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Young African Women Get Taste of Male-Dominated Jobs

In Senegal, a non-governmental organization is trying to get young street girls jobs in male-dominated fields. The organizer of this project says it creates female empowerment and breaks down gender stereotypes. VOA's Nico Colombant reports from Dakar in this the third part in a five-part series on prospects and challenges for young women in Africa.

Anta Ndiaye is learning to be a glass cutter. She is 22 and has been out of school for six years. Now she is an apprentice at a window frame designer called Darou Salam Service.

With a construction boom going on in Dakar, business is brisk.

"I used to be an idle girl, just walking around the neighborhood doing nothing," she says. "But I love this job. Even on Sundays, which is my day off, I feel like coming in to work. If I start making money, I want to have my own workshop and employ other women to work with me."

Soukeyna Diagne is 18. She dropped out of school when she was 11. She is now an apprentice mechanic.

"Things are going well," she says. " Initially, people were looking at me a bit funny, because this is not where you usually find a young woman like me. But I am determined to succeed. I also want my own workshop. I know everything in the beginning will be difficult but I am confident one day I can start something of my own just like any successful man."

The two young women are beneficiaries of a non-government organization, called "Case des Jeunes Femmes", led by Aminata Dieye. She tries to empower former prostitutes, school dropouts and single mothers.

"There has been so much ignorance. People think women can just learn to cook or look for a husband. They think they can just be hairdressers or seamstresses. Young African women need to realize they can also work in fields dominated by men," she says. "I think mentalities are changing slowly."

She says these women can inspire others, even as they face ridicule from members of their own families, caused by gender stereotypes so prevalent in Africa.