Inspirational stories about gender-inclusive making

Gertrude Mawuena Goh
African Makerspace Network, Ghana

Gertrude is currently working as an Executive Manager on the Africa Makerspace Network, a community of African Makerspaces. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from the University of Ghana.

“The more such stories spread, the more other women would view it as normal and develop an interest to join.”

Gertrude’s first contact with the maker community was through organizing the 2nd African Makerspace Gathering in 2020.  It took her some time and reading to understand the concept and ideas behind making and makerspaces.  There were hardly any women in the organization team when Gertrude started her work for the Makerspace Gathering. As a project leader she had to coordinate and chase her team to get things done – but realized that some would just refuse. 

When I faced this challenge, I was asking myself a lot of questions: is it because I am new to the team, or because I am a woman?

She put in extra hard work to put together a successful event but never found out why some would give her such a hard time in the beginning. In 2021 she still took on her current role leading programs in African Makerspace Network  and now loves her work so much.

Gertrude feels sorry that she did not have any female colleague to share her problems with during difficult times, someone who could also direct and support her. Based on her personal experiences it is one of her heartfelt wishes to reach more diversity in making. Technology and making are traditionally men dominated in Africa and women are often discouraged by their family and friends to follow this career. Women also have less time at their disposal to get involved in these innovative sectors. 

For Gertrude, educating society about female participation in making can help shifting mindsets. Increasing supportive structures and conducive working environments for women, such as nursing rooms, washrooms tailored for women’s menstrual needs, and restrooms is also essential. Other ways of changing perspectives include role models, through mentorship and constant connection with women who are already in the making. All this requires specific funding support, like scholarships in universities, funds for tvet training, and for starting a business.

Finally she adds that

“We should already start in childhood to fight against gender stereotypes, allowing girls to play with trucks and complicated toys when they want; or having fun fairs for young girls to learn how to make simple play toys.”

Message to her younger self:

I would tell her to be bold, bold enough to be able to speak up when need be, bold enough to stand her ground and not compromise in wrong situations, bold enough to speak up and let her voice be heard. I would tell her to be mindful of whatever space she finds herself in and know that people have different faces and that people can change. I would tell her to always look at situations from different perspectives and keep in mind that not all who come across as well-meaning are actually well-meaning. She should bear in mind that it is okay to seek opinions on making a particular decision but she bears the consequences of her decision alone. I’ll tell her to be gracious, ever loving of herself but not selfish, and also grow to become an even better version of me.“