The following is an abstract from the MSc Dissertation of University of Strathclyde LLM student, Vera Hayibor, following her Challenges Worldwide field research placement in Uganda during Summer 2017, exploring the impact of Labour Laws on the Economic Rights of Ugandan Women.
This research focuses on the elimination of extreme poverty as the goal No 1 of the Sustainable Development Goals. It proposes that the economic rights of women are made the solution. UN member countries have set into action plans and strategies to achieve the SDG (Sustainable Development Goals) , which is to serve as a blue print for Economic development. However, the achievement of these goals is possibly more challenging for Least Developed Countries including Uganda whose majority population (women) are poverty stricken because of numerous factors.
This research also seeks to examine the impact of labour law as well as economic and socio-cultural factors on the economic rights of Ugandan women and women in general. In particular, how that can hinder their roles in achieving SDG1 by 2030.
The author carried out her research in Uganda working with various women and labour related organisations. As a result, the 3-month field research showed that the effect of inappropriate legislation and policies, ineffective implementation mechanisms and archaic cultures have a significant effect on the economic rights of women in Uganda. Meanwhile the influence of international laws such as Labour Law, is minimal on the impact on the economic growth of the average woman in Uganda. Comparing Uganda with two other countries (Kenya & Ghana) for a larger perspective showed that, the challenge is not only limited to least developed countries but developing countries also face similar obstacles.
For many people, especially those in Rwanda, creating a business is a way to survive. It’s a means of making money, not necessarily driven by the desire to be an incredible entrepreneur but simply to provide for themselves and their family. In a nation where more than 30% of households are female-headed and without a ‘man-of-the-house’, women, business and power are words that certainly aren’t strangers to one another in this small East African state.
The 1994 genocide ripped through Rwanda, killing a million people in 100 days and leaving the country with far fewer men than women. With women making up 60-70% of the population in the wake of the atrocities, perhaps it’s unsurprising that President Paul Kagame acknowledged that he and men alone could not fix what was left of the country. Kagame embarked on a women’s empowerment strategy that aimed to empower women at the backbone of the economy and would extend to the very highest positions in government.
Fast forward 20 years and Rwanda is now the number 1 country in the world for women in power. Despite the UK praising itself for an all-time high of 32% women MPs in the 2017 general election, Rwanda boasts double that. Rwanda takes the lead worldwide when it comes to the share of women in the national legislature, having 64% of seats within the government.
As part of my Challenges Worldwide ten-week placement in Kigali, I’ve lived in a host family led by a strong independent woman. My host mother was made a widow by the genocide and has single-handedly raised her daughter and niece since losing her husband and son. I’ve also worked in an enterprise not only run by an incredible women management team, but that also exists solely to empower other women in the community. Working and living in female-oriented environments for the whole of my placement has taught me a lot about the growing trend of successful women and how inspirational they are. Here are three lessons we in the UK should sit up and learn from.
1- Women are Powerful
Before the genocide in 1994, women were not educated and were not raised with the expectations of a career. It was unusual for married women to take a job outside of the home and was uncommon for a woman to own her own land. These days, Rwanda encourages female entrepreneurship by accepting and registering a business, not based on the gender of the CEO, but on the basis that it is a legitimate business idea with an impact that will value the economy if you utilise your workforce 100%. These ideas are propagated by the president and supported throughout government initiatives.
In the UK, most women in business initiatives are facilitated by the private sector or charitable organisations. This is particularly true for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) subjects, where there are now a whole host of women empowerment groups to encourage women to career-shift or upskill. The government meanwhile is primarily focused on changing the attitudes of young girls to ensure that future generations do not experience the same disparity. It is yet to acknowledge that this approach has a significantly slower impact rate than if it were combined with policies that addressed the females who were already adults and eager to be powerful.
Driven by necessity in the mid-90s, Rwanda couldn’t afford to wait for the next generation. The economy needed rebuilding, and it needed rebuilding quickly. Women were put on the forefront of political, economic and reconciliation initiatives. Kagame said that empowering women was a vital precondition to socio-economic transformation and by accelerating progress in this regard, they were speeding up their own development. We in the UK could certainly benefit from embracing this attitude, particularly if it were adopted officially as government policy.
2- Women are Creative
It’s not just that women in Rwanda have started businesses. Lots of people have started businesses. However, I was amazed to see so many of the most creative businesses we’ve worked with in Kigali have been founded by women: eight out of 11 from our cycle to be precise. Businesses here in Rwanda are most successful when they’re managed with a thriving creative flair.
The social enterprise I worked for was called The Women’s Bakery, and it’s not just your average street corner bakery. It was founded, lead and run by a team of extraordinary women who work to create opportunities to empower women within East Africa. It’s a creative enterprise that addresses two societal issues simultaneously. From staff member to consumer, this social enterprise can satisfy the needs of the two groups of people that they impact the most.
The business focuses on the three issues that affect women disproportionately; poor nutrition, unstable income and lack of education. My CEO created a training programme that aims to address all three. The Women’s Bakery’s curriculum focuses on business management and baking skills, whilst simultaneously creating highly nutritious baked products that stock their successful bakery.
