Quline, Ann, and Winnie are 3 exceptional young women with 1 thing in common – all of them have defied traditional gender norms and chosen to pursue careers in male-dominated fields.
“I wanted to learn a skill that is mostly associated with men, to show the world that women can do it too,” says Ann, 19.
In Kenya, where Quline, Ann and Winnie are from, only 880,000 women are employed in the formal wage sector versus 1.68 million men.
This means that about a third of Kenyans in formal employment are women, highlighting the continued underrepresentation of women in the Kenyan job market. Furthermore, if women are employed, their earnings often tend to come from informal employment and “pink collar” jobs such as beauty, hairdressing, and catering.
But Quline, Ann and Winnie are determined to challenge the status quo, and thanks to Plan International’s vocational training program which creates employment opportunities for vulnerable youth, they’ve been able to gain the knowledge, skills and expertise required to take the lead in their chosen professions.
Quline – the electrician
Born and raised in the slum area of Nairobi, Quline has overcome the odds to become an electrician.
“I come from a family of 3 children and am the youngest. I was raised by a single parent after my father passed away when I was very young,” she says. “As a young girl, growing up in a slum was not easy. I have gone through many difficult situations. I could not imagine that one day things would change.”
From a young age, Quline wanted to become an electrician. She used to tinker around with cars, connect wires and repair radios. So when she heard about Plan International’s project, she applied immediately to receive a scholarship.
“I have gained a lot of experience, and at the same time, I have learnt many new things,” she says. “This is a dream come true.”
“My mom is so proud of me. I remember one time we had an electrical problem at home. My mom was worried about what to do because we had no money to call an electrician. When I told her I would fix it, she could not believe it. I fixed the issue with all knowledge I gained from school,” she says, adding that she wants to continue her education in the future.
“I would like to advance my career further and become an electrical engineer.”
Ann – the welder
Growing up in a family of 7, Ann never imagined that she would become an expert in welding.
Her parents could not afford college or any post-secondary education. Also, being the second born, she was expected to take care of her younger siblings after she finished high school.
But a lot changed when Plan International began it’s vocational training program and Ann applied for a scholarship. She was accepted and soon began an intense 6-month training course to learn not only about welding but also how to navigate her chosen career.
“Welding has given me the discipline to concentrate on something to its completion,” says Ann.
“This has also helped me become more focused in life.”
Winnie – the car expert
Raised by a single parent, Winnie, 19, did not know what to do after she finished high school.
“My mom works at a local hotel that usually prepares food for construction workers, she earns very little and could not pay for college,” says Winnie. “When I completed high school, I joined her business to increase our income.”
Shortly afterwards, Winnie learned about Plan International’s training and applied immediately.
“I passed the interview and got a position at the training center. It was a dream come true.”
Winnie chose to study motor vehicle wiring and after passing her course with flying colours, she has just completed a work placement and has high hopes for the future.
“I hope that one day I will start a motor vehicle wiring workshop and help more girls and boys gain skills and expertise in the field of electronics and electrical wiring.”
And although Winnie is optimistic about the future, she’s also not oblivious to the challenges that come with working in a male-dominated field.
“I have experienced some harassment from male colleagues and tough competition, since the men feel inferior and do not like to see a woman doing such a profession,” she says. “This has not discouraged me – rather it has made me strong willed, focused and ready to face the world.”
Tribute women who defy normal
All women and girls have equal power, but not all get equal opportunity to exercise their power. ‘Normal’ for too many women and girls is experiencing damaging gender stereotypes that challenge their power, equality and limit their potential.
That’s why Plan International works to Defy Normal – to remove barriers and provide equal access to opportunities such as employment so that all women and girls can realize their rights.
This International Women’s Day, you can also help advance gender equality by donating in tribute to a powerful woman in your life. Donate by March 8 to make a tribute that helps women thrive and empowers the next generation of women and girls.