In villages of the western part of Ghana, the former profitable fishing is now making the fishermen and their families suffer. It is not easy to make sufficient income when the Jubilee oilrig, climate changes and pollution are decreasing the number of fish in the ocean. These conditions which are occurring over all the coastal districts of Ghana are together with high illiteracy and inherited cultural norms been pinpointed as the main reason behind the increased domestic violence against women. According to Ghana Country Report, Ghana is one of the countries in the world with the highest amount of physical and psychological abuse towards the female population.
At a community meeting in Tikobo 2 in Jomoro District, Salomey Ami age 25, an inhabitant of the village sits on the second row facing me. She is observing the meeting with interest and looks around, but does not speak up. As I approach her, she looks down at her feet and speaks very softly. She is not comfortable but yet kind. Madame Rose, a schoolteacher and a member of UCSOND, smiles and nods her head as she interprets what I am asking her.
»We would like to ask you some questions about your life, will you be ok with that?«
A different perspective
A man, sitting on the other side of the bench speaks up. He wants us to start with him and ask him about his life. It is, as he believes that his story is more valuable to us, than the story of Salomey Ami. I kindly, but firmly reject his request, which he does not seem to understand, because he keeps on trying and moves so he sits next to Salomey Ami.
» For how long have you been living in this village? « I ask her. Salomey looks up with a smile. The fact that Madame Rose and I, were more interested in her story than the story of Joseph Kofi Sanwiah, has given her confidence, in that we are showing a genuine interest in her life.
» I have been living here all my life,« she answers.
No expectations for the future
According to a Human Development Report from 2014, there is a gap on 21% between the male and female literacy level in Ghana. The village is small and it does not seem like there is a lot to do for a young woman around here. Most people’s work in this community is within agriculture but her family does not have a farm. She has six siblings. Five sisters and one brother, but it is only the brother that can read and write.
Asked if she has had any occupation in her life, she looks down again and tells us about her 8 months working as a dressmaker, but the workplace closed down and she is currently unemployed.
» It is not easy to get a job, because I do not have any skill and I am living together with my parents. I do not have any expectations to my future, I only have hopes and I prayer as well,« she says.
As many other women in Ghana, Salomey Ami’s future is depending on her finding a husband, that can provide financial stability. Being illiterate, she does not have a possibility to rise within the field of education and with no opportunities for employment in her village, marriage is the only way for her to get beyond her parents control and to have a possibility of ending the vicious cycle of poverty.
If the control from a husband is better, it is difficult to say, but in a country where domestic violence towards women is one of the biggest problems – in fact, one out of three women will experience domestic violence according to Ghana National Statistics 2014, one can question that.
That the voice of a woman does not count as much as a male is once again, when I thank Salomey Ami and turn my face towards Joseph Kofi Sanwiah. I ask him, how many siblings he has, and how many of them, have an education.
» I have seven sisters and I’m the only one with an education,« he answers.
»So your sisters didn’t attend school at all? Do they not know how to write and read? « I ask surprised.
My question do not seem to disturb Joseph Kofi Sanwiah as he looks proud and calm at me while he answers:
» No, they did not attend school and they do not know how to read and write. I am the only one who attended school.«
I find it difficult to look at him without showing my disbelief and that I am disturbed with what he has just told me. The seriousness of the inequality does not even strike him. Because of his gender his life is filled with opportunities, while his sisters are not.
UCSOND is among other things working with empowerment and gender issues within the six coastal districts of Western Region to create a better future for the women with teaching about human rights and making people aware of the discrimination that the society is suffering from right now.