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Meet the woman welder joining the workforce

Richenda from Papua New Guinea is challenging the stereotype that certain jobs are gender-specific by successfully training to become a welder with support from Plan International.

Richenda, 25, found work as a welder after joining Plan International's Youth Initiative in Bougainville
Richenda, 25, found work as a welder after joining Plan International's Youth Initiative in Bougainville.

Richenda was the only woman in her welding class. It earned her the respect of the boys, because she “was able to do what they could do.” 

While studying, Richenda joined Plan International’s Bougainville Youth Initiative. With support and training from Plan International’s Outreach Workers, Richenda was able to build her confidence, learn about roles and responsibilities in the workplace, gain access to on-the-job training opportunities and secure work as a welder.

Smashing stereotypes

“I have been a welder for 1 and a half years. I finished school when I was in grade 10 and then in 2015 I did vocational training until 2016. I couldn’t continue to grade 11 because I failed my exams. I didn’t believe that was the end of my education because I knew I had other opportunities. In our province, we have many vocational schools that accept school dropouts. My family was not very supportive because I was living with my uncle and aunty and they wanted me to get a job instead of going to school.

My dream is to save up a lot of money so that I can start up my own business.

“I wanted to become a welder because when you look for work there are many job opportunities. Before I went to vocational school, I used to help my uncle and aunty in their supermarket store. The job paid well and I enjoyed it, but I didn’t have a certificate to work there so if I wanted to be a cashier somewhere else I wasn’t able to. While I was working as a cashier, I was able to save enough money to pay my fees for vocational training. 

“When I was at vocational school studying to become a welder, I was the only girl in a class full of boys. I liked that, because the boys respected me. I was a woman who was able to do what they could do. When I first became a welder, I was afraid of the equipment because I was using electric equipment. 

Dreaming of a bright future

“My dream is to save up a lot of money so that I can start up my own business. If I continue to work, I can choose to go study another course and go back to school. I may study for another job.” 

Plan International’s project, the Bougainville Youth Initiative, provided training and support to more than 700 youth to improve their skills to access decent work. The project also provided opportunities for 450 young women and men to learn about their rights, and engage in governance, peace and security issues in their communities.