Gender inequality in Guinea often means that girls are less likely to enroll in secondary school and are more likely to become child brides.
These facts are a stark reality and a reminder of how gender inequality prevents girls and women from reaching their true potential and deciding their own futures.
In developing countries such as Guinea, those who do overcome the odds by finishing school and entering the job market, the battle for equality continues as women have significantly fewer employment opportunities compared to men. Even when women find work, they are less likely to be promoted and are often paid less than their male counterparts.
But Teninkè, 28, and her close friend, N’Mahawa, 25, are examples of women working to challenge gender inequality in their community. Together, they are defying traditional gender norms by working as mechanics – a male-dominated profession in Guinea.
Their training has been made possible by Plan International who has been working in Guinea to break the gender divide at work by providing women and girls with job skills training.
“We do not have to wait another 10 years for gender equality. We have to act so that it starts now,” says Teninkè.
A women’s right to decide her own future
N’Mahawa’s choice to become a mechanic was made after her father tried to force her into marriage.
“The choice of this job was not easy at the beginning,” she says.
“After taking my school exams twice without success, my father decided to give me in marriage. I told him that marriage was not the solution to my problem.”
“One day I saw this training centre for mechanics, I got closer and I saw Teninké learning there, and it was she who encouraged me to learn this profession.”
Mechanics has always been a passion for Teninké, so it was a dream come true when the training started in her community. “To say that it is impossible for a woman to compare herself to a man is a complete fallacy,” she says.
“I invite my female colleagues to have confidence in themselves and to become autonomous because a dependent woman is an enslaved woman subjected to the dictation of men. We should not accept that.”
Leading change in the workplace
Teninke and N’Mahawa are already changing perceptions of what a woman can achieve amongst their peers and customers.
“I am very impressed with the quality of the work by these ladies. They work well, they are courteous and very professional,” says Mohamed, a frequent customer at the garage.
“Since I first met them, they have been the ones who have repaired my vehicle,” he says, adding that others have left neighboring garages in favour of Teninke and N’Mahawa’s skills.
“Through them, I have come to understand that women, if given the opportunity, can do better than men. I am even convinced that giving women the right to choose their life in complete autonomy, everywhere in the world, is one of the keys to meeting the challenges of this century,” concludes Mohamed.
Advancing gender equality
Advancing gender equality is at the heart of Plan International’s work. Specifically, our programming in Guinea aims to reduce inequalities within workplaces, households and in society.
This work isn’t easy and it requires action on several fronts, including:
- challenging existing social beliefs and gender norms
- increasing economic opportunities for women
- advocating for changes to the legal framework and education system
In addition, measures to increase women’s control over household resources and laws that make it easier for women to accumulate assets, particularly strengthening their property rights, are essential.
You can learn more about the work we do to enhance gender equality and uphold girls’ and women’s rights here.