Ghanaian Society: Gender and Development

Introduction

Development is a key issue of concern in African countries. These countries are characterized by high populations that are growing at a high rate, low literacy, and low income levels and consequently the life expectancy of the population is low. Development in these states is therefore limited as the investment climate is not conducive and many a time high population growth rates come with competition for resources like land and hence ethnic clashes are common1.

Background of Ghana

Ghana is a West African country boarded by Burkina Faso, Guinea, Ivory Coast and Togo. It has three main cities; Accra, Tamale and Kumasi. The country is endowed with many mineral resources including gold, cocoa, tuna, timber, aluminum diamond, manganese, bauxite among others. Over time the Republic has been characterized by a good education system. Accra is the capital city of the republic of Ghana. The country covers about 92,098 miles area which translates to 238,533 sq km. most of Ghana’s population is Christian while the rest are either Muslim or with indigenous beliefs. The republic has English as he main language followed by other African language like Akan and Ewe2.

Ghana was colonized from as early as 1400s by the British Empire and was the first country in Sub-Saharan Africa to be invaded by the European territory mainly for gold and slaves. During this period, Ghana was blessed with an efficient civil service system. Its ranked fifty third least failed state in the world and the second in Africa.

Post war period of Ghana

After the country’s independence in 1957, Ghana’s civil service was faced with mismanagement and corruption. Kwame Nkrumah was Ghana’s first president in 1966 followed by Jerry Rawlings. By this time, the country was becoming economically stable and democratic. In 1992, the month of April, the country saw a new constitution in place that approved a multiparty system and hence an era of democracy. Ghana is the world’s second largest coffee producer and this coupled with is gold production and other minerals; Ghana is considered a model for economic transformation in Africa. It’s also well administered which makes it a political role model for the rest of Africa3

Ghana is a home to more than one hundred ethnic groups, unlike most African countries; Ghana has not experienced ethnic wars. Women in Ghana form about 50.52% of the whole population in Ghana according to the 2000 census. Just like all African countries, the population of Ghana has been growing steadily over time. From the existing data the population of Ghana in 1950 was five million two hundred and forty thousand (5.24 million) people.

In 1960 the population grew to seven million one hundred and thirty thousand (7.13 million) people. For 1970, the population was eight million nine hundred and eighty thousand (8.98 million) people. Ten years later in 1980 the population was eleven million three hundred thousand (11.3 million) people. In 1990 the population was fifteen million four hundred and eighty thousand (15.48 million) people. Then in the year 2000 the population increased to nineteen million eight hundred and seventy thousand (19.87) people.

Existing projections were made for the years lying between 2010 and 2040 where the population of Ghana was projected to be twenty four million two hundred and eighty thousand (24.28 million) in 2010, twenty eight million five hundred and seventy thousand (28.57 million) people in 2020, thirty two million four hundred thousand (32.4 million) in 2030 and thirty five million eight hundred and ten thousand (35.81 million) people in 2040.

The woman’s role in society

The woman’s role in society and her role in economic development has aroused controversial debates over a long period of time. Some critics argue that the role of a woman is limited to the domestic work limited to homecare, bearing and rearing of children. The woman’s greatest pleasure is believed to lie in maternity and during pre-colonial times barrenness was considered to be the greatest misfortune to any woman. During this period, polygamy, more so for the wealthier men in society was encouraged so they would bear more children who would in return contribute to labor provision.

The woman’s role in economic development should be subordinate. These believe has belittled women and their contribution to in economic development both in the domestic environment and outside the home to be underestimated. However every woman wants to participate in economic development to some degree. It’s important for the society to realize that both men and women are not treated with equality and there is a need to listen to women’s voices in society today4.

Most families have the family as the central unit for production of goods and services. However in each community, there is some division of labor for different ages and sexes. The younger members and the female members of the family usually have lighter tasks compared to the older and the male in the community.

Before colonization, for example, in agriculture, farming was entirely a woman’s task while hunting, felling of trees and warfare were a man’s task. During the colonization era, women’s farming task was extensive as the white man had the young men work in heavy constructional work including mining and road building5 (17). Today, women in Ghana about perform a role that determines the wellbeing of about half of the whole of the population.

Women in Ghana face inequality discrimination even decades after the women’s international conference and the convention of the United Nations (UN) on the elimination of discrimination against women in all forms. The Ghana constitution also provided women with rights of equality6.