In a country where getting enough protein from anything other than mixed beans can be tricky, The Women’s Bakery has turned their enterprise into a niche offering. For example, they create muffins that contain 5g of protein. That’s 8% of an adults’ daily intake and 21% of a child! Their products range from loafs of bread to cookies and biscuits, all baked with low/no sugar, hidden fruit and vegetables and using only the finest quality produce. Trust me, we researched the suppliers during our analysis phase, a lot …!
The women that work inside the bakery are women that beforehand had no income, poor nutrition knowledge and usually had around 4/5 children. After training, these women are presented with a full-time job and are now equipped with the knowledge of how to bake fortified bread for themselves and their families.
If more women in the UK were empowered and encouraged to create enterprises that address a societal need, like that of The Women’s Bakery, rather than simply to generate profit, we’d have an economy filled with creative and socially conscious enterprises – just like Rwanda.
3- Women are Influencers
Think of all the little girls you know. Who are they looking at for inspiration? Think of all the little boys you know. Who is showing them how to be supportive? Who is teaching these children why it’s so important to work hard, have courage and support one another?
Studies show that young children have the tendencies to copy, re-enact and grow into the shoes they have been following their whole lives. What you show them today, impacts them tomorrow. The young of today will grow to be the adults who create new opportunities for their own generation and in Rwanda, where more than 40% of the population are younger than 14 years old, people understand just how important creating an active, engaged and equal society really is.
We may have a far smaller youth population in the UK, but arguably a declining population size makes it just as important to empower the youth as an expanding one. The youth of the UK will be the ones who’ll need to address many inevitably difficult challenges for the UK, from economic stability, how to support the elderly and, of course, the damaging effects of climate change. To address these issues, we’ll need 100% empowered people, not just the 50% who win the luck of the gender card draw. Instead of misleading the children of today into believing the stigma that the word feminism is stuck in, we should be teaching them the benefits of equality and pouring light onto the concept of empowering women.
We should be teaching the young ones in our lives to have courage and to speak up for their right to be successful, whatever gender. We should be livening their creativity and awakening the ideas that not only address their need for sustainable livelihoods but also leave a lasting impact. A legacy. But most importantly we need to be role models for them; helping them to build their own future through entrepreneurship.
To all the strong women I have had the pleasure to work with, that have inspired me, thank you. To all the women still out there fighting for their independence, working hard every day to make a living for themselves, you are amazing. I can’t tell you how inspirational it is to see strong women get up, show up and change their world. For all my destiny child lovers out there, keep on surviving.
“Be the change you want to see in the world” (Gandhi)
The key message received by volunteers in Kampala, Uganda on International Women’s Day, a national public holiday. Dressed in the day’s thematic colours of white and orange, our group of volunteers, Team Leaders and in-country staff joined many others at a conference partnered by Challenges Worldwide at The Innovation Centre in Ntinda. Armed with the globally trending hashtag “BeBoldForChange” our team were ready to gain first-hand insight into life as a working woman in Uganda.
The message was one which we can all relate to and received by both men and women. It was a day for not only recognising women in Uganda but recognising the changes that we as individuals can make to generate a more equal and inclusive society. Nonetheless, we learnt that 70% of the world’s poor are women and face many challenges in health, education and their role within society which for some women the consequence of their actions could be life or death.
Three inspirational women, two from Uganda and one from Afghanistan formed the panel discussion to commence the event. Godiva Monica Akullo, a feminist, lawyer and human rights activist encouraged women to stand up for change. She shocked the room when she spoke about one of her own experiences: working for a Ugandan law firm and attending a conference as not only the youngest but also the only female, she was approached by a male client who asked if she could pour him a coffee. As a professional and Harvard lawyer graduate she did not let this pass and made her opinions known. Since this day, she believes in empowering women to take action such that men feel their presence in the room.
Among the other panellists was Evelyn Namara, founder of Innovate and an ICT specialist, believing women can be better in technology advancement, breaking stereotypes and mindsets and advocating that girls should grow up with the same opportunities as boys. Captain Babra, a Ugandan army captain also stood up to encourage young girls to follow their dreams because nothing is impossible.
“girls should grow up with the same opportunities as boys”
All the women spoke with such passion and emphasis on how women in Uganda will continue to speak up about this topic until the day they are viewed as equal human beings. However, it was Betty Ogiel Rubanga, author of Against All Odds and an example of the life-changing benefits of education for girls and women, whose story truly inspired. Over ten years ago she was caught up in a road accident, crushing all dreams of becoming an athlete (being able to run 100m in 12.8 seconds, pathed out a potential career), leaving her partially paralysed down the right side of her body and with a speech impairment which would impact on the rest of her life. As she translated these memories into words and spoke of her experiences she moved many in the room to tears. Her message, however, was clear as she went on to discuss the five things that made her excel at life, without which she would not be the women she is today: 1. Working hard; 2. Making wise decisions; 3. Be yourself; 4. Be the author of your destiny; 5. Positive mental attitude.
So the question is: how are we being the change we want to see in the world?
As volunteers with Challenges Worldwide, we have already made this leap. Working to promote development through small-medium sized enterprises, many owned by women we are being active in making the change that we want to see happen in the world.
