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Chapter 6. Improving opportunities for gender equitable development.

Despite some progress and the continuing efforts of line ministries, district authorities, and NGOs, serious gender inequities persist in Ghana. Gender concerns cut across sectors in a complex network of cause and effect. Disparities in opportunity, access, and performance limit how much education can contribute to national development. Women still face many barriers to benefiting from, and contributing fully to, economic development. Persistent gender disparities hold society to a lower level of productivity and hence a lower rate of economic growth. Including women more equally in development can improve the quality not only of women's lives but of the lives of generations to come.

Efforts to improve women's role in the national economy have been hampered by lack of data disaggregated by gender and by resistance from, and inertia in, entrenched bureaucracies. Despite compelling arguments for gender equality, actions still lag. Following is a summary of specific recommendations for change proposed by study participants from the World Bank and the government of Ghana in a series of workshops.

IMPROVING WOMEN'S ECONOMIC PRODUCTIVITY

To begin with, efforts are needed to reduce the time constraints that hamper most women's ability to manage farms or other enterprises. Efforts to improve women's ability to participate in market-related work should include:

* Making the provision of safe, easily accessible drinking water a national priority. Greater investments in water and sanitation infrastructure would ease women's time burden directly, by reducing time spent fetching water, and indirectly, by reducing the incidence of waterborne diseases.

* Researching appropriate technologies for reducing the consumption of fuelwood. A reliable supply of fuelwood is important both for household cooking and for such income-generating activities as brewing beer, processing nuts, and smoking fish. Women are primarily responsible for such food processing activities, which, together with domestic cooking, account for 80 percent of the demand for fuelwood. Technological innovations that make traditional wood ovens more efficient would reduce time spent collecting fuelwood, cooking, and processing food. Urban women spend less time on household activities than rural women do, but they too would benefit substantially from energy-efficient cooking equipment and locally available potable water.

* Providing day care centers (an investment that could be shared by communities, employers, and various levels of government).

Improving Women's Agricultural Productivity

The most sustainable approach to the problem of Ghanaian women's limited access to finite agriculture resources, particularly land, is probably to improve profits and productivity rather than try to increase the size of farms. To that end, efforts need to focus on:

* Improving small-scale agro-processing and storage techniques, so women need not sell their crops only at harvest time, when prices are low.

* Improving agricultural extension services for women, bringing those services closer to where women are, and encouraging extension agents to seek feedback about issues of concern to women. It would also help if more of the extension agents were women.

* Introducing or improving alternative income-generating activities for rural women--always considering first the additional work burden that will be involved, and associated environmental factors, such as greater demand for fuelwood in savanna areas and the long-term availability of raw materials. Gender-specific environmental protection programs could be built into agricultural development. (Schemes to promote communal woodlots, for example, should ensure that women have equitable access to, and control over, land and trees.)

* Continuously evaluating the impact of interventions upon rural women--focusing initially on qualitative factors, such as the formation of skills.

All interventions need to be appropriate to specific parts of the country rather than imposed countrywide. Easing or eliminating social restrictions that limit women's productivity requires innovative, flexible, imaginative implementation. Some successes have been achieved by NGOs, whose motive has been to assist (rather to produce profits for themselves or to sustain a good salary). Extension agents can be used (especially to demonstrate agricultural innovations) but locally based NGOs are probably more effective at getting local citizens to help identify an area's main development problems.

Supporting Women Entrepreneurs

Providing strong support to women entrepreneurs--especially those in transition from market-stall operations to medium-size businesses--would be especially productive. Many women who are potentially excellent entrepreneurs have no savings and little access to credit or the other kinds of financial services considered a normal part of business in the industrial world. The pressure of constant household responsibilities limits the time and energy they can devote to small businesses, and they are usually also hampered by poor business skills--indeed, they may have missed out on a basic education altogether. To capitalize on the potential of Ghana's women entrepreneurs will probably require:

* Strengthening the microfinance sector so it can better serve the needs of women's microenterprises, in agriculture and other sectors. The focus could be on improving the capacity of microfinancial services to reach more microenterprises (especially those owned by women), to learn effective practices from each other, and to become part of a broad network of financial service providers.

