BRIDGE Report 19: Background Paper on Gender Issues in Ghana

Author: S. Baden, C. Green, N. Otoo-Oyortey
Publisher: Institute of Development Studies UK
Publication Date: Jan 1994
How much autonomy do women in Ghana have' Does this equal that of men' Women in West Africa, and in particular Ghana, are often assumed to enjoy a greater degree of personal and economic independence than women in other parts of Sub- Saharan Africa. While relatively speaking this may be true, this report highlights that gender inequalities are widespread in Ghana, vary by region, and act as a major constraint on women's activities. Taking into account both market and non-market work, women on average work far longer hours than men, and are still responsible for all reproductive labour. Socio-economic changes that have occurred as a result of structural adjustment have provided limited opportunities for women, and in some cases have lead to widening gender inequality. Measures are needed to broaden women's economic opportunity and mobility and provide them with the capacity to benefit equally from adjustment.

Reductions in public spending since the 1980s have hit women particularly hard due to retrenchment (job loss from cutbacks in spending) and limited labour protection for women outside public sector employment (e.g. maternity leave). There are no indications that women's economic opportunities have recovered, and they still lack capacity and institutional support to increase their autonomy, standard of living and productive potential. The following observations detail the current situation of women in Ghana: . Women remain highly underrepresented in the formal sector and are concentrated in small-scale agriculture, often as unpaid family labour, or informal petty trading and manufacturing, with low productivity and income. . Lack of skills and education, and poor access to labour, capital, formal credit and technology limit women's ability to earn money. . Legally, some progress has been made in improving women's rights, in particular through the introduction of women's inheritance rights. However, many women still lack understanding and awareness of these laws. . Agricultural liberalisation (restriction of controls on agricultural market and transition to free trade) has largely benefited medium and larger farmers in the cocoa sector, of whom very few are women. . The deterioration in the health sector due to reduced public expenditure during the 1980s both negatively affected women's health status and increased their work burdens as carers. . Women continue to be underrepresented in education and training. The rising private cost of education has heightened primary school drop-out rates, with girls' attendance considerably lower than that of boys. . Growing proportion of female-headed households. . Women are disadvantaged in land allocation and access to water supplies for agricultural production. Due to the diverse ethnic, cultural and agro-ecological landscape of Ghana, gender relations vary widely and therefore any interventions must specifically address local conditions. The general separation of male and female enterprises and non-pooling of income within households, allows for direct targeting of financial supports to women, as men are less likely to assume control. Future interventions should: . Promote female participation in non-traditional / technical education to broaden their skills base and options for employment or income-generation. In particular, gear women towards the production of tradeable goods which have been favoured by adjustment (e.g. cocoa). . Channel increased and improved support and resources into female-operated micro-enterprise to upgrade operations and enhance productivity (e.g. credit, technology). . Extend legal literacy efforts, legal representation, and support services for women to exert their existing legal rights, especially in relation to inheritance and maintenance. At the same time, promote gender sensitivity of judiciary and police, and gender analysis of existing laws. . Improve access to and quality of health services and education for women and girls. . Improve the management of, and women's access to, natural resources such as water to save women time and improve their income earning potential. It is essential that women are trained and properly supported to run user committees for community water services.