Women are more visible in Ghanaian society, the elderly women are more visible especially since they sell farm produce in the markets and most of the population at the market is dominated by the woman population. The main are seen to fuel the economy through such activities as fishing and providing farm labor. Women at this point therefore perform more than just domestic labor. The women in Ghana have been observed to perform a more aggressive and chaotic role in economic development (at the market level) while the male counterpart perform a more shy role of fishing like fishing where their role ends at the sea shore7.

Gender equality is an important aspect in society however so as to realize such goals as reduction in poverty levels and to prevent violence. This equality is therefore a pivotal component of human rights (to both men and women) for development instead of just being thought of as a woman’s issue. Gender roles are however not taken seriously sometimes like for example men don’t realize their paternity role in the society today, they may have the paternity policy o allow them assist women when they are expectant but most men do not take this role seriously8.

Gender issues need to be viewed differently from “women issues” there is a need for change in attitude from individual level to lead to the formation of a partnership between the two genders. This could be done through such organizations as development of projects that would address gender issues, these would allow men in discussing gender issues to bring out their needs, involving men in the process of development with a “general lens”9 (2).

Women have been sidelined when it comes to development issues in the world and more especially Africa. However many women organizations have been developed to help include women in development. Organizations like banks are also helping to indulge women in development by encouraging them to acquire loans. This hence leads to an increase in women’s economic power10 (170).

Gender and development

Ghana, being one of the role model countries for African countries enjoys better human rights and gender equality compared to other African nations. However, this does not mean its population does not face developmental and gender issues. Some of the issues affecting women in Ghana today include inequality in access to education, issues like female genital mutilation, unequal representation in parliament, cultural Domestic violence and HIV/AIDS among others. With the widespread distribution of HIV/AIDS in Africa, sex has become a very thorny topic of discussion, with the man overpowering woman in society, the woman has no say when it comes to sex and hence is not able to make any decisions, and she therefore cannot demand protected sex to protect herself11 ( 3)

Women still tend to less educated compared to their male counterparts; this is mainly due to cultural expectations of the society. This situation therefore limits he opportunities of women in society and therefore causes them to seek other means of survival and to acquire income some of which include high dependency on domestic agriculture both for sustenance and for commercial reasons so as to provide for the household upkeep. Land is usually owned by men in most African countries and Ghana is not an exception to this. This therefore leaves women to depend on men through marriage to have access to land12.

While the role of the woman in economic growth for most African societies has been limited to traditional and cultural roles, in Ghana, the woman’s role today has been broadened to almost all the sectors of their economy which has contributed to increased income for the woman figure enabling her to realize her social and economic goal compared to most women in other African countries. This has been achieved through the efforts of the women seeking equality and consequently voicing their needs. The international community also played a major role in fighting for the place of a woman in Ghana today13. In the year 2000 when Ghana’s population was eighteen million nine hundred thousand, the working population comprised of eight million two hundred thousand and 50% of these working population comprised of women.

In Ghanaian politics, women are less represented as very few of them hold political positions and very few participate in political organizations. The few women active in politics are from a different social class, of the elite compared to the majority of the population who are the rural poor. The political women therefore are mostly not aware of the needs of the common woman in society or what she goes through in her day to day life. Increasing the participation of the women population in society is bound to increase representation of the normal woman and hence her life challenges especially by issues poverty and discrimination will be listened to and resolved accordingly by the government.

This will enhance resource allocation and improve development of the country in general. The rural woman or a woman not from the elite class has fewer opportunities to participate in politics as she is pre occupied with being a home keeper, a mother and a wife. With better civic education, the Ghana population could easily vote in a female president. The limitation here however is that culture limits the population to reason that men are better leaders and in politics as compared to women. In many a situation most of the women also share the assumption that men are better in politics as compared to women14 (12). Those women who dare get into politics still tend to occupy the lower positions of their political parties. However many African countries have had female political candidate lately.

There is a need for the social worker to promote the need for women to participate more actively in politics. Social workers will therefore empower the woman in society and therefore help them rise to higher challenges while at the same educating the population and informing women of their rights in society. This empowerment can be done using spiritual, cultural, educational and psychological empowerment15.

Generally the growth of the employment of the women in Ghana has not kept pace with the economic growth of the country. There are more women in the informal sector than men while men are predominant in the formal sector16 (22). In the economic sector, when women get a chance to work, they face issues of discrimination as they are viewed by the male co workers as if she is supposed to be a homemaker not a professional woman. In their up-bringing most women are taught to be home makers that includes cooking and housekeeping in general which limits her dreams and goals in life (Amu 39).

