We attended a lecture given by a professor from Cape Coast University. She spoke on the role and hierarchy of women in the fishing industry of the Cape Coast area.
The women are subservient to men. The roles are strictly defined. A woman who marries a fisherman is expected to assist him in his job. There does not appear to be any option for a woman to deviate from this.
The fishing is done by the men as they are stronger and more able to do the physical labour. When the professor challenged this stereotype they advised her that boys were trained from a young age. This enables them to build muscle. They would not consider the fact that women could also be conditioned to perform these tasks.
The women’s role was to clean, prepare and market the fish. The pressure is on woman to ensure that a profit is made from the sales. If sells are not good it gives the man a reason to divorce her. As more than one wife is acceptable, the man may take a second wife to have a source of cheap labour.
There were many other stereotypical roles I witnessed within the communities. The care of children almost exclusively falls to the women. Rarely did I notice only a man and small child together. They were usually accompanied by a woman.
Many women who have children outside of marriage have to find a way to care for themselves and the children. I had a discussion with a Ghanaian male about young unmarried mothers. I asked how a woman with a young child could support themselves. He said she could give the child away then she can work. I expressed my view that this would be very difficult for a woman to do as she would not be raising her child. He said it would not be hard because they usually wait until the child is 6 months old. This is common for woman to have to leave their children so they can support themselves. I would think it would not be a willing choice for most.
During my three weeks in Ghana I have only observed a woman driving a vehicle three times. One of the women was an Obruni (white foreigner). Not driving restricts their movements. Unlike Canada where it is acceptable for everyone to drive.
There is a tendency to dispose of the unwanted material in the street. There is heavy reliance on the use of black plastic bags. They are similar to bags in Canada that are sold to clean up after our pets. Everything is put in these bags when you purchase an item. Many end up on the street. The clear plastic sachet packets and water bottles are strewn everywhere.
There are a limited number of garbage cans throughout Cape Coast and in the village they do not exist. No centralize dump or garbage pickup is evident. If these were available it would exclude many people from utilizing it due to the cost that would be incurred.
It is common to see large garbage piles. They are on the beach, beside taxi stands, and markets. The scraps are feasted on by the goats and the rats. This helps to reduce the size of the mound. In some rural areas they burn the garbage. This helps keep the rats and disease away as well as reduce the size.
From a North American prospective the lack of cleanliness translates to a general lack of pride in the community. In Ghana it is more of an issue of economics. The funds are not available for the amenities we take for granted. We have a tax system in place that funds our infrastructure system, government departments that oversee it and skilled workers to perform the necessary work. I do not think the people of Ghana want to live in these conditions. They are doing the best with what they have. The country is slowly and gradually working toward a better future.
In the villages there are community wells. The basic infrastructure is in place to bring water from Cape Coast to the villages. The wells have taps not a hand pump. This gives everyone access water. It is pay per bucket system. As many people do not have funds to pay for the water, it limits their access to clean fresh water.
I have noticed that many homes have wells that collect rain water. The rain water is used for bathing, washing clothes and house cleaning. Many rely on rain water to drink and cook food with.
There does not appear to be any public water utility connections to the houses in the villages. Many of the houses have large black poly tank. These tanks are filled by water trucks and plumbing brings it into the house. The cost involved excludes many people from getting access to water within their houses.
In Canada we pay for our water but it is through our utility bills received from the city or township. For some in the rural area they have wells. Fresh available water for everyone in Canada is taken for granted. If water was not accessible in the larger populated areas there would be several levels of government stepping in to ensure its availability.
In all the communities there is a reliance on water sachets for fresh drinking water. They are sealed pouches of water that are sold at numerous street vendors. They cost about .05 cents and contain about 1/2 litre water. A corner is torn off with your teeth and you sip or drink from the bag. Unfortunately most of these bags are discarded on the street. The result is an accumulation of garbage in the streets.
We travelled to the farm today. It is about 45 minutes from where we are staying. Getting there involves taking a series of shared taxis or trotros . Trotros is mass transit in Ghana. You pay a set amount to go from one station to another. The 11 seat van is usually loaded with many more people and their wares. The vehicles are in various states of disrepair. Ghana has various law enforcement agencies that include local police and military. Along our route there is often one or more of these agencies set up. It is common to be stopped. The driver gets out of the vehicle and shakes hands with the police this includes passing some money. The driver may have been stopped for any number of traffic infractions. The term for this is kalabule which translates to a bribe or corruption. The driver is aware they are violation of a traffic law. This may be expired licence, excess passengers or unsafe vehicle. The kalabule is a way of pre-empting the issuing of a ticket for a violation. The exchange only takes a minute and then we are on are way again. These are common place and appear to be socially acceptable.
The law enforcement agencies as with other workers are paid very poorly. If they were paid more they may not have the need to supplement their income.
