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Executive summary.

Recognizing the need to understand gender issues in order to develop strategies to deal with them, the World Bank initiated a sector study to support the government of Ghana's program to develop a gender strategy. In addition to the government, a broad range of stakeholders participated in the study, including academic institutions, nongovermental organizations (NGOs), and women's groups. Through workshops and mission visits the Bank identified four points of focus for the study: agriculture, microfinance for microentrepreneurs, education, and health. The various stakeholders consulted also emphasized the importance of strengthening Ghana's institutional capacity to develop and implement policies that adequately address gender concerns. The Bank team worked closely with the line ministries in agriculture, microfinance, education, and health to identify gender issues and study feasible recommendations. This report emerges from that study's examination of key gender inequalities and gender-based differences in economic activities, opportunities, and constraints, focusing on two broad areas: the links between gender and economic productivity and poverty, and the development of human capital.


Ghana is an extremely diverse country--ethnically, culturally, ecologically, and economically. Women and men play different roles, undertake different activities, and face different constraints. Gender-based differences are often fundamental to men and women's livelihoods. Women do different work than men. About 90 percent of women work in agriculture, agro-based enterprises, commerce, and small-scale manufacturing. Women make up roughly 85 percent of the wholesale and retail trading sector and about two-thirds of the manufacturing sector, working mostly in the informal sector. Relatively few women work in modern or formal sector activities. Women bear primary responsibility for childrearing, cooking, washing, and collecting fuelwood and water.

Ghanaian men and women tend to have separate income and expenditure streams, often with a traditional gender-based division of responsibilities for different types of expenditures. It is not the norm for men and women to pool resources and jointly make household spending decisions. Household spending patterns are often closely linked to the levels of income generated by gender, with important implications for the allocation of resources for consumption, production, and investment. To the extent that men and women have different expenditures responsibilities, policies that affect men's and women's incomes differently will generate different welfare outcomes.

Despite recent gains in some areas, significant gender inequalities continue to limit women's capabilities and constrain their ability to participate in, and contribute to, the economy. A wide range of gender gaps makes households headed by women more vulnerable to poverty than households headed by men (Bhushan and Chao):

* Adult illiteracy rates were 47 percent for women in 1995, but only 24 percent for men (World Bank 1996).

* Girls still have less access to education than boys. Although 47 percent of primary school students in 1994 were girls, only 35 percent of senior secondary students and only 26 percent of tertiary school students were girls (World Bank 1996). The dropout rate for girls rises sharply with age.

* General morbidity levels and the incidence of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) are three times higher among women than men. The data also suggest that parents are more likely to seek health care for boys than for girls (GSS 1993).

* Discrimination in household nutrition and health care results in female infant mortality rates of 10 percent higher than they would be if such discrimination did not occur (Hill and Upchurch 1995).

* Women work longer hours than men--15 to 25 percent longer, when unpaid household work is accounted for (Haddad 1991; Lloyd and Brandon 1993, as reported in University of Sussex 1994).

* Women have relatively poor access to, and control of, agricultural inputs, including land, fertilizer, machinery, and labor (including their own). They also have extremely limited access to agricultural extension services (University of Sussex 1994).

* Women have less access to credit from formal channels than men do (GLSS 1991-92), although the extent of the gender gap in credit is difficult to determine, given available data. Lack of collateral--partly because of weak land tenure rights--may exacerbate women's difficulty in getting as much credit as they need from formal sources.

From this portrait of gender-based differences and inequalities, two broad areas of emphasis for a gender strategy emerged: the links between gender and economic productivity and the development of human capital.


A growing body of literature indicates that greater gender equality, including better access for women to productive resources, greatly improves both welfare and economic productivity. The social benefits associated with developing women's human capital are also well-recognized. Cross-country studies show large social returns--in reduced fertility and mortality rates, for example--to investing in women's education and health. To the extent that women's education and health affect children's health and productivity, investments in female human capital will yield important long-term benefits, extending higher productivity into future generations. And giving women better access to productive resources will directly boost economic productivity. Simulation analysis from two Sub-Saharan African countries suggests that yields on farms managed by women would increase between 9 and 22 percent if women were given the same human capital and inputs as men (Moock 1976; Saito and others 1994; Quisumbing 1996). Improving women's access to credit will also increase their productivity as well as household welfare.

Time is another important constraint. In Ghana, as elsewhere in Sub-Saharan Africa, customs and expectations impose time commitments of 15 to 25 percent greater for women than for men--for all age groups, occupations, and types of households. Women typically spend 20 hours a week engaged in household activities (to men's 5); this gap in household commitments decreases only when people get old. Such time constraints hamper most women's ability to manage farms or other enterprises. Women's ability to participate in market-related work could therefore be improved by measures that lift some of their additional time constraints: providing easily accessible, potable water, expanding use of appropriate technologies for reducing the consumption of fuelwood, and providing day care centers.