Conclusion

Majority of African farmers are women which leads to a generalization that most primary bearers of household sustenance are still women. Policies have been developed to correct gender issues in society. The position of a woman is being reconsidered and in some countries gender equality has been established while in others like most African countries gender inequality is still a big issue and a woman’s role is still viewed as a home keeper, child bearing and to upbringing the child teaching him or her the right morals depending on their sex.

Gender issues are more pronounced in less developed countries. However, over time women have better access to education today and hence better employment opportunities17 (201).

The economic standard of any household are determined by the distribution of the same in the household, therefore unless the woman in the household has a good income then the economic status of that household remain low. It is therefore important to enlighten and improve the woman’s position in society in order for the society to have economic growth which comes from the family (household) unit. Instead of discriminating against women, there is a need to help them develop along with the men18 (144)

Works Cited

Amu, N. Judith,. The role of Women in Ghana’s economy, 1990. Web.

Barriteau, Eudine, Feminist Theory and development: Implications for policy, Research and action, n.d.

Beere A. Carole, Sex and gender issues: a handbook of tests and measures. New York:, Greenwood Publishing Group, 1990.

Boserup Ester. Conditions of Agricultural growth, Woman’s role in Economic development. London: George Allen and Unwin LTD, 1996.

Crawfurd.dk, Ghana timeline – The Gold Coast, n.d. Web.

Momsen, Janet. Gender and development. New York: Taylor and Francis, 2010. Print.

Hicks, A. Douglas. Gender, discrimination, and capability: Insights from Amartya Sen, JRE, 20, 137 – 154, 2002.

Lang, J. James. Evolving the gender Agenda- men, gender and development organizations, 2003. Web.

Latimore, Carolyn. Gender, justice and development, 1997. Web.

“Medical News Today”. HIV/AIDS workshop in Ghana addresses women’s issues, Media’s role in fight against disease, 2008. Web.

Obuobie, Emmanuel, et. al. Gender in open-space irrigated urban vegetable farming in Ghana, 2004.Web.

Soussou, A. Marie.The meaning of gender equality in Ghana: women’s perceptions of the issues of gender equality: implications for social work education and practice in Ghana, 2006. Web.

“The African development Challenge”. Uneca.org. Uneca, n.d. Web.

Zaki, Wahhaj. Women in Ghana. New York: Routledge, 2003.

Footnotes

  1. “The African development Challenge”. Uneca.org. Uneca, n.d. Web.
  2. Crawfurd.dk, Ghana timeline – The Gold Coast, n.d. Web.
  3. Crawfurd.dk, Ghana timeline – The Gold Coast, n.d. Web.
  4. Carole, Beere A. Sex and gender issues: a handbook of tests and measures. New York:, Greenwood Publishing Group, 1990.
  5. Ester Boserup. Conditions of Agricultural growth, Woman’s role in Economic development. London: George Allen and Unwin LTD, 1996.
  6. Marie Soussou.The meaning of gender equality in Ghana: women’s perceptions of the issues of gender equality: implications for social work education and practice in Ghana, 2006. Web.
  7. Wahhaj, Zaki 2003. Women in Ghana. New York: Routledge.
  8. James, Lang. Evolving the gender Agenda- men, gender and development organizations, 2003. Web.
  9. James, Lang. Evolving the gender Agenda- men, gender and development organizations, 2003. Web.
  10. Eudine, Barriteau.Feminist Theory and development: Implications for policy, Research and action.
  11. “Medical News Today”. HIV/AIDS workshop in Ghana addresses women’s issues, Media’s role in fight against disease, 2008. Web.
  12. Obuobie, Emmanuel, et. al. Gender in open-space irrigated urban vegetable farming in Ghana, 2004.Web.
  13. Amu, N. Judith,. The role of Women in Ghana’s economy, 1990. Web.
  14. Soussou, A. Marie.The meaning of gender equality in Ghana: women’s perceptions of the issues of gender equality: implications for social work education and practice in Ghana, 2006. Web.
  15. Latimore, Carolyn. Gender, justice and development, 1997. Web.
  16. Amu, N. Judith,. The role of Women in Ghana’s economy, 1990. Web.
  17. Momsen, Janet. Gender and devloment. New York: Taylor and Francis, 2010. Print.
  18. Hicks, A. Douglas. Gender, discrimination, and capability: Insights from Amartya Sen, JRE, 20, 137 – 154, 2002.