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From Ghana to a Global Forum: Championing the Cause of Young Construction Workers' Health and Safety

Abena Bemah's mission resonates far beyond the borders of her home country, Ghana. A seasoned Chartered Surveyor with over five years of experience in the real estate industry, Abena's work at the helm of operations and property management at CCL Properties Management Company Limited is just the beginning of her commitment to workplace safety. 


In an interview, Abena shared, "I realised it's an international platform that has people from all over the world presenting various perspectives on health and safety." She views her selection for a World Congress fellowship as both an acknowledgment of her dedicated work and a gateway to new opportunities for learning and advocacy. 


Abena's unwavering commitment to safety informs not only her consulting work with Accusys Engineering, but also her various engagements in property and asset valuation. Her most striking distinction, however, is her devotion to young construction workers "These young construction workers form a crucial segment of the industry, yet their voices are often underrepresented, especially those from the Global South." This unique focus is what truly sets her apart in her field. 


Abena's research, the first of its kind aimed at improving health and safety for young construction workers in Ghana, has been supported by prominent institutions like the Mastercard Foundation and the Youth Sector Engagement Group. Her work addresses key aspects such as managing young workers' physical and mental health and stakeholder involvement in occupational health and safety. 


Beyond research, Abena has created tangible impact on the ground. "I have organised and participated in health and safety workshops for stakeholders of youth health and safety such as young construction workers and government agencies," she shared. 


The World Congress offers her a platform to share these key findings with a broader audience. She anticipates that it will give her the chance to "learn so many things that would help in our industry" and provide a space to discuss her research findings about an underrepresented population in construction health and safety research. 


To ensure the shared knowledge reaches those who need it most, Abena has a multi-faceted approach in place.


"I usually disseminate knowledge through write-ups, public speaking, and social media videos. I'll use this same approach to share my learnings with the wider community of construction workers, students, employers, youth wellbeing activists, and the public." 


Despite the progress she has made, Abena is well aware of the challenges that lie ahead. One key issue she highlighted is the prevalent culture of silence in the construction industry, especially when it comes to mental health. "Men naturally don't like to talk about their problems when they are facing challenges. They find it difficult to share," she observed. This is a deeply entrenched issue in the male-dominated industry, often leading to further mental health problems. 


Abena is poised to make the most of the World Congress platform. By engaging with global health and safety stakeholders, she plans to not only bring awareness to the plight of young construction workers in the Global South but also draw upon global best practices. "It's a great way to learn new things. How the whole conversation about health and safety is going around the world," she shared, expressing her eagerness to learn and subsequently impart this knowledge to her colleagues and the broader community. 


In a field as demanding and high-risk as construction, Abena recognises the paramount importance of training and education. She's developed unique strategies to convey this to young workers, especially those embarking on their careers in construction. "Creating an awareness with them is very necessary. So that right from when they are from school, they come out, they implement it in their lives even as part of their schoolwork and schedule," she highlighted. On active construction sites, she emphasises routine safety meetings to drive home the importance of safety protocols. 


Armed with a forward-thinking approach, Abena anticipates that her participation in the World Congress will yield substantial benefits for her and her organisation. "As a representative, when I come back to my company, I will have learned some things... I will bring some of the things on board and look at how we are handling things where it needs to be changed," she expressed, envisioning positive impacts for her company and the entire industry. 


Abena is set to use this global platform to shine a spotlight on the underrepresented youth in construction, opening avenues for greater safety measures and inclusive mental health programs. But the effects of her participation in the World Congress will ripple far beyond her immediate sphere. Her commitment to share her learning with the broader community promises to accelerate change across the industry. 


With her passion, experience, and commitment to safety, Abena Bemah Antwi embodies the innovative and compassionate spirit necessary to reshape the health and safety standards in the construction industry. 


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