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Sam, GVI Ghana Project Coordinator

The world beyond West Africa is suddenly a much closer place for many ordinary Ghanaians. What was once the preserve of films and ‘Obrunis’ (white people) are now common points of discussion in public discourse. America, Europe, and Asia are no longer distant, abstract locations, holding little relevance to local lives. Globalized technology, modern architecture, contemporary art, access to worldwide information and economic liberalism are spreading across the country, having been openly embraced by a largely enthusiastic Ghanaian population. Ghana is a country aware of the changes to its economy and society, but also, much to its own frustration, it is a country where not everyone has the tools they need to prosper during this new wave of development.

Commercial Architecture, Accra, 2019

So what of those who are left behind and unaffected by this steady march of progress? The ones still potentially destined to live in toil and hardship? What of those who can see this country is a significantly different one to that which they grew up in? The ones who have watched their children educated proficiently, their homes supplied with electric appliances, and yet are not totally prepared for the potentially thriving future Ghana has to offer? How will they guide their families through a world which is so different to the one they themselves grew up in?

Fisher men & women, Ghana, 2019

In response, GVI has this year trialled and launched its first basic computing, English literacy, health & wellbeing and vocational skills projects for women/mothers from the local community. These Women’s Economic Empowerment projects, supporting the United Nations Sustainable development Goal #5; Gender Equality, are designed to address some of these future requirements of a transitioning economy. In the communities GVI works in, it is common for women to find employment in street vending, fishing or agriculture, yet unfortunately this will not provide the next generation of workers with the livelihood they want or deserve, particularly in the new economy areas of business, finance and professional services. The disparity of gender in Ghana, where women are unfairly required to burden almost all of the child rearing and household responsibilities, whilst young men take family preference for economic support and entering higher education, also leaves women at a distinct disadvantage.

Women from GVI Ghana’s Mum’s Clubs, 2019

Although the ability to communicate using English is relatively common and almost universal amongst the under 20s, reading and writing will still be a daunting prospect for many women, who have historically not received the quality of education provided to their male counter parts. This effects their confidence, employment prospects and their ability to expand their own business. Learning basic computing also provides confidence for those women who feel left behind by technology, as well as providing them with the knowledge and skills to pursue entrepreneurship, further education and access to the service-based economy of the future. The ability to use office programs opens up a multitude of employment opportunities and also allows for the betterment of family run enterprises, of which many women are already involved. A knowledge of health and wellbeing is often passed on to women through family members and anecdotes. Of course there can be much wisdom in these words, but few will receive proficient evidence-based explanations for the consequences of their diets and lifestyles. Even fewer will be able to practically implement activities to help properly look after their physical and mental wellbeing. So GVI aims to spread good practice for hygiene, nutrition, exercise and reproductive health amongst these women.

This empowerment project also seeks to provide a safe space to discuss intimate, problematic or even taboo subjects for women. Issues easily can go unheard when the confidence of confidentially is not protected and there are most certainly many topics which require honest discussion. Family planning, health, gender imbalance and faith have been brought to the table by people whose voices and opinions are largely undervalued.

Above all the goal of the projects are to provide women with the confidence to be independent and self sufficient, and to understand their vast potential in Ghana’s future. The odds are stacked, the challenges are many, yet despite everything, the enthusiasm is overwhelming. In today’s Ghana, women are being expected, and indeed encouraged, to become professionals or to take more of a role in business. Yet at the same time, the current opportunities for real lasting success are few and far between, especially for those women who are in danger of being left behind. So if you have an interest in gender equality, or expertise in an area that will help lift women’s economic prospects and improve their livelihoods, get in touch with GVI today and join our team in Kokrobite, Ghana.

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