Be bold to question, to challenge and fight the conscious and unconscious gender biases within yourself, Be a voice, a speech, an author, a poet, a writer for her story,
Be a fighter, a lawyer, an advocate, defender for her rights,
Be the courage, the motivation, the hope for her future,
Be a change, a catalyst, a leader for her community,
Be a keeper, a mentor, hope for her goals,
Be a teacher, a parent, a social worker, a friend who listens to her concern,
Be bold for change
Be bold to stand with her, nurture her into a future leader,
Let everyone understand being a feminist is not becoming a perfect human being but simply someone who understand her privileges and responsibilities,
Her rights and duties,
Give her the opportunity to be herself,
Let her learn and lead,
Let her start business, be a boss, a manager, a CEO
Be bold for change,
Take a challenge,
Broaden your knowledge about diversity and inclusion,
Challenge policies, laws and cultures that limit her participation,
Be a leader who listens to her voice,
Speak against the gender disparities,
Welcome different points of view and value different individuals as they are,
Support efforts to end Gender-based violence,
Support her to get high-quality education,
Give her skills and resources to manage her business,
Respect her decisions
Point out bias and highlight alternatives,
Applaud social, economic, cultural and political women role models,
Celebrate women’s journeys and the barriers overcome,
#BeBoldForChange this 2017 IWD and beyond.
Inequalities exist all around the world and gender isn’t an exception to this reality. Women represent half the world’s population and yet account for 70% of the world’s poor. To make matters worse, women contribute approximately 70% of working hours in the world but only earn 10% of the world’s income. Hence, women in many countries face inequalities throughout their whole lives, from when they are born until the time they die.
From an early age, millions of women face gender-based stereotypes that discriminate them from having access to education. As well as not having access to education often young women are conditioned to see their only aspiration in life is to get married and have children. In the eyes of many societies around the world, having a well-kept home, a happy husband and producing offspring is the only worthy indicator of a successful woman.
Those who are able to overcome the first hurdle of accessing an education then grow up to face limited job or promotion opportunities. Often the job opportunities that are afforded are limited to domestic activities and service roles. Many women find themselves with little or no power to make decisions in their work and home and many others have to defend themselves from sexual harassment and gender-based violence, from which millions of women die every year.
In Africa, these realities occur every day and, although this has been recognised as a problem to be solved by most African governments, the transition has been much slower here than in other regions of the world. However, empowering women and girls is a key factor for economic development. Healthy and educated girls, with an equal access to opportunities, can help their families to get out of poverty, become leaders in their communities and make significant changes, like Wangari Maathai or Kaya Thomas have done.
What can we do to empower women to change the world?
The first step is to be informed; running away from the information won’t make gender injustice around the world less of a reality. As Minna Salami says, “it takes individual consciousness to create collective awareness”.
“it takes individual consciousness to create collective awareness”.
The second step is empowerment: working together to give women the real opportunity of making their own choices, especially the most vulnerable ones. But, how can this reality be changed? It isn’t easy peasy. Still, there are many people working for gender equality around the world. Here we’ll share some African enterprises that are encouraging examples of this:
Foundation for the Realization of Economic Empowerment (F.R.E.E)
F.R.E.E. is a social enterprise that works to reverse marginalisation of women in Zambia by providing them with opportunities that go from making jewellery to reducing illiteracy levels. It helps women, mainly single mothers and those who are in a vulnerable situation, to have a dignified source of income.
Ng’ombe Jewellery Project, for example, is one of their projects and is based in the Ng’ombe community. The idea is to teach woman how to make jewellery, from bracelets to necklaces, by using recycled cooper (which have generated many political, economic and social issues in the country), as well as semi-precious Zambian stones. As the cherry on top, each of these pieces is packed in a small chitenge bag, which are sewn by Vida and her sisters, who are disabled but talented women in the Ng’ombe community.
Is a skin care business that doesn’t only sell beauty products but builds opportunities for women in Ghana. In this sense, Ele Agbe is empowering women in rural areas to gain a sustainable livelihood by producing quality products for both the local and international market. This venture started making jewellery from recycled glass and then moved to shea butter products, thanks to the vision of their inspirational founder and CEO Comfort Adjahoe. But why attempt to tell the story if Comfort can do it better.
Another women-led enterprise based in Uganda that, contrary to the previous ones, isn’t mainly focused on empowering women but on creating jobs for young people. Decent work opportunities, not charity, as we’ve seen through all these examples, is a more powerful way to provide employment and dignified ways of income. Kampala Fair began with sewing lessons in Mette Islandi, who then teamed up with Louise Graymore from the UK and created Kampala Fair together.
Nowadays, Kampala Fair is a sustainable, profitable and fair trade business that sell their products for local and international markets. Everything in this clothing business is locally made, from the vibrant fabrics to the designers and tailors. We invite you to visit the web page, learn more from them and get lost among the beautiful designs.
Last October Challenges Worldwide volunteer and soon to be Team Leader Rosie Coleman spent a Friday evening with the Kumasi, Ghana chapter of women who code to lead a workshop on “excelling your career.”
The most interesting thing for me was to witness the similarities between the women here in Kumasi and those I’ve met back home in London during similar tech career workshops. The Kumasi women had the same fears and concerns about interviews and our feedback session focused largely on the same issues with self-confidence and belief in their own awesomeness.