I spoke to a priestess in the village. She is one of 4 other women who practice in the village. She claims that she can heal illnesses except for HIV as well as look into the future. I asked her to relate the events that brought her to this vocation.
As a little girl she was willful and stubborn and avoided coming home. She had been born in this village but as a little girl she moved with her parents to the Ivory Coast. At the age of nine the gods came to her village and took her away. The gods were in human form, dwarf and their feet were turned backwards. During her time there she did not eat or drink. If the gods wanted her to have nourishment they would ingest the food and then rub her stomach. When they wanted her to drink, they drank then rubbed her lips. She was given daily lessons on how to heal. The community functioned around her but she could not communicate with anyone and no one could see her. She was not part of the physical world.
After bring with the gods in the spiritual world for 7 years, 7 months and 7 days she was returned. A man found her and took her to a village. The women of the area where asked to identify her. Eventually her mother claimed her. She was to marry the chief but as he was a foreigner her mother would not allow it. She instead married the man that found her and took her to the village. She is the one that speaks to the gods and her husband interprets. She does not believe in Christianity but insists that the local pastors come to her.
Her story appeared well rehearsed. She has probably related numerous times. The practices are accepted in many areas of the country. My interpreter was unable to relate her story back to me with comment or laughter. For those of raised and indoctrinated into western culture the story is farfetched. There was little in my opinion that could have bases in truth. I think she uses the fact that many in the area are uneducated or uniformed. She makes a lucrative living from taking advantage of their beliefs. They may rely on her to fix an ailment that if left untreated by proper medical doctors may result in further illness or death. She would explain this by saying the gods wanted the person to continue to ill and she has no control over the gods.
Last Thursday I walked through the village with a man. He was taking me to areas that he found important in the village. He is 35 years old, not married and has a 6 year old son. The son lives in a neighboring city. It is difficult for him to get full time work. He picks up jobs where he can. His hope is to get his own shop but the start-up costs make it difficult. Under the social structure in Ghana because he is unmarried, the responsibility falls to his mother to provide for him. Often the parent or parents are elderly and may be struggling to survive themselves.
In Canada we have the expectation that an individual is self-sufficient at an earlier age. We have access to more education and social and training programs. The federal, provincial or local government has departments that assist citizens with different aspects of their lives. Ghana appears to have some of the same things in place. The public may not be aware they have access to them.
My walk with the gentleman took us to a sacred place. It was on the outskirts of the village beside a rock face. In December a ceremony is held and a cow is sacrificed to the god “bosom ayee”. People return to village from all over the world. The procession begins at the monument in the centre of town. The cow is lead through the streets to the sacred site. This ritual is to ensure a good life and entrust their care to the god. After the sacrifice has been concluded the meat is divided. It is usually distributed to only the chief and his family and guests. The internal organs are left at the site for the gods. During the ceremony the people are quiet but when it is there is a celebration with music and dancing.
The previous chief had not held a ceremony for the past 6 years. A new chief is now in the village and there are plans for the ceremony to be held this year. Among the young people of the village there is apathy towards these types of events. In Canada we do not have public displays of animal sacrifice. Although they do exist in what may be described as the underworld. The public sentiment is that is barbaric and cruel. We have laws in place to ensure these types of ceremonies are performed. There is a lack of understanding of the history and belief systems of the groups that practice these rituals. For many in Ghana they have a strong belief in Christianity but have integrated the two belief systems. The lesser gods are accountable to a supreme being.
Our walk continued to his grandmother’s house. He introduced me to her, her sister and an aunt. His grandmother is about 102 years old. It is difficult to keep an exact account of one’s age as records had not been kept. I have met 2 of her daughters and they are both over 65 years of age. Our next stop was at a priest’s house but he was not home. We then went to a priestess home and had a conversation with her.
The grub from the palm tree is a delicacy in Ghana. Weevil bug lays its eggs in the palm tree. When the tree has been drained of the sap for palm wine the grubs eat the pulp. The grubs were gathered yesterday at the farm and taken to our instructor. He then took them to a group of men that BBQ kabobs on the side of the road by the university and asked them to cook them.
They were large and very squiggly. I cannot imagine myself eating them. I have been told they are very good and apparently taste like bacon. It is definitely something I would have to have grown up with to appreciate. The food items we eat are probably as strange to people in this area.
I was to do mapping on my internship. There was only one interview set up to date for me to do. On several occasions I have walked through the village talking to the people but it was not a formal interview.
Nothing had been set up or planned for me today so I went to the high school with two of the interns from Abusua. They gave a talk to the home economics classes on nutrition. The group consisted of about 80 females and one male. The roles in Ghanaian society appear to be divided into male and female roles. The class reflects this gender separation.
