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If one had to place women, children and men on a ladder of importance in Ghana, it would be exactly in that order. Women at the lowest rung, children above them, pregnant women might fit in above the kids and the men on the top.
My first full force exposure to my “place” in Ghana was shortly after I arrived. I was trying to hire someone to refurbish the furniture in the house. I met with the gentleman and showed him what I wanted. He gave me a quote for the materials and the labour. I gave him the money for the materials, shook his hand and waited for him to leave. But he did not move. He stood in front of me, obviously very uncomfortable.
“Do you need something else?” I asked.
“Can I speak to the boss?” he answered.
I opened my mouth and closed it. Then opened it again, thought better of it and shut it once more. My housekeeper who had been standing in the doorway collapsed from laughter and ran off into the kitchen. Many phrases came to my head, and trust me, none of them were charitable.
My exposure to this treatment of women has been mildly annoying; however, for many women it is deeply disturbing, even life threatening. In some tribes, widows are treated in ways which we would consider cruel and inhumane. In some areas, women who are considered a threat to their men can be branded as witches and banished from their homes. Women who contract HIV (often because of the misadventures of their husbands) are scorned and also banished. Some men believe that if their wife has to have a caesarian section it is proof that she has been unfaithful and so some women will die in child birth instead of having the surgery.
I often think that it is difficult to be a woman anywhere, but it is more difficult to be one in Ghana. It is true that we have things easy here relative to other countries especially in Northern Africa and the Middle East. We are able to dress as we like and express ourselves, but when it comes down to a difficult situation, women have very little control over their own lives.