Not only in the global South but also here in the UK
Here the gender inequalities aren’t as big as in other countries, however, we aren’t absent of this reality. One of the main issues is the “missing middle” in organisations. What does this mean? Even though at junior management levels both genders are equally represented, male managers are 40% more likely to be promoted to higher roles. This is the number one cause of the 23% gender pay gap.
You can join Challenges Worldwide by taking part of the International Citizen Service volunteer programme and help any of these enterprises to keep on empowering women or you can do your own bit to fill in the missing middle and join the Chartered Management Institute at an exclusive discounted rate for Challenges learners.
By joining many small efforts, challenges can be overcome and great changes can be achieved. Be part of this movement!
Take the chance and travel to Africa with us. Apply now!
Success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life but by the obstacles which she has overcome.”
–Booker T Washington.
‘So what are you doing again?’ A question that had been posed to me so many times before I left the (what I thought to be) busy streets of London for (what I now know to be) the truly busy streets of the city of Lusaka, Zambia. After being in Lusaka for a week and getting to know the in-country Zambian volunteers, I thought I knew exactly what to expect when it was finally time to leave the training location and move into my new host home to start work at the business I had been assigned to.
I had been paired with a small social enterprise called The Foundation for the Realization of Economic Empowerment (otherwise known as F.R.E.E woman). As my counterpart, Charles and I made our way from the urban area where our host families lived to F.R.E.E. I began to notice the change in surroundings. The low rise gated buildings and shopping malls began to fall away slowly being replaced with smaller hand-built houses and kantemba (small roadside shops). The number of cars around us plummeted and before we knew it we were at the heart of a community known as the N’gombe compounds. N’gombe is one of Zambia’s underdeveloped areas and the home of F.R.E.E.
As a social enterprise, F.R.E.E. woman exists to provide women from the most underprivileged communities with a way to earn income and reverse the marginalisation of said women by providing them with an opportunity to better their lives. The focus is on the creation of jewellery, from bracelets to necklaces, out of copper wire and a copper sheet with some of the more extravagant pieces incorporating semi-precious stones.
In August 2010 the project emerged from a group of young women living in Lusaka’s slums who had no previous jewellery making experience. The group was founded by Dawn Close, an American who lives in Lusaka. There are now more than 20 women that currently take part in the group although more than twice this number have been capably trained and regularly reincorporate themselves. The inclusion of all women in this project is an aim that remains at the forefront of F.R.E.E’s agenda and this can be observed in the flexibility of the work that is on offer. Many of the women that work with F.R.E.E are young mothers which may act as a barrier to attaining other forms of employment, however, through this project women are able to drop in as frequently as they desire and at any time during the working day.
After working with the organisation for almost four weeks I have been able to see the extent to which F.R.E.E’s social impact reaches. Four of the women have been able to return to school, a number of the women involved with F.R.E.E have been able to attain financial independence and all have gained skills that can aid them in future endeavours within the working world if they choose to venture into formal employment elsewhere. As a group that makes up more than half of the population in Zambia, it was somewhat surprising to find that only 28.8% of women are in formal employment. However, projects such as F.R.E.E are actively working towards raising these numbers and tackling the ‘elephant in the room’ that is the marginalisation of women in the workforce across Zambia.
This year I have also had the pleasure of celebrating International women’s day in Zambia where unlike the UK, it is a Zambian national holiday. Although somewhat contrasting the image painted by the statistics regarding the position of women in Zambia, this day was used to appreciate and acknowledge the efforts of the many Zambian women and women around the world and celebrate their achievements. In appreciating the struggles that so many women around the world do face on a daily basis we can learn from organisations like F.R.E.E and move towards addressing these issues one by one, something that I am excited to have the opportunity be a part of.
Last month I had the pleasure of attending a Women Who Code event in Kumasi, Ghana.
The potential of woman entrepreneurs remains largely untapped across the world. Few industries experience this as dramatically as technology: according to the World Economic Forum, less than 20% of those working in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Maths) are women.
And yet, technology has never been more important for our increasingly interconnected societies. Social media. The YouTube generation. The advent of mobile money taking the African market by storm. Technology has already proven its capacity to fundamentally reshape our societies. It is fast becoming the creative driving force behind almost every sustainable business in our global economy. It has the potential to help overcome some of the largest issues facing the world today. However, we definitely cannot achieve these lofty heights if we continue to ignore 50% of our potential global tech workforce. Enter Women Who Code.
Women Who Code is a free meetup-style network of women
Since its launch in 2011, Women Who Code has connected more than 80,000 women globally and produced 4,200 free technical events in 20 countries. Late in 2015, Afia Owusu-Forfie created Women Who Code’s first Sub-Saharan African programme in Ghana’s capital Accra and, in the spirit of supporting innovation and community enterprises, I was delighted to be invited to represent Challenges Worldwide as the Accra branch set foot in Kumasi for their maiden test events last month.
On the evening of Fri 7th October I headed down to Kumasi’s bustling Tech Junction and, after only a couple of failed attempts, secured a good price for a taxi to drive me out to Garden City University College for the ‘Excel In Your Career’ workshop I was to help lead. Thanks to impenetrable traffic and many a road trench, I arrived with just 2 minutes to spare before kick-off. I was shown into a room and was delighted to see nearly double the number of students we had anticipated. I was greeted by the friendly face of my fellow Women-Who-Coder-Afia Owusu-Forfie- who had Skyped in from the US to lead the session virtually.
