Women of Ghana

By: Ellie Erickson, Paige Flagge, Susannah Pazdan

Throughout history, women in Ghana have maintained traditional roles in education, workplace and their household. In each, women are expected to fulfill their traditional roles to their best ability. Women’s roles in education, the workplace, and at home have expanded in both rural and urban areas, but gender inequality remains a prominent issue.  In the article, “Gender Inequalities in rural employment in Ghana: An Overview” by the Gender, Equity, and Rural Employment Division of FAO they provide statistics on gender inequalities in education, the workplace, and at home.

Gender disparities in education of women can be found in literacy rates. For example, only 29% percent of Ghanaian women are literate compared to 52% percent of Ghanaian men.  The workplace is also a place that exhibits inequalities, especially in the field of agriculture which is one of the biggest areas of employment in Ghana. Ghanaian women in the household are also expected to fulfil certain roles, they typically serve as the leaders of the home.

Ghanaian Women in Education 

Winnie is from the Tema and attended primary, secondary, and is currently in tertiary school at University of Cape Coast.
She now has a great job working as a program officer for the Aya Center.
Picture By: Susannah Pazdan

Literacy is not the only issue women in Ghana face concerning education, they also have a lower percentage of women who get a primary education.  The percentage of men who get a primary education in Ghana is 71% compared to 52% of women (Gender Inequalities.)  This statistic is a vivid example of how the education gap between both men and women is still very relevant.  Since there is such a prominent gap in the education of women whether in literacy or receiving a primary education, women are limited in how they can succeed.  Another example of how education plays a role in how Ghanaian women succeed is their access to secondary and vocational education. Access to both upper level courses remains low with 3% of women attending secondary school and only 27% of women attending vocational school (Gender Inequalities).  Although more women are pushing educational reform to be able to succeed against their male counterparts.

Ghanaian Women in the Workplace

This woman works in the agriculture industry harvesting plantains as well as “maize” or corn. She also harvests these crops with her baby on her back.
Picture By: Susannah Pazdan

Agriculture is the backbone of Ghana’s economy, playing an important role in ensuring food security and socio-economic development (Gender Inequalities). Ghana is a huge producer of fruits, produce, and wheat. Agriculture is made up of several different sectors including farming and market-oriented activities. Women in Ghanaian agricultural production is significant with 50% of women and 30% of female-headed households are employed in the agricultural sector (Gender Inequalities). Although in comparison to men, most women do not have the resources to expand their agriculture and produce a higher crop yield. Women have less access to technology, and they rely on rain-fed intercropping. Ghanaian women own less livestock, use less fertilizers, and own less mechanical equipment than men (Gender Inequalities.) In general, female farmer’s production is comprised of less crops than male farmers. Therefore, with less crops and little access to public credit, females have less of a chance to fund their farming. Each one of these are disadvantages to women working in agriculture and therefore sets them back from reaching their potential. Yet, even if women could produce more food than men, the food they produce can be limited. Along the road women sell their produce and food and more often the men will sell apples, grapes, gum, and electronics. Women will sell local produce, including oranges, peanuts and plantain chips. This is a global issue because international companies will contact men when they want to sell their products to be sold as they think the products will “sell better.” Women are automatically put at a disadvantage when they want to sell market items. Although this is a global issue, this still significantly impacts the women of Ghana in the agriculture workplace.

Ghanaian Women in the Household

Joyce works as a seamstress but also works as a housekeeper for her aunt and uncle. Some of her main jobs includes cooking, cleaning, and helping her aunt and uncle with whatever they need done in the house.
Picture By: Susannah Pazdan

In comparison to inequalities for women in the workforce and education, there is a wide gender gap in the time allotted to domestic activities. On average, 65 percent of men spend 0 to 10 hours per week on domestic activities, 89 percent of women spend 10 hours per week or more (Gender Inequalities). Even if some women have a job, they will still spend more time on domestic activities. The most time-consuming activities for women are cooking and taking care of household members: 11 to 10 weekly hours on average (Gender Inequalities). Women have several different roles within their households. In some regions in Ghana, there are a significant number of female-headed households in both rural and urban areas. There is a higher share of FHHs in urban areas, where they constitute 29 percent of households, compared to 20 percent in rural areas (Gender Inequalities). With so much pressure on women, this can create issues within the household such as child labor and stress for women. High dependency rates hamper household capacity to allocate labor to on-farm activities or other ingenerating activities (Gender Inequalities). As heads of the household, working and being a mother, Ghana women are strong.

