Saturday, July 23, 2011

Ghanaian Women

Living in Wegbe and not staying at a hotel when I visit the village gives me the opportunity to see how things really happen on a day to day basis and gives me such an appreciation for everything that the women in this country do. Every morning, I would wake up at 6:30am and exit my room to brush my teeth and use the toilet. Every single morning, I could expect to find mothers bathing their children, setting up their shops, or cooking breakfast. They had probably already been up for hours. Around 7:30am, I would cross the road and wait in front of the church with the kids, waiting for the school tro tro to come and take us to Christ Orphanage, or rather, what has recently been renamed, Christ Academy. From this church, one could see women carrying water on their heads from the river, women walking by and carrying various crops on their heads, and women selling food items such as popcorn, which I bought for 10 peswas (about 7 cents) per bag every morning and took to the school as a snack.
While at school, I know that the women continue to work hard. They do the laundry, which is no easy task when done by hand. Since I ended up staying in Wegbe for 10 days, I needed to wash my clothes about half way through my stay. Sika, Alex’s sister who was cooking for me while I was there has a three month old baby as well as two other young children so I did not want to bother her and ask her to wash my clothing for me. Rather, I decided to take matters into my own hands. I purchased a small bag of laundry soap and was given a bucket to wash my clothes. Sika’s children, Mawuse and Richard as well as Sika’s younger sister, Millicent, and my neighbor Cynthia saw me preparing to wash my clothes and decided they wanted to join in the fun. So, the washing of my clothing became a group effort. Five sets of hands were in the bucket, attempting to wash my pretty dirty clothes. After getting through the first stage and preparing to rinse the clothes, Sika came over to tell me that she would wash the clothes for me. “We didn’t do a good job?” I asked. “No,” she responded quite honestly. She rewashed all my clothes and somehow got a ton more dirt out of them while I tried to help in some way by hanging the clothes on the line and comforting her crying baby, Bevlyn.
Women in this country are often times responsible for going to the market and buying the necessary food items to cook for their families. In addition, they are usually responsible for cooking 3 meals a day for themselves, their husbands, and their children. Cooking generally occurs outside, on a coal stove, which means that cooking food takes longer and only one pot of food can be cooked on each coal stove. If the women are lucky enough to have an older child in the household, that child oftentimes becomes responsible for helping with the cooking. In Sika’s house, Millicent, Sika’s younger sister, who is probably about 7 or 8 years old and Godwin, one of the orphans from the school, who is 11 years old help Sika prepare dinner every evening.
Most people, including children bathe twice a day. For Cynthia’s mother, that means bathing three small children in both the morning and the evening. One afternoon after returning home from the school, I went over to Cynthia’s house to visit with the family. I was amazed with the way her mother was bathing her twin girls (around 9 months old). She had one girl in the bucket, bathing her, and the other was standing, leaning on her mother, sucking her breast. It astonished me how she was able to do this and keep both girls relatively happy. Life with twins is not the easiest thing to begin with but here, with limited resources, it is even harder. Cynthia’s mother does not have a double stroller or even really any toys for her girls. When she needs to transport both of them, one baby is tied to her back and the other is carried on her hip. The babies sit on the concrete steps in front of their house all day playing with whatever they can get their hands on – dirt, water, containers that are left sitting, etc. And most of the time, these two young girls are just dressed in a shirt and a pair of underwear even though they are obviously not potty trained, therefore, one can usually find puddles of pee on the step. But these girls are generally happy babies, well, they still aren’t used to me yet but at least they no longer cry when they see me.
Seeing all the hard work that the women here do on a daily basis really makes me appreciate them so much more. Its amazing how much time and work our machines and technologies back home save us when cooking, washing, do laundry, and even bathing. These women are usually underappreciated and not recognized for all their hard work. Ghanaian women, I recognize all the hard work you do and am amazed that you manage to do it all (and do it so well)!

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