Women's Agricultural Productivity

The agriculture sector accounts for much of women's labor and is the largest component of the national economy, but the sector's growth is constrained by Ghana's failure to fully empower more than half of the workers engaged in the sector. Gender issues permeate women's relationships, partnerships, and use of resources, and reduce their willingness to take risks. Women make decisions about what crops to grow on their own plots and influence decisions about the family farm, but the male head of household has final decisionmaking power and also often controls household capital and labor. Uncertain access to land and a history of losing land rights, for example, have discouraged women's long-term investments or improvements in land. Moreover, restrictions--often socially imposed--about the use of the land (for such purposes as tree-growing) limit women's ability to participate in agroforestry or other programs that require the long-term use of land. Given access mainly to less fertile land, women are often able only to cultivate cassava, while men cultivate the more fertile land with cash crops.

When women are given equal access to productive resources, including the credit needed to purchase inputs for agricultural production, their farms have proven to be as efficient as those run by men. Given their limited access to productive resources, it would be unreasonable to expect high, much less rapidly increasing, productivity from Ghana's women farmers. However, there is considerable scope for improving women's agricultural productivity, as well as incomes from enterprises, simply by improving their access to key inputs needed for production. To that end, priority should be given to improving women's access to inputs needed for agricultural production, developing agricultural extension services that better meet the needs of women farmers, improving small-scale agroprocessing and storage techniques, and introducing or improving alternative income-generating activities for rural women.

Women Microentrepreneurs

Women are very active economically in Ghana, so improving their productivity is critical to reducing poverty and achieving sustainable growth in the country. Women are as likely as men to be involved in business. Owning their own enterprises enables women to meet their current needs, augment their earnings from agricultural activities, and acquire resources for future investments. But their success in business activities is constrained by cultural, educational, and economic factors.

Women's high rate of labor force participation reflects the absence of legal barriers to, and social acceptance of, their economic activity. Their concentration in informal employment and microenterprises, however, reflects cultural barriers. Cultural norms channel women into a limited range of occupations, which are usually saturated, less dynamic, and use fewer modern technologies. Women are concentrated in trading, and most are recent immigrants (less than a year) to the place where they are doing business (Canagarajah and Thomas 1997). Although women have long been active in Ghana's larger businesses, it is hard for them to graduate to larger businesses. A 1991 study of small and medium-size enterprises found that only 13 percent of woman-owned businesses had 10 or more workers, compared with 31 percent of men's businesses.

Women have less access than men to formal credit and tend to rely on informal credit and family members. Though gender differences in simple access to credit are not great, there is a substantial gap in the average size of formal loans to men and women. Gender disparities are more pronounced for savings than for credit, and the propensity to save is strongly correlated with level of education. Most women lack skills in financial management and business planning, and many know very little about how credit unions or cooperatives operate, or why. In mixed credit unions (and most are mixed) women were seldom in decision-making positions. And in some credit unions men did not allow women to apply for loans, even when allocations were set aside specifically for women members.

There have been several innovative attempts to help women get access to capital. Africa 2000 has successfully disseminated its susu message to villagers, and Ghana's Money Back program, based on the susu concept, has provided life insurance and investment opportunities for small to medium-size businesses. Smaller-scale credit schemes have generally been more successful than larger ones, but even those have had problems assisting women, especially when women were not integrated into the programs. It is important that women start saving by themselves, in women's groups, to reduce their dependence on out side assistance. Women can begin to help themselves, but only if they become aware of their own potential.

Household responsibilities are another limitation on the amount of time a woman can devote to her business, the size of business she can manage, and the rate of return on her capital investment. Because a woman's business strategy is conditioned by time constraints and concerns about daily household welfare that male entrepreneurs need not consider, women are more likely to pursue risk-averse strategies, such as trying to increase productivity and investing profits in the household rather than expanding the business.

Thus many potentially excellent women entrepreneurs are constrained by lack of savings, poor access to credit (especially at reasonable interest rates), poor business skills, and poor, if any, access to the financial services considered a normal part of business in the industrial world, as well as by the constant pressure of household responsibilities. Any strategy for assisting women entrepreneurs must recognize gender differences in the size distribution of enterprises and in the owners' expectations for their businesses. The numbers suggest a focus on raising productivity in microenterprises rather than expanding the scale of businesses. Improving their prospects will require expanding the financial and business support services available to microenterprises, a sector in which women predominate. Capitalizing 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, expanding financial and other business support services for women, and providing briefing and other training sessions on standard business practices and other knowledge important to entrepreneurs.


Improving women's human capital--especially women's education and health--is a second major critical area for intervention, because doing so improves productivity, produces great positive social externalities, and benefits both current and future generations of men and women. Low levels of human capital encourage the persistence of gender inequalities in economic activities, as women are ill-equipped to reap the benefits of economic opportunities.

