Not too long ago, Adwoa Perbi was not a favourite worker at one of the most patronised dress making shops in Kpobiman in the Ga West Municipality of the Greater Accra Region.
She was always late, tired and dosed throughout her schedule, hardly completing any task before dusk, Miss Comfort Agyebi, her madam said.
Although Adwoa has two elder brothers and two little ones, as a female growing up in patriarchal society, her role had been confined to the domestic sphere, which attracts very little or no material reward.
The patriarchal ordering of social relations and the resultant male domination, informs such decision in many Ghanaian homes, especially those in the rural and peri-urban settlements.
With a broad smile, she said, “Now things are better. After joining the Young Urban Women’s (YUW) project, I learnt a lot about these social relations and how to address them in a reasonable and polite way.”
Adwoa said after complaints from her colleagues and madam, she (Adwoa) informed her facilitators about the problem, and they approached her parents and had a very civil discussion and surprisingly they saw wisdom in their argument.
“My brothers were drafted into the home chores activity, which gave me some time and energy to pursue my apprenticeship. Now my brothers now sweep, cook and fetch water. At first they complained about the broom which was short. So I decided to buy a longer one as a compromise which indeed has saved all us some waist pains,” she said/.
The YUW boast of one thousand members drawn from Kpobiman and surrounding towns, all in the Ga West Municipality of the Greater Accra Region.
Action Aid Ghana, is partnering the Ark Foundation, Ghana to implement the project which is sponsored by the Norwegian Development Agency.
The two-and-a-half year project seeks to mobilise and empower 2000 young women between the ages of 15-25 years in poor urban and peri-urban areas in Ghana.
It is formulated on four thematic areas which are; Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) decent work and livelihood choices, violence against women and unpaid care work (household chores).
Naa Yarley Cudjoe, an ActionAid Ghana facilitator at YUW’s Project centre at Kpobiman, who has personally mediated in many of such family stand offs, says, “Like most rural and peri-urban areas, the drudgery of walking long distances to fetch water, felling of wood for fuel, cooking, childcare, scrubbing, dishwashing, Laundry, cleaning. and other domestic chores are wrapped around womanhood. There is hardly any escape.”
She said “Averagely, it takes more than three hours in each household to do unpaid care work in a day. In extreme cases from the break of dawn until the sunset, women are occupied with domestic work.”
Naa Cudjoe indicate that “women, they say are the poorest in our part of the world, and I can say without mincing words that unpaid care work is a major contributor to this. How do you expect a girl to do all this at home and still contest with the boy who does nothing at home for high grades? What kind of work do you expect a mother to do when she spends half of her day maintaining her home? Imagine a home where these chores are recognised as work, redistributed among every member of a household and the burden reduced significantly!”
According to her, many women she had personally interacted with after peacefully resolving the household chores issues with their husbands, said they longer nag when their men demand for some pleasure at night because they would have stored enough energy and are emotionally prepared for fun.
“Women will also be equally empowered to take up greater challenges because they will have enough time and energy to deal with it,” Naa Cudjoe said.
She called on government to provide baby-friendly work environment for working nursing mothers, saying “It takes policy formulation and implementation to make it happen.”
Adwoa graduated recently and now equipped with sewing skills, to enable her to escape the poverty trap, which is the bane of womanhood in the society she calls home.
“Very few people knew my predicament. I had to bear all the drudgery at home; sweeping, cooking, fetching water, washing and baby-sitting my little brother before I go to work. I wake up very early and slept very late because I have so much to do,” she said as she drove a pair of scissors through yards of “Abuboro Nkosua” cloth she was turning into a kaba and slit.
Her gaze fell on a group of girls soaked with water as they carried various containers of water.
“How about making sure there is access to clean potable water in every nook and cranny? We can spend more time on other economic activity to improve on our economic circumstances.
Recognition, reduction and redistribution of unpaid care work should be given attention to facilitate women development,” she argued.
Certainly, it is about time that our patriarchal thinking and order of social arrangements gave way to a new social order where girls, boys, men and women shared the task of keeping the home clean and warm for all especially women to have skills and knowledge to pursue other activities to better their lots and that of society.
By Samuel Osei-Frempong