Ghana has made substantial development progress in recent years and has long been thought of as a star performer in sub-Saharan Africa (Coulombe and Wodon, 2007). The poverty situation of the country has being on a decline. This has resulted in Ghana being on track to reduce poverty by half as a key indicator the MDGs in which folded in 2015, giving birth to SDGs (GSS, 2015).
This has been largely due to the political liberalisation, initiated in the 1990s, has continued, delivering enhanced political rights and civil liberties, coupled with sound economic programmes that has help in the empowering processes of the citizenry (FAO, 2012).
The regional dimension of inequality is significant in Ghana. Poverty is much reduced in Accra and around the Rural Forest area but is still very widespread in Northern Ghana (Coulombe and Wodon, 2007). The geographical concentration of valuable agricultural resources and activities including cocoa, mineral and forest resources have significantly made the south to be miles ahead of Northern Ghana (UNDATA, 2011). The regional disparities have adverse implications on widening inequalities, poverty and under- development of women (World Bank, 2007).
While the economy is growing and poverty levels are declining, Ghana still faces many development challenges (World Bank, FAO, IFAD, 2010). Gender inequality and marginalization of women and children has continued to thwart the development effort of the country as it strives to consolidated socio- economic and political gains. The write up therefore examine the poverty situation, inequalities and the state of women development in the Upper West Region of Ghana, where poverty is more pronounced.
At its most extreme, poverty has lead to the underdevelopment of women in the Upper West Region of Ghana. Access to land and other cultural underpinning have relegated women to continue to be stagnant in the vicious circle of poverty. The lack of adequate representation and voice in decision making bodies in the community and the state perpetuates discrimination, in terms of access to public services, such as schooling and health care or discriminatory customary rites including elopement (where the young girl is forcefully married without her wish), as witnessed in Lawra have all contributing in making women impoverished. This scenario is witnessed significant in the past and event recent times in the case of Ghana.
Inequalities exist in all spheres of woman life in the Upper West Region. While there is significant modification of cultural traits affecting the life f women, especially in the Nandom District where women can easily have access to land for agricultural related activities, most localities still deny the women any means of economic empowerment. Interestingly, women have high participation in agro-business; retail sector and manufacturing sector in the District- from weaving Fugu to Shea butter production, the woman in Lambusie to Gwollu are all engaged in the production processes. Worryingly, the degree of inequalities exist in paid job when there is an opportunities, men are favoured than women.
Though government have a greater commitment towards ensuring Universal Basic Education for all, the education of the girl child still remain a less priority in most communities in the Upper West Region of Ghana. The Girl child in Kulpong in the Wa East District is considered a bride instead of giving her an opportunity to dignify her life through education to becoming a productive citizen.
The young boy on the other hand, is giving the support and attention to embrace formal education. Also, the teen girl in Bussie is asked to stop school for farm works, while the teen boy will peg goats and sheep in order to attend school. These and others discriminatory tendencies have significant contributed to widening gender inequalities.
Poverty, inequalities and women under- development in Ghana has become a monster. Future poverty alleviation initiatives will need to address poverty, inequalities and omen under- development in the Upper West Region. Future poverty alleviation achievements will necessarily need to tackle specific poverty issues, while issues of inequalities including discrimination in limited job opportunities, recognition to men needs to be critically prioritized in terms of orientation.
There exists a clear relationship with women under- development in the Upper West Region. There are socio- economic, cultural and social factors that, deny the woman the fullest opportunity to explore. Women still have a traditional role of managing the kitchen, with limited, where cultural factors re- enforces the dominance of man to control and exert absolute authority; women are always at the mercy of their bully.
The urgency of building an enabling environment for women empowerment cannot be overlooked. Ghanaian women including those in the Upper West Region of Ghana seem to have more entrepreneurship skills than their male counterparts and for that matter, their potentials must be unearthing.
There is the need for gender assessment, this will help appreciate differences and inequalities between women and men and how they could be relevant to addressing the issue of marginalization and social exclusion.
Similarly, women’s agricultural tasks and crops have also received less attention than those of men in terms of policies and programme to improve productivity.
For, this adequate priority should be given to rural women in the regions in order to increase productive outputs.
Author: Tahiru Lukman
Tel: 0209154057 / 0551018778
Job; Youth Activist/ Development Consultant
Location: Wa- UW/R