Over the next two hours we ‘interviewed’ five brave community volunteers one by one, all in front of a packed room. It was fantastic to see the women show a real range of backgrounds and passions and really rise to the challenge of the evening. The most interesting thing for me was to witness the similarities between the women here in Kumasi and those I’ve met back home in London during similar tech career workshops. The Kumasi women had the same fears and concerns about interviews and our feedback session focused largely on the same issues with self-confidence and belief in their own awesomeness. This alone really proved to me the importance of a global network of women to help overcome these potential barriers to success. The comradery atmosphere in the room was really inspirational and, despite a couple of technical issues, a power cut and a massive downpour of rain, it was a brilliant evening where empowerment was definitely top of the agenda.
For more information on the Women Who Code community check out their website or find events near you.
The majority of societies the world over have a patriarchal structure. Ghana and the UK are no exception to this, and women continue to be an oppressed group despite making up just over half the population. Both countries are fighting to ensure women have equal treatment and equal opportunities, in life and in work.
On the International Citizen Service (ICS) programme, UK volunteers have had the opportunity to live and work alongside Ghanaian volunteers as part of a Ghanaian community in Accra. It has been fascinating to compare cultural experiences, and to explore the complex issues around gender equality, from childcare to healthcare to social expectations and stereotypes.
It is well known that women are under-represented in the workplace. This is particularly the case in sectors such as Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM), as well as in senior levels of management. Jobs traditionally reserved for women tend to be low-paid and labour-intensive, such as nursing or teaching. This gender divide is apparent from school, where girls and boys tend to choose ‘gender appropriate’ subjects- and many girls are also absent from the education system as a result of familial pressure to marry or help out at home.
Even when in the workplace, women experience discrimination in many forms. They are expected to manage homes and families as well as careers- but when they do this, they are often penalised for a lack of dedication to one or the other. Women often experience a gender pay gap, being paid a great deal less for exactly the same work, and tend to be promoted more slowly, with feminine traits being perceived as less suited to leadership.
Inequality for women is rooted deep in cultural norms and expectations, but there are a number of ways these can be challenged. In Ghana, new laws and better education work alongside campaigns from national and international NGOs, and many women, particularly those in the wealthier parts of the South, have benefitted from a great deal of change over the past few decades. However, as is the case in the UK as well, there is still much more to be done.
In this article, we have spoken to four Ghanaians- Leticia, Afua, Araba, and Alice- documenting their experiences as working women in Ghana. This is not a comprehensive survey, but we hope to be able to draw out some themes of a near-universal issue, as well as highlighting a few unique aspects of Ghanaian culture.
Leticia Donkor is a 25 year old Ghanaian lady from a Christian family of 9. She loves God and she always lets the principles of the Lord guide her decisions. She aims to become a successful entrepreneur and a philanthropist in the coming years, in event planning and also the food industry. She exhibits great understanding of issues around her society. She describes herself as melancholic in nature, but she loves to smile.
What was your education like?
My educational life was interesting, even though it has not come to an end and I hope to continue to greater heights as I go on in life!
I had the privilege of attending a private school which helped shape my academic future up to this level. I also had the opportunity to attend two types of secondary schools. I first attended Apam Secondary school where I was admitted to read General Arts, but that wasn’t my programme of interest so I had to start over in Accra Girls’ School where I was offered General Science.
How did you choose your university?
During my university search, I only had one university in mind- the premier university in Ghana that is the University of Ghana. That was the only university I applied to, and God being so good I was offered admission.
How did you choose your degree subject?
I had a love for humanity, so I was burnt on reading medicine, but due to the strict entry system I didn’t get to pursue that dream. I was given an equally important option of reading Chemistry or Biochemistry, but I objected because of the Chemistry component. I then decided on reading BSc Nutrition and Food Science- not because I liked it, but I later grew to really love that programme.
Was there any difference in the way boys and girls were treated at school?
There was no preferential treatment for guys during my stay at the university, and I don’t think there could be because of the ever-growing understanding of women empowerment among our elite societies. For this reason, ladies were the ones who were given some level of preferential treatment in order to encourage them to study hard.
What was the gender split at school and university?
The gender split was very obvious. There were more guys than ladies in my university and previous schools.
Were there any subjects which were overwhelmingly boys or overwhelmingly girls?
There were quite a number of programmes which looked liked they were mounted for only guys, such as Medicine, Pharmacy, Engineering, and Mathematics. These were hugely dominated by guys for obvious reasons.
Where do you think this imbalance came from?
It comes from our system. Why am I saying this? It’s because people have grown to see men doing some jobs so men have been naturally tagged to that job which has influenced what ladies study at university.
Do you feel that there are any jobs that are meant more for boys or meant more for girls?
More ladies gear their job interest towards home science, secretariat, nursing, teaching, and other fine looking jobs, while more guys opt for engineering, construction, and other sophisticated jobs which demand more abstract studies. But I don’t support that idea and I strongly believe women will be able to survive in those jobs too.