Women's Education

School enrollment and retention rates have generally increased in recent years, for both boys and girls, but the gender gap has remained almost constant and is still wider at higher grade levels. There is also a gender gap in academic performance. According to the living standards survey for 1987-88, academic performance in math and verbal skills was consistently lower for schoolgirls than for schoolboys, and the gap is larger at higher grade levels, and greater for mathematics than for reading. At the secondary and tertiary levels, where the gender gap in enrollment is wider, there is implicit "gender streaming," or segregation by field of study. Gender streaming pushes women and girls into gender-stereotyped careers such as teaching, tailoring, secretarial work, and nursing, and prevents them from getting training in agriculture, forestry, fishing, "hard" sciences, engineering, and management.

Parents' decision to send a child to school depends on what they perceive as the trade-off between the benefits and costs of schooling. They generally perceive the benefits from educating daughters to be significantly less certain and more remote than those for sons. Households bear both the direct and indirect costs of schooling (such as forgone value of labor and household work and anxiety about children's safety), and in most households the indirect costs are perceived to be higher for girls than for boys. For many households the direct costs are also greater for girls than for boys--for example, girls' uniforms are often more expensive and transportation costs may be higher (parents are more willing to allow boys to risk trekking long distances to school). With the demand for girls' education also more elastic in relation to costs, an increase in fees or other direct costs that might not appreciably reduce the demand for boys' education might substantially reduce school enrollment for girls.

Thus efforts to improve girls' access to education must both reduce the direct and indirect costs of education and change parents' perceptions about the benefits of girls' education. Other measures should address girls' time constraints, offer a more flexible school schedule, increase the reach of the education system by reducing travel time, subsidize education for girls, improve the quality of education, and organize information campaigns to encourage investing in girls' education.

Health and Access to Health Services

Women's fertility, health, and economic well-being are closely linked. A typical Ghanaian woman spends 16 years of her productive life pregnant or breastfeeding, and early childbearing is a major health problem in Ghana, where more than 60 percent of women are either pregnant or mothers by age 20. Ghanaian women average six children apiece--more in some regions--and many births are high-risk, so Ghana's maternal mortality rate is high. Early childbearing also often brings an end to a young woman's education. Women are having more babies than they want to have; there is an unmet need for contraception (even among men, although men tend to want larger families than women do). Not only does so much childbearing place heavy demands on a woman's health and energy, but it also severely restricts the type of economic activity she can undertake, the amount of time she can devote to it, her productivity, and her ability to migrate.

Even after allowing for women's biological advantage over men, analysis shows that women face several gender-specific barriers to health care

services. Access to medical care appears to follow a Kuznet's curve, with smaller gender inequities in the extremes of poor and nonpoor populations and more pronounced inequities in the middle of the distribution. In the two top and bottom income quintiles women are more likely to seek health care than men; in the middle quintile the reverse is true. In the bottom two income quintiles any marginal income in poor households may go to the health care needs of the male members of the household.

Women's health care needs and vulnerabilities are also different from those of men, for social and biological reasons. Men may be more vulnerable to heart disease and accidents, but women are more likely to experience other health problems. The incidence of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) is three times greater among Ghanaian women aged 20 to 29 than among men of the same age (among other reasons, from ignorance of how AIDS is spread and how it can be prevented, because of their male partners' polygamous or promiscuous relationships and because women have little control over their own sexual practices in or out of marriage). For similar reasons the prevalence of other sexually transmitted diseases also is probably higher for women than men.

On top of their higher vulnerability to some diseases and their maternal health needs, women are often discriminated against in the intrahousehold allocation of resources for health care and nutrition. And gender-insensitive health facilities and medical procedures may further constrain women's access to health care.

Thus women use health care facilities less than they need to (University of Sussex 1994). Their resulting poor health and undernutrition make them more vulnerable to illness and reduce their economic productivity. Poor health leads to physical suffering, diminishes learning ability, and limits the human capital available for an economically productive life. Improving women's health calls for reorienting the health care system to effectively address women's needs, bringing services closer to women to reduce their costs in time and travel, improving the outreach of contraceptive services, and extending and strengthening family life education so that the national school curriculum conveys useful information about reproduction, safe sex, HIV, AIDS, and other sexually transmitted diseases. Barriers to women's access to health services that derive from decisions made at the household level may not be amenable to change over the short run. Social change that gives women more status and bargaining power in the household requires sustained efforts to improve human capital and economic productivity. But some public policies can improve women's access to health services even in the short run by reducing costs to women and by informing households about women's health needs and problems.


Ghana's gender strategy for development has made significant gains, particularly in increasing awareness of the links between gender equity 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.

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. Capacity building--appropriate training programs for women and government leaders, renovation of government structures and institutions, and initiation of the systems and procedures to foster change--can help accelerate the process. This will require identifying institutional strengths and weaknesses, pinpointing gaps in government skills and capacity, and collecting better data--for example, more precise gender-disaggregated statistics about food consumption and household spending patterns--to identify areas of concern and monitor progress.

Edited by

Shiyan Chao
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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
Previous Article:Acronymns and abbreviations.
Next Article:Chapter 1. The rationale for gender-sensitive development policy.

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