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What’s it like for women working in a sawmill in Ghana?

Rita Asaana has some advice for her fellow women in Ghana — ‘look for work in a sawmill’. Having started out operating a veneer drying machine at the LLL sawmill in Kumasi in 2014, she was promoted in 2016 and now works as a receptionist there. And while she no longer does manual work for the company she has praise for the conditions of women who do.

Asaana highlights the attention the company pays to occupational health. “Before I came here, I had no idea of anything like health and safety,” she says. “But from the first day I was employed here, we were taken through orientation and the importance for you to get protected.”

The guidance continued with both training seminars and safety tips picked up through her daily work. Asaana says the main challenge was wearing safety equipment in hot weather, but adds that “anything that will protect should always make you comfortable, so we are on it”.

Rita Asaana

Rita Asaana

LLL sawmill, Kumasi, Ghana.

Source: Capture Ghana, EU FLEGT Facility

Rita Asaana

LLL sawmill, Kumasi, Ghana.

Source: Capture Ghana, EU FLEGT Facility

She says the company’s attitudes to worker safety have improved since she has been employed there. “There has been a change in the last couple of years and I’d say an improvement with regards occupational safety,” she says. “The management is really interested to make sure that people are well-equipped.”

Asaana lists other benefits of working in the sawmill —from financial stability and independence to the way the company encourages education. “They’ve given me the zeal and the opportunities to go to classes,” she says.

But being a pioneer meant facing down entrenched attitudes about what women should do. “My challenge as a lady working in the industry started with my friends, because at that time people hadn’t gotten to know the opportunity of ladies working in a sawmill,” she says. “So, it wasn’t very comfortable. My friends were looking down on me. But now I can say that most of them too are also engaged here.”

With stigma fast evaporating, Asaana sees a bright future for women in the wood processing sector. “With education and progression, ladies are welcoming the idea of working in a sawmill, which I think should encourage us to work more,” she says. “My advice to ladies at home who do not see working in the sawmill as an option, I advise them to take this initiative,” she says. “It’s a good plan. It’s a good thing. It is better than staying home idle and somehow having to depend on a guy for survival.”