Are there any jobs that you would not do because you are female?
Maybe construction work- this is because of my physical strength ratio in comparison to what is needed for that job.
What was your first job and how did you get it?
My first job was an interesting one because it was a very well paid job. It was right after university but before National Service. This was a project on collection of data around children’s dietary intake, for children aged 6 months to 5 years. The interview for the job was a semi-formal one with my lecturers. This was after my friend Tracy turned down her slot for me- for which I greatly respect her.
What was the atmosphere like at your company? What proportions of the workforce were female?
My first job was related to food and nutrition aspects of my programme of study in the university. Interestingly, there were more females than males because the work involved administering dietary questionnaires to mothers of these selected children, so it was thought that the females would do better on that. The only male we had assisted in getting the anthropometric information on the kids.
Did you feel that men and women were treated any differently in the workplace?
Even though there were more females than males, we were treated equally and the males respected and protected us because we were lodging outside home.
How has your first employment influenced your quest of entering business?
My first employment got me to like those kinds of projects, but it didn’t change my dreams of starting up my own business in the food industry.
Would you like to have a family in the future?
Yes! I want a family in the near future, but how soon I don’t know. I believe God’s time is the best and I will start a family when it’s right.
Do you feel that there is pressure on women to have a family?
Generally in Africa there seems to be that pressure on young women who hit their early and mid twenties to start a family- that is, get married and start bearing children. This puts loads of pressure on young women who think otherwise and want to start their own career before starting a family.
Do you think having children and starting business is possible in Ghana given our conditions?
Many think it is not possible to start a family and do business. I see it to be a big challenge, but it is possible.
It would be very difficult but I am still learning from my older friends and some female mentors who have managed to blend family with business and have seen both being successful and flourishing. I believe I will be able to do the same, by God’s grace, but don’t expect it to be easy given our conditions and understanding of gender roles.
How do you plan overcoming any issues?
I will want to have a very flexible business schedule when I start having kids, so I am working hard towards that now that I am single.
I tried my own business in my early twenties, but before that I had started one with my kid brother when I was 22 years. Currently, I am planning on how to make my idea of an event-planning business work, and I would say it is on a “careful planning” stage because I want it to be a sustainable business.
So would you agree that family keeps most young women out of business?
Yes, family keeps a lot of women out of business but that trend is now changing. I grew seeing my mother leaving our kid sister to travel to the North to trade. I think many women really are into businesses, but not in bigger or recognisable scales due to pressures of family roles.
What role would you like your husband to play in terms of running the household and raising the children?
I would expect my husband to play a partnership role in my business as well as raising the family. I grew up in a set where both my parents were involved in raising the children, and for that reason I expect my husband to be ‘active at home’. The challenge would be the conflict of interest that may arise, but since I am not yet there I won’t say much!
Do you think most men would be happy contributing to this role in this way?
I think he would be very happy to contribute to my business by helping me out in the upbringing of our kids to ease up the pressure on me. Then I could give my business full attention and make it grow so that I can contribute to the financial needs of these same kids.
What role does culture play on your understanding of the role of a woman?
Culture does play a major part in my understanding of the role of women in societies and at home. Our culture as Ghanaians has embodied some natural roles for women, and we are to be submissive to our husbands, and to be the ones to take care of the home while men provide money for the family, from ensuring food is ready, home is clean, and kids are well kept. These are the roles our culture gives to women, but it is gradually changing.
Do you think the situation in Ghana is very different to the UK for women?
The situation in Ghana is different to that of the Western nations, particularly the UK. This is mainly because we have two different cultural beliefs and practices as well as different family settings. Even the level of economic and academic exposure differs.
What do you think holds women back from starting businesses?
I don’t think there are many reasons, but the few that I can highlight are the choice of business and probably the access to Business Capital, as well as family matters. If the business is one which will take women from their family duties, then it becomes difficult for them since their husbands will not be motivated to support them on that course. They expect their wives to be home early to manage the home and take care of kids. These are some of the major things that hold women back from starting a business, but I also believe I will get an understanding husband.
What do you think needs to change in Ghana in order to improve gender equality?
Our gender equality will definitely improve, but I doubt it will get to the stage of 50/50. However, more women empowerment through education needs to be initiated and supported by the state and the major stakeholders. Empowerment of women through entrepreneurship is also one major key of closing the gap on gender equality. Also a lot of forums on gender equality with men as the focus will help men to know that women empowerment doesn’t mean women will stop being submissive to them as the Bible want them to be.
Afua is the CEO and founder of Pink Panda Bakery, a business based in Accra. Afua founded the Pink Panda Bakery in 2013 after discovering a passion for baking, but she maintains a full-time job working for an oil and gas company. Afua is married to Kofi, who runs a farm and is also non-executive director of Pink Panda.
Have you had any struggles as a woman in setting up an enterprise?
In Ghana, it is male dominated so at times there are fewer opportunities for women. This is very challenging, and my biggest obstacle as a woman.
What role does your husband/partner play in terms of running the home?
My husband, Kofi, grew up in London, so he has experienced the British culture which is different to Ghanaian culture. He understands the challenges as a woman more; he has been very supportive and also helps out a lot.