* Expanding and deepening financial and other business support services for women--in particular, providing credit to rural women for agriculture-related income-generating activities. (Contrary to popular belief, credit for poor farmers, including women, need not be offered at below-market interest rates.) For more women to run small businesses, Ghana needs new initiatives that improve women's access to savings, credit, and qualified professionals, such as accountants and financial advisers--especially for microenterprises trying to grow.

* Providing briefing sessions on knowledge important to entrepreneurs. To close the gap between men's and women's understanding of standard business practices, programs can be provided on such subjects as how banks work, how to qualify for loans, how to raise capital for expansion, and possibly on broad areas of practical business knowledge such as contract law, leasing and property regulations, and local or regional variances. Women trying to grow their businesses will probably need easily available training in cash management, finance, accounting, marketing, inventory control, market research, and, in some cases, packaging and point-of-sale advertising.

IMPROVING WOMEN'S HUMAN CAPITAL

Women's fertility, health, and economic well-being are closely linked. Women cannot contribute productively to the economy when they are ill-educated, in poor health, or burdened with heavy childcare duties. Poor education and health care services for women encourage the persistence of gender inequalities in economic activities, keeping women ill-equipped to reap the benefits of economic opportunities. Improving women's education and health care can only benefit Ghana's economic development plans.

Improving Women's Education

In 1993 only 31 percent of Ghana's women had any primary education. Roughly 38 percent of women six or older (26 percent of men) had never attended school--and in Ghana's northern regions almost 70 percent of women had no schooling. The gender gap in education was greatest in higher education, where the dropout rate for girls rises steeply. Efforts to improve girls' access to education can reduce the direct and indirect costs to parents of girls' schooling and help to change parental perceptions about the benefits of educating girls. To improve the educational status of Ghana's women will require:

* Addressing constraints on girls' time and disparities in the household division of labor between boys and girls, probably through communication and public education activities.

* Making school schedules more flexible. School hours could be organized so as not to conflict with girls' household and other tasks. Double shifts would give households some flexibility in selecting time slots appropriate for their daughters.

* Increasing the reach of the education system, by establishing schools closer to homes or by providing community-managed boarding facilities so girls can safely attend distant secondary schools.

* Subsidizing education for girls (especially in Ghana's northern sector). A strong case can be made for providing free or subsidized textbooks for girls as well as scholarships, fee waivers, and other incentives that, by reducing direct costs to parents, would improve girls' enrollment and academic performance. This could be reinforced with a public education campaign to raise awareness about both the negative effects of gender discrimination and the positive benefits of educating girls.

* Improving the quality of education by reforming curriculum, textbooks, testing, and teacher training. Spending more on curriculum design, textbooks, and other inputs--simply providing blackboards, for example--to improve the quality of schooling will make a big difference in students' learning.

* Training both new and experienced teachers to be gender-sensitive and unbiased about girls' potential for learning.

* Recruiting more women to teach at the secondary level and above, especially in rural and northern parts of the country.

* Encouraging school-age mothers to resume schooling, and helping them do so (possibly through community-supported babysitting and similar support systems).

* Expanding nonformal education for out-of-school girls and women--giving women the skills they need to contribute to a productive economy.

Improving Women's Health

Gender-responsive health policy should address the differences between men's and women's health care needs. Above all, it should improve women's access to health services, meet more of the unmet need for contraception, and address the reproductive health needs of young adults. The timing and frequency of childbearing and the number of births per woman have important implications for women's health and participation in economic activities. Improving women's health will require, among other things:

* Reorienting the health care system to effectively address women's needs. HIV AIDS, and other sexually transmitted diseases afflict more women than men, so programs to control or prevent those diseases should have a strong gender focus. Health staff at all levels should be sensitized to women's needs and problems.

