufia has since travelled to various parts of Ghana to do welding and fabrication for clients. She says, “In the next five to ten years, I look forward to opening branches [of my business] not just in Ghana, but across Africa and the world.” 

Four male apprentices work for her, and her utmost desire is to welcome and train more young women as apprentices. 

According to Ms. Medufia, her parents are happy for her now because she is a breadwinner in her family. She is also helping some of her siblings to further their education. She adds, “I have also been able to acquire two plots [of land] and I intend to start building my first house in 2023.”

Ms. Medufia is proud of what she has achieved in welding and fabrication. She explains: “If I was not able to stand on my feet and fight for myself, I wouldn’t be where I am today. I want many youth, especially young women, to benefit from what I learned.” 

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: Ruth Dzigbordi Medufia working on a metal piece.