Gender Issues in Ghana

During my stay in Ghana Africa, my group was fortunate enough to have a guest speaker come into our classroom and teach us all about teenage pregnancy and gender issues. We were greeted by a very well educated woman for about an hour and a half and she shared some very intense but important information to us. Some of the information that I heard about was very extreme and upsetting however I was glad that I am not aware of it. We learned about the percentages of girls who are mothers by the age of 19, some of the living arrangements for children in Ghana and how certain things are being taught to children now so that they can be safer. Some of the information that I found interesting was that 30.9% of girls who are mothers by the age of nineteen are not educated at all. This is because they must stay home and take care of their kids and the family. Five percent of women do not have children, which is very low. The average number of kids in a family is about five, the most children a family will have are about eight and the lowest amount of kids would be three. Most families in Ghana have a large number of kids. We were also informed about the percentage of children who live with both parents. The kids from ages zero to four had a percentage of 65.2, ages five thru nine had 54.4%, kids ten thru fourteen were at 47.3%, and fifteen to seventeen were at 41.4%. In addition, eighty to ninety percent of women will have kids while they are working.
Some of the gender roles that females play are very extreme and this was where I had the most trouble when listening to her explain these facts. For instance, girls from ages twelve to fourteen, people will come up to them and curiously ask them if they have had any kids yet. Some girls of the same age range will not use condoms or any form of contraception because they cannot buy it from the store. Most of the time, these girls will have sexual relations with men that are way older than them. I noticed that this specific information we were being told about left the entire class with open mouths and even some tears in some people’s eyes. This was very serious material that none of us were aware of or even really prepared for.
We did discuss one more topic which was about abortion in Ghana. In Ghana abortion is liberal and restricted. Culturally and traditionally in Africa, abortion is not allowed. Ten percent of women die from having an abortion. Ghanians believe in polygamy, which is having more than one wife. The husband can only get one wife pregnant at a time and he cannot do anything sexual with that specific wife until after she is done breastfeeding which takes about two to three years. Finally, the most shocking information that I was taught about was that fifty four percent of women give birth in a hospital, and forty four percent of women give birth to their kids in their own village. If you choose to give birth in a hospital one should expect it to be a very slow, long and very expensive process. This is the main reason why a large number of women will decide to give birth in their village because it is surprisingly very fast (within minutes), and less expensive. I found this to be incredibly interesting but very sad at the same time. Although giving birth may be a faster process in a village, in my opinion, nobody especially a pregnant woman about to give birth should have to be outside in an uncomfortable environment. There should be no reason why women cannot enjoy the birth of her child in a safe, comfortable area. It is upsetting to me that this still goes on in Africa and I wish I could do something to help change this whole process and to make their experience more enjoyable and to most importantly make sure that the women be in good health while being pregnant and giving birth.
Overall, this was an incredibly amazing experience with tons of great information and I am very thankful that I was taught about the gender issues and teenage pregnancies that are currently going on in Africa. I hope that in the years to come, more contraception and forms of protection for young girls will be available and that more, less expensive hospitals and other safe places are built for women to go while pregnant or in need of help. This has been an unbelievable experience for me and something that I will never forget. I hope to be able to share this information with other people and hopefully get them to understand what is going on in Africa and hope that they will help out in the future.

by Sara Fradkin

2 thoughts on “Gender Issues in Ghana

  1. Very interesting entry, Sarah. Pregnancy and birth were also a major theme in our “Dutch Body” ethnography here in the Netherlands program since it is typical for women to give birth at home here as well. Looking at cultural differences only through this one lens (of pregnancy and birth) could keep one busy for a VERY long time. Can’t wait to see you on campus and hear in person some of your tales.

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