Ghanaian Women

Looking at different regions in Ghana and faces of women, there remains this traditional stereotype. In the village of Krofu, Esi Atta, an old woman believed to be the age of 80 or older, truly believes in the value of women. In her eyes, women are supposed to care for their families and play the traditional role of a mother, but to Atta this role is most important and especially most valued. Like Atta, Joyce Ottu the housekeeper of a homestay family as well as a seamstress, believes women are strong and what they do makes them even stronger. She too believes in the traditional role of women, but in part that all women no matter what their job is have an important job in society. Eva Boadu and Winnie Sey’Adjei are employers at the Aya Center. Eva is a young, independent, strong woman. She believes in education for woman and does not let stereotype bring her down. Like Eva, Winnifred is a strong, beautiful wife and mother to her one year old son. Winnie believes in the power of women, but as a Christian she also believes in having men as the head of the household. Winnie will always make sure she her son and husband are taken care of because as a wife and a mother that is her role. These three women deal with the triple burden of life, but they are powerful and can overcome them through education and the workplace. Despite stereotypes, women of Ghana defeat them. Without powerful, strong women in society, many roles in society could not exist. Women are full of knowledge and power.  Each of these women are unique, special and beautiful in their own way; they are the women of Ghana.

Here is our group video:

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Gold Lenses: Ghanaians’ Perceptions of the U.S.

images.jpegChimamanda Adichie said, “The problem with stereotypes is not that they are inaccurate, but that they are incomplete.” First impressions are so important because people are prone to mistake part of something for the whole. Stereotyping even happens between cultures. This holds true for Americans and Ghanaians as well. Africa is often misrepresented, especially by Americans, which influenced us to look through the opposite lens of how Ghanaians perceive the U.S. Overall, we found that most Ghanaians have a positive idea of the U.S. because they have bought into the American Dream. However, Ghanaians hold this perception because the media typically represents Western or American culture and progress as superior. Since Ghana’s independence from British colonization in 1957, Ghanaians have progressed significantly, but when they compare themselves to the West they still feel like they fall short.

american-dream.jpgGhanaians have heard different versions of a single story. Their perceptions of the U.S. are actually misperceptions because they are stereotypes. Ghanaians have held these views for as long as they have been migrating to the U.S. Many factors compel Ghanaians to buy into the American Dream, which pushes them to adopt a Western or American view of progress.

Ghana, or the Gold Coast, was the location of The Door of No Return for Africans during the Trans-Atlantic slave trade. The slave trade was the largest migration of Ghanaians to the U.S., although it was only the first wave. Beginning with Ghana’s independence, the second major wave of migration occurred during the 1960’s in pursuit of education. The goal of these immigrants was to learn as much as they could about modern progression and return home with knowledge to form a foundation for their newly founded country. The last major wave happened in the 1980’s when Ghanaians sought out economic opportunities.

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Ekow’s Graduation at Furman

Ghanaians to this day move to the U.S. for education and economic advancements, but the U.S. is never the final destination. The U.S. is a means to an end. To them, the U.S. is the land of opportunity, and if you work hard enough you will become rich. A Ghanaian student at Furman reported his desire to study in the U.S. and return to Ghana wealthy. The adinkra symbol for going back to your roots is extremely important in Ghanaian culture. Ghanaians always have Ghana and their family in mind when migrating. For those living in the U.S., they are expected to send money home. Ghanaians in the U.S. send $33 million home every year. The U.S. is simply a means for bettering their life in Ghana.

goodbye-yellow-brick-road-meganne-peck.jpgThis idea that the U.S. can turn one’s life around simply by moving is a misperception. Media tells a single story of the U.S., a story of affluence. It never mentions the failures, the stories about the cycles of poverty, or the lack of job opportunities. One Ghanaian vacationer admitted, “It didn’t take [him] too long to realize that the U.S. wasn’t the land with streets paved of gold that the 18-year-old [him] had thought it was.” The images Ghanaians envision of the U.S. are based off of popular films, which distort reality.

In addition, U.S. citizens who travel to Ghana are the ones who can afford it. Ghanaians never see the poverty in the U.S. because travelers are simply a subset of the country; they fail to accurately represent the entire population.

Ghanaians are also at fault. A Ghanaian immigrant confessed, “I do not blame anyone but those Ghanaians living here. My reason is that, we do not tell our folks back home the truth—how the system actually is here. We tend to stunt (show off) to them and lie about the jobs we do here.” The U.S. is a country that runs on loans. In effect, Ghanaians in the U.S. feel pressure to reflect the stereotype of success associated with living in the U.S. Ghanaians have the power to flaunt the wealth that they might not have. They can buy expensive cars and houses when they cannot immediately afford it. Ghanaians who move to the U.S. often fail to share the rest of the story to the people back home. They feed into the single story of the U.S. just as much as the media and travelers. The problem with Ghanaian’s perceptions of the U.S. is that they only see part of the story, part of the population. That part is not untrue; it is incomplete.