In Ghanaian culture it is traditional for women to stay at home to look after the house and children; how do you balance that?
It has been very challenging to balance the two, but delegation at work and sharing of responsibilities at home has helped a lot.
At the beginning of setting up an enterprise it is very difficult because you are doing a lot of the work, so the employees we have here are a great. Employing the right staff is also tough, because you still have to micro-manage and train them.
I also have another day job which means my social life is almost non-existent. I have to have another job to support my home and business- the business is doing okay at the minute but we are not comfortable just yet.
What has been your motivation?
My motivation is witnessing the business develop, and I think we have the potential to gain a lot of revenue. Seeing our employees develop their skills with confidence gives me pride. Also, the feedback we get from customers motivates me.
What advice do you have for young women who have similar ambitions?
My advice would be to make sure you do your research- but more importantly, to follow your passion. You will need support from your family- for example, looking after children. Trust your instincts and take risks.
Unfortunately, in this particular field it is not well respected yet because you don’t need a degree- you can just become an intern and develop the skills. My advice to that would be to try and ignore that, and follow your heart.
What has been your proudest moment to date?
My proudest moment would be when I opened my first shop, because there was a lot of negativity when I first started my business, so to overcome that was amazing.
Do you think the attitude towards women working in enterprises is changing? Do you feel any pressure?
Recently, we had an enquiry about a university graduate wanting to become an intern; her father encouraged her to wait until after she had completed a bakery course. The fact that she changed her career goals to follow her passion with support from her family proves that society is beginning to accept and encourage young women follow their goals.
Finally, what is your opinion on gender equality in Ghana?
In Ghana, I don’t think we are equal and there are sometimes false perceptions on equality here. There are strong women in Ghana that are fighting for equality. I do think men’s opinions are starting change, which is great, but we still are a long way from becoming equal.
Araba is the office manager for Pink Panda Bakery. She joined at the beginning of the year so has been in the role four months. Araba also has a passion for baking cakes and combines that with skills in management. She is a single mother to a two-year-old daughter.
Have you had any struggles as a woman in working in an enterprise?
No not really, but the baking industry is normally seen as a woman’s world and therefore sometimes not taken seriously by people because it’s not a formal job.
What role does your husband or partner play in terms of running the home?
I don’t have a husband so it is very hard for me at times to work full time and take care of a two-year-old. I do get support from family but I have had to make arrangements with her pre-school so I can take her to school earlier and pick her up later. Ali goes to school at 5.30am and I pick her up at 7pm which is proving to be stressful for me and Ali.
I still have to do all the cooking and cleaning in the house which makes it harder, but I have to do it so I can support my daughter to give her the best life possible.
What led you to take this job?
My motivation in getting this job was that I am really passionate about cooking and I love baking cakes. Also, after studying HR at university I have a good set of skills but I would like to develop current skills further. I feel I am good at dealing with people but I would like experience of a management role.
What advice do you have for young women who have similar ambitions?
Everybody thinks that once you leave university you should get a ‘white collar job’, which sometimes can be quite boring. You should always follow your passion, do something that you are passionate about and that way you are most likely going to enjoy it and also be good at it.
But you shouldn’t play around with a job; you should always take it seriously because you need to make a living.
What has been your proudest moment to date?
My proudest moment so far is without question when I had Ali!
But in terms of work, it would have to be when I organised a radio slot to advertise the business. It was for the Valentine’s season and we offered them vouchers in exchange for advertisement and an interview with our CEO. This really tested my negotiating and marketing skills so I was really happy when it became a huge success.
Do you feel any pressure as a women working in enterprise?
No, not really. I am so focussed on supporting my two-year-old, and this is the only pressure I get because if I don’t work I can’t look after her which is sometimes sad because I would prefer to be with her more.
How would you want your daughter to grow up? What hopes do you have for her?
I would like my daughter to drive for her ambitions, whatever it is as long as she is happy. I cannot tell her what to do in life, I can only be a source of direction.
Finally, what is your opinion on gender equality in Ghana?
At the moment, I don’t think we are equal. I think we should complement and support each other instead of competing with each other. We are all unique. We are equal but we are not the same.
Alice Boateng is now retired, but she worked supporting small businesses as a civil servant, before setting up a business of her own. She also spent four years in the UK. She now lives in Nungua with one of her sons, and continues to be very active in her church and community.
How did you start your working life?
I went to the University of Ghana, and I did History and Political Science. Then afterwards, in our time we did not do National Service, but went straight into government work.
I started straight into the Ministry of Economic Planning- which is now no more! It used to be the Ministry of Economic Planning. That’s where they set up the Office of Business Promotion, to promote indigenous Ghanaian business, small scale businesses, and SMEs.
How did the Ministry of Economic Planning support small businesses?
So at that time they passed a decree reserving certain areas of the Ghanaian economy for Ghanaians. For example, small scale businesses in service industries like tyre repairs, barbers and hairdressing, small restaurants, chop bars and food vendors on the wayside, bakeries, taxi operations and trotros. International companies could only operate in these areas if they had a certain amount of capital.
