Constructing Futures

Participatory photography workshops with young people in Ghana about their experiences of entering the construction industry

Through innovative participatory photography workshops, ten participants reflected on youth employment in Ghana.


Project Location:

Project Managers:
Kate Watson

Kate Watson

Mastercard Foundation
Overseas Development Institute (ODI)
Participatory Development Associates Ltd. (PDA)
Development Research and Training (DRT)
Youth-Inclusive Entrepreneurial Development Initiative for Employment (YIEDIE)

Mastercard Foundation

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Project description:
In Ghana, perceptions about construction work can deter people from entering this sector. It is viewed as ‘unskilled work’, or ‘men’s work’. Women make up less than 3% of employees in the construction industry. Negative stereotypes associated with female construction workers may prevent women from becoming part of what can be a beneficial employment opportunity.

The Overseas Development Institute (ODI) approached PhotoVoice to facilitate photography workshops with young people in Ghana to learn about their experiences of entering the construction industry.  Their insights will help inform the Youth Forward programme, a partnership between the Mastercard Foundation and 28 implementing organisations including ODI, to support young people in Ghana and Uganda to get jobs and grow their businesses.

The issue:
There is significant unmet demand for skilled artisans in Ghana, making it a valuable opportunity for young people entering employment. However, there are challenges that young people face in establishing a career in the construction industry.

Unlike other sectors, such as agriculture, the knowledge and skills necessary to work in construction are usually not taught in the family. As a result, many young people are unable to enter the construction sector because they cannot afford specialist training and equipment.

Beyond the financial challenges, it is particularly difficult for women to start a career in the industry. A commonly held view is that construction work makes female workers’ bodies “unattractive” to men and that these changes to women’s bodies can prevent them from getting pregnant.

These photographs and digital stories taken by the young people themselves explore the opportunities the sector offers and bring to light to some of the stereotypes and challenges they overcame to enter the sector.

Through innovative participatory photography workshops, ten participants reflected on youth employment in Ghana. Drawing upon their personal experiences, their photographs advocate for a more inclusive construction sector, free from gender biases, financial constraints and poor quality training.

Each participant has been encouraged to explore their motivations for working in the sector and their current experience of it, before moving on to exploring their aspirations for the future. These insights have informed the Youth Forward initiative and will enable future generations to benefit from improved apprentice schemes and a healthier economy overall.

Project Outputs:
An exhibition and community engagement event was held in Takoradi Central Market, the commercial and economic hub of Ghana’s third largest city.

Suspended beneath two large open canopies, the participant’s photographs attracted the attention of approximately 200+ people. With new confidence and pride the participants gave powerful speeches and provided their perspectives on the issues highlighted in the work. Local people working in the market or doing their shopping were inspired and many showed a new interest in the construction sector.

As well as their exhibited photographs, the participants were presented with printed portfolios. The booklets presenting photographs of their construction work are an important asset in their professional development and their emerging businesses. They will be able to show potential clients examples of their work and secure more jobs.

Five participants created digital stories of their personal experiences and the remaining participants were chosen to create participant case-studies following in-depth interviews.

These outputs all show the importance and power in participatory approaches. Through their own photographs, the participants have shed light on the issues that affect them and have inspired others.

Participant Feedback:
“My older siblings have typical jobs – medicine, driver, seamstress and so when I told my mother I would like to enter into construction, she didn’t feel it was appropriate. She told me that I was too small to do a man’s work and that the labour-intensive work would damage my body as a women and future mother. As she believed these things, like many people in Ghana, she forbade me from pursuing a trade and didn’t support me with the transport money I needed to attend the training […] I faced teasing from my family during my training and at some points, they would tell me to leave our home and find a more suitable job – ‘Stop this and go and occupy yourself with baking’ they told me.”

Project Updates:
A research report by the Overseas Development Institute:  Aspirations matter: what young people in Ghana think about work

Project participant Ruth Medufia was listed as one of the BBC’s ‘100 Women of the Year in 2018, as a result of the story she shared through this project. You can hear Ruth’s story here.

Header Image: © Kate Watson 2017 | PhotoVoice | ODI | YIEDIE | ‘Constructing Futures’ | Ghana

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