Although I did not notice the young man in the class being teased he must have to overcome obstacles to get into and stay in the class. I observed that most jobs are divided by gender. For instance I have only seen male taxi drivers and female’s selling fruits and vegetables.
The two interns did a great job presenting the information to the students. They engaged the group and were open to questions. The head of the home economics department and the teacher are both female. The head of the department was very strict with the class. She became frustrated with the students when they did not know the answers to the questions. She raised her voice several times when addressing the students. The teachers are much more vocal here. The students were very respectful throughout the lecture and the level of irritation with them appeared to be excessive.
During the lecture the Head Mistress asked me to come out and meet two teachers. I had given a thesaurus to the school a few days before. The head of the English department and a teacher wanted to thank me personally for the book. They appreciated getting the book. This is a resource we take for granted as it is available on our computer, internet and libraries. The teacher asked if others come to the school if they could bring more resource materials. One small gesture will help so many students.
Back at our house we still do not have running water. Before we left Canada we were assured that there was running water. After a meeting on Sunday we again were assured that the water would be turning on that evening. An aspect that is different than home is that when a contract is signed that in most cases the terms are followed through on. Or if an omission is pointed out it is rectified.
Lack water to maintain a level of cleanliness that I am use to is the difficult part of the time here. I knew that I would have to be vigilant to remain health. I did not realize it would be a challenge within the house.
The meals have been very modest. As this evening meal is being prepared I noticed the amount of vegetables going into the meal for 16 is about what I would prepare for 3 or 4. For dinner last night the meat was a chicken wiener that was thinly sliced. This was the protein for 6 people. I supplement my meals with fresh fruit which is readily available in the nearby market. The food is fried in palm oil which is very high in trans-fat. Much of the diet consists of fried food. This type of diet can lead to health issues. In Canada there is a greater awareness of better food choices although it is not always followed.
We went into the village this morning. A presentation was to be given to the youth and how to do a business plan. The audience was mostly the elders of the community that express concern that the young people appeared to be disconnected from the community. The presenters eventually discussed the topic with 4 men.
I walked through the community talking to people as I went.
We approached the priest at the Catholic Church. We wanted to get his prospective on the village and the apathy the young men had toward the programs presented by Abusua. The priest, Father Frances, was open to our questions.
The church has approximately 30 to 40 young people age 14 to 30 on Sunday service. They have a soccer team which they cannot play on unless they have attended mass. He suggested that we come on a Sunday morning when mass is almost finished then we would have a large group to work with.
We gave him the background on the farm and the difficulty with attracting people to take up agricultural pursuits. He said agriculture is associated with uneducated people. They are the people the young people saw on the way to school. He invited us to come back and work on a plan.
I took a walk off the main road. The houses are progressively modest. In this area there were more homes made of mud and sticks. One woman had cassava she was carrying. She was on her way to sell it in the market. She has a garden that she grows her food. She has enough to feed the family and sells the excess in the market. Her garden has cassava, plantains and palm nuts. She does not barter for other goods she just sells the goods so she has the money.
I spoke to 2 women who were mashing cassava inside a one room structure. They were boiling plantain which was to be added to the cassava. The meal was to serve 3 people. The house occupants were an older man and women, their daughter and her son. There are 3 buildings surrounding their well. The well is owned by them. She said most have their own which is used for washing. Drinking water is from the community well which has a tap.
I stopped at a funeral service and a man invited me to meet the elders. I told me the proper phrase and I greeted the 2 groups. Another group of people were playing the drums and bamboo sticks.
Four of our group went to the high school in the village this morning. A Social justice class from Kwantlen had designed and made solar lanterns. The lanterns were brought with us from Canada. The team held a workshop for the senior science students. A video was shown on why and how the lanterns were made. The seminar was very well received and the young people asked many questions. There were several questions about the rechargeable batteries. I videotaped the workshop with my Blackberry Playbook. The young men around me were very interested in the technology. They quickly were able to negotiate the system.
It is customary to exchange phone numbers or email addresses. I gave my email address to several of the young men. They also wanted to have an individual photo taken with me so I would be able to remember them independent of the rest of the group. The group were very interested our interaction. Several asked if they could come home with me and a few others wanted my Blackberry or me to buy them one. Education is free in Ghana but many parents are not able to pay the school fees or buy supplies. If someone wants to invest in the youth of Ghana they can set up a scholarship where the funds go directly into an account for them at the school or university.
We returned to the house. I had hired a woman to wash my clothes and she did them by hand and had them placed on the clothes line. We then went into the main town square and found a tailor and seamstress to sew a dress. Many people have little shops and are self-employed. The tailor worked in a small lane that had concrete supplies. His sewing machine was on the side of the building.
We had water delivered and were promised it would be turned on last night. We are still waiting.