Scores of women in the Upper East region have taken to the streets, saying they have had enough of shouldering unpaid household jobs alone and clamouring for their husbands to share the domestic burdens with them.
The women took their grief to government, accompanied by a communiqué and a bunch of placards inscribed with words that boldly mirrored the untold pains they said they could not bear anymore in silence.
“Redistribute unpaid care work; men, let us shares roles,” demanded a placard held by a beaded hand in a crowded street in the Nabdam District, where the open protest took place. “Provide childcare centres to reduce unpaid care work," one poster petitioned. And another penciled piece of plywood, spotted seesawing above a huge cluster of heads, screamed: “Let us recognise rural women’s efforts!”
That rare road march, autographed by ActionAid Ghana, was organised by the Botitaba Nahira Taaba Development Union (BONATADU) in commemoration of the International Rural Women’s Day with the theme: "Recognising Unpaid Care Work: The Role of Rural Women Farmers in Food Security."
For the women who took part in the protest walk, the unpaid care work- which they said included fetching water, collecting firewood, cooking, cleaning and caring for children as well as the sick and the elderly among other activities- is time-consuming, with widows and single mothers said to be more affected in communities where poverty has lived with generations and women whose survival instincts are tilting towards farming are denied access to lands that can deliver good harvests.
Starr News captures women breastfeeding babies whilst collecting firewood for domestic use in the Nabdam District
“Amidst all the daily challenges that rural women go through at both household and community level to ensure that there is enough food in the house to eat as well as the welfare of the family is taken care of, their efforts are not recognised or appreciated,” stated the communiqué, which was presented to the assembly by the leader of smallholder rural women farmers in the district, Margaret Baabon.
“We are calling upon the community, especially the male counterparts in the households, to recognise, redistribute and reduce the unpaid care work by supporting the women with household work. We are calling upon the traditional authorities- chiefs and landowners- to enable women secure fertile land for farming to ensure increased food production and food security in the households,” the statement stressed.
If we deserve no gain, we deserve no pain also- protesters
The route march finished with a durbar at Pelungu, a busy suburb of the district, where the women also registered a strong dislike for the "painful" loss of productive hours often suffered as they struggled to meet the demands of household engagements that brought them no direct financial gains.
In their communiqué, they pressed government for the establishment of childcare centres and the provision of more boreholes among other amenities to help reduce the burden and the time loss associated with what they described as their “society-imposed” household roles.
Placards were on display, showing what the women want and what they do not
“We are calling upon the district assembly to adopt interventions that will reduce women’s unpaid care work by prioritising and budgeting for public amenities such as childcare centres as these will go a long way to further reduce women’s time spent on childcare, thus freeing the women to engage in other productive activities. The district assembly [should] increase on the availability of potable water sources (boreholes) for drinking in communities as these would reduce the time women spend walking long distances to fetch water.
“The department of agriculture [should] support rural women farmers to access quality inputs and regular agriculture extension services as well as promote climate-resilient sustainable agriculture as a remedy in the face of climate change challenges. The department of social and community development [should] outdoor interventions that would support economic empowerment of women,” the communiqué affirmed.
Denying women access to land must stop- government
Government acknowledged the demand made by the cortege of the rural women, encouraging men to support women with household chores and describing as wrong any attempts to deny women anywhere access to land for productive use.
“This long history of denying women access to land and other opportunity must stop. Less than 20% of landholders in Africa are women. Rural women are into small-scale crafts and agribusinesses. All these contribute to the total wellbeing of the family and society at large. Issues that undermine their roles in this regard should be of much concern to all,” the District Chief Executive for Nabdam, Vivian Anafo, stated in a speech presented on her behalf by an assistant director at the assembly, John Muniru Awini.
She added: “In the Upper East Region of Ghana, where many of our women form the rural folk, they depend solely on the land to earn a living. They till the land and also gather fuel wood and wild fruits which they later process into useful products to economically support their families. We would have an incomparable opportunity and commitment to achieving food and nutrition security as well as guaranteeing sustainable livelihoods if we invest in rural women and climate-resilient agriculture.”
Advocacy allies to pursue duty bearers for results
BONATADU and its main funding ally, ActionAid Ghana, have indicated their resolve to ensure the advocacy walk and the durbar organised do not end up being a mere physical exercise and a sheer social gathering.
They promised to sustain their talks with duty bearers until unpaid care work had been recognised, redistributed and reduced in the interest of the rural women.
“They have made the commitments. And for us, we are impressed. We have to follow up on the commitments they have made. We are going to make sure those commitments are fulfilled so that at the end of the day the main issues are [effectively] addressed,” the Programme Coordinator for BONATADU, Godfrey Natwaluma, told journalists moments after traditional authorities as well as heads of departments and civil society organisations had welcomed the demands and had pledged their support for the cause.
ActionAid Ghana's Senior Programme Officer, John Abaa, strongly backed the demands pushed by the women, saying: “We are pleading with men to support our women in the house so that the burden of care would be lessened, so that they can involve themselves in other productive resources. When women have resources, it is our children who benefit; it is our husbands who benefit.”