Building Accra: Encouraging women and youth to enter residential construction—by using radio

| November 18, 2018

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Ghana is booming. Residential construction in the Greater Accra Region—a loud, crowded, sweaty metropolis of four million and rising—is now one of the fastest growing sectors of the Ghanaian economy. Accra is as well known for its trendy restaurants and nightclubs as for its hours-long traffic jams. The city is surging outwards to meet the needs of thousands of people pouring in to search for better opportunities. And those people need homes, ranging from modest dwellings to large, luxury apartment buildings.

Yet in a construction industry that currently needs an additional 60,000 skilled artisans to meet this demand (and as many as a quarter of a million by 2020), women make up only about 3% of the workforce.

As in many other places, construction work in Ghana is seen as men’s domain. Women are hesitant to get involved. According to a survey by the Ghanaian Council for Technical and Vocational Education and Training, over 65% of respondents said women do not typically enter male-dominated trades because the work is “too masculine.”

However, Farm Radio International and Uniterra saw an opportunity. In partnership with Canadian NGOs World University Service Canada (WUSC) and Centre d’étude et de coopération internationale (CECI), and through the Uniterra Communication for Scale initiative, FRI decided to challenge these stereotypes head-on through interactive radio programming.

For the past two years, Farm Radio has been working closely with two radio station partners in the Greater Accra Region, helping the stations to design and deliver programming that shows just how valuable women can be in the construction sector. The program, called Kyere W’adwene (Express your mind), airs on Accra FM and Radio Emashie and aims to increase the number of women enrolling in trade schools.

To make the programming unique, entertaining, and educational, the program interviews and profiles experts from different fields of residential construction. One of the weekly stars was Madam Eunice Ado, who teaches welding and fabrication at GRATIS Foundation. A student herself not long ago, Madam Eunice arrived at the Koforidua ITT school expecting to take a batik or tie dye course. When those were unavailable, she chose welding. At first, she was intimidated and unsure whether she could succeed in a male-dominated field. But befriending other female students gave her the motivation she needed to push forward and excel.

In the 11 years since she graduated and was hired as an instructor at GRATIS, the men and women she trained have gone on to work in construction and engineering, many opening their own workshops.

Role models like Madam Eunice provide an inspiration for other young women hoping to work in residential construction. She has advice for other women looking to follow her lead: “I tell them not to fear learning the job, no matter how difficult it is. It is them that will benefit in future; they will not have learned in vain.”

The feedback on the radio programs so far has been exciting, with hundreds of listeners interacting with the programs. About 80% of listeners say there has been a positive change in their perceptions of women in residential construction. One institution, the Youth Inclusive Entrepreneurial Development Initiative for Employment, reported that female enrollment in training programs has increased from 10% of students to 40%.

Farm Radio International partnered with WUSC and CECI’s Uniterra program to implement Communication for Scale. CECI and WUSC are financially supported by the Government of Canada through Global Affairs Canada, The third phase of radio programming, including 12 weeks on air, is in development, with two years remaining.