Ghana-at-60-logo.jpgFor Ghanaians, the U.S. is the land of opportunity, not the ultimate destination. The U.S. is a means to an end. They migrate to the U.S. to make Ghana better. They seek education and economic opportunities so that they can either return to Ghana knowledgeable about how to help innovate their young country or to send money home. The story is exaggerated and romanticized. Ghanaians wear gold lenses when they look at the U.S. Ghanaians and Americans alike need to work on painting the whole picture of the U.S. so Ghanaians can have a more accurate perception. One Ghanaian summed it up nicely: “What I want my beloved Ghanaians to know is that, we do not pluck money off trees wherever we go, we have to work for it, and most of the times, you work more for less.” The U.S. does have great educational and economic opportunities, but moving there is no guarantee. The media and other factors need to help Ghanaians remove the lenses that romanticize the U.S. and allow them see the real picture in full form.

Our group interviewed a couple Ghanaians to learn about their perspectives. Watch the video to hear from them directly about how they view the U.S. and how some of their perceptions have changed.

Football Culture in Ghana

The sun beats down ruthlessly on the barren pitch with no trees or tall buildings to deter it. Red dust swirls around the feet of the players, almost obscuring the ball, as sweat runs endlessly down their necks. With no boundary lines, no jerseys, and goals standing naked without their nets, the children are playing a game all their own.

History of Football in Ghana

Football was introduced to Ghana by Britain during Europe’s colonization of Africa. Ghana’s first organized matches occurred in 1882 and Cape Coast Excelsior, which was founded in 1903, was the first official soccer club.

Today in Ghana, football is a huge part of the community through both local and regional identity, and national identity. It affects both youth culture and adult culture across the country. Whether it’s going to all the games, following them on television, discussing them with friends, or playing pick-up games on the street, football is a part of most Ghanaians’ lives today.

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Children from the village of Krofu standing in front of the football goal.

Youth Culture

Like those playing football on the dirt pitch, many children in Ghana play the game. It is a way for the youth in Ghana to find a community among themselves. Relationships, social development, and physical fitness are all important components of growing up that football provides. Football also allows children to grow up with dreams and hope for the future as they aspire to play on club or professional teams.

Professional Football

Club football teams serve as an intermediate level between recreational football and professional football. Ghana’s Premier League for club football consists of sixteen teams from regions all over the country. The teams include Hearts of Oak Accra, Asante Kotoko Kumasi, and Ebusua Dwarfs Cape Coast. Players on club teams hope to be selected by the national team or scouted by top clubs overseas.

In 2014 the Ghana national team, The Black Stars, made it to the World Cup. In a devastating loss, The Black Stars suffered a two to one defeat at the hands of the United States of America’s national team. This match ultimately affected Ghana’s chances at proceeding past the group stage.

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Jerseys of Ghana’s national team, The Black Stars.

In addition to the World Cup loss, there have been some recent tensions about the Ghana national team. The Black Stars players requested a larger salary for each game and refused to play in a crucial upcoming match unless they were paid more for the game.

The players’ salaries are paid for by the taxpayers, and since the taxpayers wanted to support their team, they paid for the larger salaries. Unfortunately, The Black Stars lost the crucial game for which they were paid extra. The taxpaying fans were devastated by the loss and outraged that the team was paid more and still performed poorly.

Those feelings of outrage have not yet faded. The Black Stars’ fan base has decreased since the incident and many Ghanaians have a colder approach to the team. Joyce Okyerebea Ottu, young woman born and raised in Ghana, no longer follows the Ghana national team. In fact, she doesn’t really watch football at all because, as she says, “sometimes if you give your heart to them, at the end they will not make you happy.”

Globalization of Football

Another reason for apathetic feelings toward the Ghana national team is the globalization of football. While Britain brought football to Ghana, today it takes the players away from their home team. Many of the best Ghanaian football players leave for European clubs who can lure them in with their prestige, higher salaries and promise of sponsors.

Since Ghanaian footballers play all over the world, Ghanaian football fans follow other teams aside from the local clubs such as Manchester United, Arsenal, Chelsea, Real Madrid, Barcelona, and Juventus. This globalization of football has broadened Ghana’s influence and reach on the international stage. While it is preferable for Ghanaian football players to stay with the local clubs, it speaks to their abilities that they are in high demand with such prestigious teams. Ghanaian footballers, whether playing home or abroad, provide a rallying point for culture, community, and national identity with all Ghanaians.

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Young footballers playing in the Volta region of Ghana.

A lover of football and resident of Accra Ghana, Albert Ohene-Asante has seen the influence of football both home and abroad. He attended university in the United Kingdom, the country that brought the game to Ghana. He says “football always unifies us regardless of our differences” and that during the big games, the Ghana flag is flown everywhere.

In Ghana, the passion for football has survived over two hundred years, the colonization and decolonization, and several wars. All that time, football has served as a commonality for many Ghanaians through which they find national pride and a sense of community. The passion of those children playing football on the barren dirt pitch in the scorching sun indicates a strong future for football in Ghana.