Our office was set up for this, and also to encourage small scale businesses to expand their operations. For example, for a Ghanaian shito manufacturer or cosmetics manufacturer, we would offer them advice to help them grow. And then we were also to register the non-Ghanaian businesses, to ensure that their capital and operations were within the law, so big companies came to our place to register, and we assessed them to register them. And we were advising Ghanaians, and getting more Ghanaians involved in the economy in the manufacturing area. Even if it was small scale, in the house, we wanted them to have proper accounts, and a proper operational plan, so that they can move forward. So many small scale businesses started with us, and they are now big businesses, I see them in the news.
And how did the Ministry support women in business?
We realised most Ghanaian women are very hardworking- the backbones of the homes. They were running the homes, as single parents or married ones, and they were all helping. The least a Ghanaian woman would do would be roadside retailing, even with just a small tabletop, selling gum or frying yam, and it would all go to help the house. And many women went beyond that, and started small chop bars, and cooking facilities, for example near offices or building projects where there was need.
So we encouraged this, identifying areas where their services were needed, and they were coming for loans from us. Those who needed capital, and those who needed advice, and those who needed business plans, we would help them
And this has gone on to serve so many Ghanaians. I know many Ghanaians are doing well, and many Ghanaian women are doing this sort of thing, with guest houses, and small bars and restaurants. And also in the area of manufacturing garments. It went beyond sewing for individuals- they got into dressmaking, or african cloth manufacturing.
What drove you to set up your own business?
I had reached my retirement age officially in the civil service, and this was the experience I had, and I wanted to use the experience I had dealing with small businesses. i realised most companies didn’t have good distributing outlets- they just manufacture things and sell them one by one. So this was an area which was not fully covered, so I felt there was room for me to operate there.
So when I retired I set up my own company. I was a distributor for Unilever- they manufacture household soaps, fats and oils for cooking, most household items. Then nestle too, i was a distributor mostly for beverages like milks, and I expanded to include other things like Cadbury.
I finally retired fully from every other activity in 2010- just recently!
Did you ever feel that you encountered problems in trying to set up your own business that related to the fact you were a women?
Somewhere, but we refuse to accept that! There were a few problems. Because you are a woman, you meet that problem, even going to a fellow woman you will meet it, but you have to know what you are about and you have to be confident.
Do you feel that men and women were treated any differently in the workplace?
Oh yes. It is a tradition, especially in Ghana. Our tradition especially supports that, but you, the woman, should know what you are about, improve yourself, and be on top of all these issues.
A lot needs to be done by the Government and other organisations. From Ghana’s view, you have to positively assist women, because they have been down for so long. It’s not easy for them to come up by themselves, so there should be facilities to help them rise up more quickly.
Now they have set up the Ministry of Women and Children, but it’s not really making the impact you know, they have a lot of work to do.
What role does a husband play in terms of supporting his wife- both running the business and running the home?
It depends on the kind of husband. If he is a liberated one who knows that women are also important and that they should be assisted and encouraged and helped to reach their goals, then you will have it. Some men are doing very well. They don’t even mind being at the back seat for their wives to move forward. But it’s a few- the percentage is not much. Just a few enlightened ones!
So the tradition is there, that the women should come second. And also I think part of it is from our religious beliefs, our faith. Especially Christians, and even I think the Muslims too, felt that the woman should take the back seat, and it is the husband who should be the head, so if even the women has to do something to help it shouldn’t be the major thing- it should be just secondary assistance.
Do you think the situation in Ghana is very different to the UK for women?
Oh yes, I think so. The UK has gone further, advanced more, and they have had some women who have made it in the system and been an example to other women. Also there is the women’s movement to advance other women.
But in Ghana it is now coming up. Those who have been able to make it may not have the courage to take the forefront and bring up the others. There are a few very articulate and strong women who are leading the women’s fight for equality, but we haven’t got there yet.
If you had a daughter, what advice would you give her as she started her own business?
The first thing is that I will advise her to know the kind of business she wants to do. She should be knowledgeable. She should be well informed, and have a plan, so she knows where she is going, and have a plan for all the hurdles, so she won’t be discouraged.
Many women go into business not knowing much about the business and then they get discouraged- so I will advise her to really know so much about it, and have the passion, and have settled in her mind that that is what she wants to do.
But I know women can do anything they want to do! Our time, we didn’t have the encouragement. It was not so common- sometimes you were even ahead if you wanted to venture into certain areas, and women would be discouraged. But now there are so many examples everywhere, heads of states, top politicians, even in areas like clergy, now women are going.
So the pace has been set, the examples are there; if you want to do it, have the passion and the knowledge and just get going!
In many ways, Ghana is making a great deal of progress in terms of gender equality.
Women such as Joyce Adeline Bamford-Addo (Speaker of the 5th Session of Parliament), and Georgina Theodora Wood (Chief Justice), have prominent leadership roles. Campaigning has led to the Government banning Female Genital Mutilation, a practice once customary in the North of the country. Organisations such as the African Women’s Entrepreneurship Programme are helping women to go into business as a way of tackling other women’s issues such as child marriage.
Those we spoke to recognised the prejudice and discrimination that exists on the basis of gender, in business and every other area of society. However, with strong women like Leticia, Afua, Araba, and Alice, we can be confident that Ghana will continue to make progress towards equality.
By Charlotte Roberts, Kofi Obed Imbeah, and Rhys Picken