Meet the female carpenter defying gender stereotypes
The Youth Social Economic Empowerment initiative is teaching young people vocational training skills as well as financial literacy, entrepreneurship and gender equality.
“All my life, I thought masonry and carpentry were just for men. I’d never seen a woman do such a job before, but after all I’d learnt from the training and activities through this project, I am now a masonry and carpentry fan,” says Ramatu, 26.
Sierra Leone has one of the highest rates of teenage pregnancy in the world. An estimated one-third of all pregnancies in Sierra Leone are teenage pregnancies. Most pregnant girls are forced to drop out of school – a 10-year law banning them from the classroom was only recently lifted – with many young mothers experiencing stigma and discrimination from their families and communities.
Ramatu, 26, had to drop out of school after finishing form 2 when she fell pregnant and after giving birth wasn’t able to resume her studies. “I used to love to read and wanted to be educated, find a good job and help my family and community escape poverty.”
Vocational skills for empowerment
After her husband and father of their 2 children left her, Ramatu needed to find a way of earning an income to support herself and her family. Ramatu attended a community meeting where she learnt about Plan International’s Youth Social Economic Empowerment (YSEE) initiative, a 6-month pilot project operating in Moyamba District in collaboration with the International Finance Corporation and Sierra Rutile Limited.
Ramatu decided to join the programme which teaches young people vocational training skills as well as financial literacy, entrepreneurship and gender equality. After learning about all the training courses available to her, Ramatu decided to defy the usual gender stereotypes and pursue a career in masonry and carpentry.
Defying gender stereotypes
“All my life, I thought masonry and carpentry were just for men. I’d never seen a woman do such a job before, but after all I’d learnt from the training and activities through this project, I am now a masonry and carpentry fan,” she says with a smile.
“I picked masonry and carpentry as my professional path because I wanted to change the narrative. These shouldn’t be male-dominated fields; women can excel in them as well. With my masonry and carpentry talents, I’ll be able to save my community money by avoiding the cost of outsourcing to other communities.”
Although carpentry and masonry are primarily male-dominated trades in Sierra Leone, more women are now expressing an interest in learning these skills, including in plumbing, driving, and engineering, as a result, a new wave women are now working in areas traditionally seen as for men only.
“I have taken part in all the activities since joining the project, and I am pleased with myself. My goal is to do everything I can to achieve my ambition of being a master carpenter and masonry expert so that I can help my family and my community,” Ramatu tells us.
Ramatu wants to set an example to other young women who want to do something different with their lives. “My fellow ladies, I encourage you to develop skills that will enable you to become powerful and self-reliant so that men cannot exploit you.”
Expressing her gratitude to YSEE project team she says: “I would have been a complete dropout in society, but now I am hopeful of reaching my dreams.”