On March 26, news out of Ghana included recognition by the International Labor Organization (ILO) for Ghana’s broadening of the mandate of the Gender, Children and Social Ministry under the current president’s leadership, according to the official website of the government of Ghana.
Interestingly, in the final day of the “Year of Ghana Conference” at Kennesaw State University in March, the keynote address was immediately followed by a lecture that dealt with gender and economic change, so this is welcome news out of Ghana.
That previous lecture was given by Tara Jabbaar-Gyambrah, of Hilbert College in New York. And her topic, “Ghanaian Business Women: An Opportunity for Change in Education and the Workforce,” resulted in part from her ability to travel to Africa and interview business women during her research.
She credits Elim Christian Fellowship, her own personal church of faith, as playing a major role in this academic opportunity, as they helped fund the trip. And she stressed that her paper presented during the conference is still “a work in progress,” and hopes to complete her research soon.
In Tara Jabbaar-Gyambrah’s paper presented at the KSU Ghana conference, she drew the diverse audience’s attention to several key points learned thus far from her pilot study. First, she says that “women still enter the labor market on an unequal basis to men even after accounting for educational skills and background.”
And more importantly, according to her, “Business ownership is concentrated in the hands of men across the developing world, with only 1 to 3 percent of women being employed in developing regions as employers.” And those female employers are “predominantly found in Latin America and the Caribbean,” she stated, not in Ghana or Africa.
When it came to choosing her interview subjects in Ghana, she selected women between the ages of 25 and 60, and chose those who only owned businesses for profit.
The interviews conducted—three thus far—lasted no more than an hour each. However, she has 17 more potential interview respondents to interview later this year, if funding is achieved. And the Hilbert College representative says her goal is to continue to “look at these women’s experiences, and to look at their stories, and to see how they have triumphed in business.”
To that end, here is a brief synopsis of what she shared at KSU that she has learned thus far: A third of Ghanians live in poverty, and women are worse off than men in that regard. So while the ILO says that Ghana is broadening its mandate when it comes to gender, children and social ministry, there is still lots of room for advances and improvement.
A great disparity exists for women when it comes to access to profitable work in Ghana compared to males, but the three women Tara spoke with have enjoyed a measure of success. However, they also enjoyed some benefits other women might not have at their disposal in Ghana.
For example, Gloria, a married and now-retired school teacher, began her business with her husband while both were working full-time jobs elsewhere, so they had two guaranteed incomes.
And Pum, a 55-year-old Dutch woman, who has lived in Ghana all her life (and obtained her undergraduate education there), received her master’s degree in Europe, which is something many Ghanaian women could never afford to do. She also had the opportunity to travel all over Africa with her father, learning about the business trade she eventually entered. And she was fortunate to find a business partner with professional strengths that negate her weaknesses in product promotion.
Lastly, Felicity, the third interviewee, credits her husband with providing her with the funds to operate her own business and to make any purchases or expansions she needs to make. Many women in Ghana, however, do not have access to funds from a husband or a bank to fund their new ventures.
Therefore, Tara Jabbaar-Gyambrah concluded her presentation at KSU’s “Year of Ghana Conference” with this sobering reminder: “There are several gaps that persist in preventing women in reaching their full potential in the following areas: economic participation, educational attainment, political empowerment and health well-being.”
And she thinks “it is important that educational institutions, financial services and Ghanian government work together to establish policies and initiatives that empower women to create successful, sustainable, profitable businesses that will allow them to adequately support their families.
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© Radell Smith