* Bringing services closer to women, to reduce their opportunity costs in time and travel. There needs to be less emphasis on tertiary care in urban hospitals and more on primary care in rural areas. Serving rural women better requires increasing the availability of trained health workers, outreach programs, health facilities, and essential drugs, equipment, and supplies in now underserved rural areas.

* Integrating nongovernment providers--including traditional birth attendants and private practititioners--into the health care system.

* Reorienting and intensifying information, education, and communication campaigns so they provide detailed information about contraceptives and how and where to get them--to men as well as to women.

* Improving the outreach of contraceptive services--to both men and women--and making reproductive health services friendlier toward young adults.

* Building consensus among parents, teachers, and religious bodies to address the needs of young adults. Encouraging better communication between parents and children about reproduction.

* Extending and strengthening family life education. The national school curriculum needs to convey accurate and useful information about reproduction, safe sex, HIV, AIDS, and other sexually transmitted diseases.

ELIMINATING GENDER BIAS IN NATIONAL POLICYMAKING

Public policy is now recognized as an important lever for removing gender inequalities and providing women with equal opportunities to participate in development. But changing socially deep-rooted gender roles is a long-term process. It requires a clear policy directive, a high level of political commitment, and a sustained and coordinated effort from line ministries and other stakeholders. A leading institution holding a clearly articulated mandate is best able to show the way and pull others along. That lead agency must define a vision and develop monitorable indicators for measuring progress. The National Council on Women and Development (NCWD) was created in 1975 to see to the welfare of Ghanaian women and to advise the government on issues related to women. The council and the other stakeholders now need strengthening for the task ahead. Capacity building can be most effective as part of long-term efforts to incorporate gender concerns into national policymaking. The move from arguing about gender-based barriers and imbalances to eliminating them will require:

* Making gender analysis an integral part of the design of policies and programs to promote economic growth and alleviate poverty. Attention is needed, among other things, to the economic implications of the different ways girls and boys, men and women, allocate their time--as well as to the imbalance in the gender division of labor and to differences in access to productive resources.

* Reinforcing Ghanaian research institutions' ability and capacity to collect, analyze, and use gender-disaggregated data.

* Giving the research community the financial and technical support it needs to conduct gender research on key topics.

* Improving gender experts' ability to provide local training in gender analysis and planning.

* Training policymakers about gender issues.

* Teaching gender studies in the schools.

* Strengthening the National Council on Women and Development's leadership on gender dimensions of public policy.

* Building partnerships with NGOs and other stakeholders and mobilizing their help in making gender concerns part of policymaking.

* Strengthening the capacity of government sectors, NGOs, and district-level institutions to improve the efficiency of their interventions through continuous evaluation--whether the evaluation is done internally, cross-departmentally, or by an independent body such as the Audit Office, the World Bank, an NGO, or another stakeholder.

The government of Ghana is committed to a national policy of economic development liberated from gender bias--a policy that will improve Ghanaian society by enabling women to maximize their own and their families' welfare as well as their contribution to national development. But moving from argument to actions that narrow gender gaps in major socioeconomic indicators is difficult. Initiatives for change usually call for changes in attitude, behavior, and social values.

Ghana's gender strategy for development has made significant gains, particularly in increasing awareness of the links between gender and economic development and in raising questions about gender bias for discussion and action. The task is now to consolidate those gains, to extend and deepen measures to reduce inequity, and thereby encourage economic--and hence social--growth in Ghana.
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Title Annotation:Ghana: Gender Analysis and Policymaking for Development
Author:Chao, Shiyan
Publication:Ghana Gender Analysis and Policymaking for Development
Date:Sep 1, 1999
Words:2210
Previous Article:Chapter 5. Integrating gender concerns into policymaking.
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