Meet the mechanics making breakthroughs for gender equality

By Kerri Whelan
January 6, 2021

There are two mechanics regarded by their customers as some of the best car technicians in Guinea. The pair are N’Mahawa, age 25, and Teninké, age 28. Both are women.

Female mechanics at work

Being a girl in a lower-income country like Guinea means a lesser chance of completing your education, and a higher chance of becoming a child bride. For girls who are able to finish school, the opportunities in the job market are slim. And for those young women who do land a job, they end up getting paid less than their male counterparts.

None of that has stopped Teninké and N’Mahawa in pursuing their career goals.

N’Mahawa’s choice to enter the male-dominated field of mechanics was made after her father tried to force her to become a bride.

“After taking my school exams twice without success, my father decided to give me in marriage,” she says. “I told him that marriage was not a solution to my problem. I decided to leave home and join my uncle in Conakry.”

N’Mahawa, female mechanic

While in Conakry, N’Mahawa saw a training center for mechanics, supported by Plan International, operating to help uplift young people economically — especially women. She approached the building, and that’s when she saw Teninké.

N’Mahawa was taken with Teninké’s passion for both the study of mechanics, and her fervent belief in gender equality. Their friendship blossomed into a business partnership.

“To say that it is impossible for a woman to compare herself to a man is a complete fallacy,” Teninké says. “My dream is to surpass men and I think I am in this dynamic.”

Teninké, female mechanic

Teninké and N’Mahawa’s skills learned at the vocational center have made them stand out from other male-run businesses. The two are not only showing young girls that they can follow their dreams, but also changing the minds of men in their community.

“Through them, I have come to understand that women, if given the opportunity, can do better than men,” says Mohamed, one of Teninké and N’Mahawa’s male customers. “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.”

Teninké and N’Mahawa

Plan continues to work in Guinea to reduce inequalities within workplaces, households and society. But this requires action on several fronts, including help from people like you. Many of Plan’s vocational training participants are sponsored children; you can help make it possible for a girl to access opportunities like Teninké and N’Mahawa’s by becoming a child sponsor today.

“I invite my female colleagues to have confidence in herself — to become autonomous — because a dependent woman is an enslaved woman subjected to the dictates of men,” Teninké says. “We should not accept that. We should not have to wait another 10 years for gender equality. Let’s act now.”