Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The Strength of Women

Back to work today!

~The children always find us and watch from the sidelines~

We finished teaching the Ga tribe today through training. As I mentioned before, the students who attended our class knew the answers to our teaching so well we decided to train them to be peer educators in their own community. Each of us had a specific portion of the FAMA methodology we use in our HIV/AIDS lessons assigned to us to teach to the students. FAMA stands for Facts, Association, Meaning, and Action. We also follow with a social change model to find solutions to problems in the community. I taught about fundamental skills people need to create social change. I felt we were organized and it went well. I'm really getting used to standing in front of strangers and delivering a simple outlined topic. It's actually even exciting because I am confident in what I am saying and I feel it is good practice at simplifying a topic and not getting bogged down in details.

We stopped for a quick dinner and discovered some ice cream. Hallelujah! This is where I gather my strength! Along with my latest obsession for mango.

Love it!

Our evening was spent with another women's group, this time from a Presbyterian church. The leader of the group is the headmistress of the Grey Memorial school where we teach the kids. The large grey meeting house we gathered in is still under construction so when we walked in, there were plastic chairs orderly placed for us to use as temporary seating. With a classically woman's touch, there was a table in front of the chairs with a pretty lace table cloth. It made me think of how the Relief Society room is always decorated so nicely. It seems an almost innate woman's desire to beautify any surrounding, making even a big empty grey cement building a little softer with a simple lace tablecloth.

The women were all dressed alike in a T-shirt with their organization's name on it, white head scarves, and wrap skirts. It was a very quiet group. The women were very kind in greeting us as we arrived, shaking all of our hands and exchanging names, but once we began they were practically silent. One of our goals when working with women is to encourage finding a voice....not being fearful to speak up and say what they know or question. Usually there will be only one or two in the crowd who will be the voice for the group. Same thing tonight, unfortunately.

In closing the lesson, Lynley stood up with two other students and asked how our lesson tonight related specifically to women. The topic turned to sexuality in a marriage and women's rights. It was so sad. One of the questions on the surveys we have been administering deals with men/boyfriends forcing their girlfriends to have sex, and whether or not this constitutes rape. We almost always are told "yes." Then we follow with the question regarding when a husband wants sex and a wife doesn't, does that constitute rape? We ALWAYS immediately get quiet laughs, followed by the self-appointed spokesperson for the group speaking up and saying "no, in Ghana it is not rape. It is the women's responsibility to please her husband. It is expected. If she refuses him then he will beat her, leave her, or commit adultery. She will be seen as unfit for any man if she leaves him." The responses are almost unanimous that this is in fact how it is.
When we were teaching the Manya Krobo women's group even the pastor agreed. It was so infuriating. We were teaching that husbands forcing their wives was called rape. He turned to the group behind him (all of us who were not teaching) and said "In America or Africa? It is different here. Men and women are not equal"...and he was not being somber or regretful, but was smiling as if it was a joke, some humorous truth we didn't understand rather then a sick reality we were just beginning to realize.
For the first time since coming to Ghana my eyes spilled over with tears. I didn't want or even try to hold them back because it didn't feel right to hide the truth of how I felt. Perhaps my feelings were magnified in light of the fact that we watched a film today on female slave trafficking and the injustices of so many women around the world. But the feelings of even this one issue stand alone in their significance. How cruel a reality for the women of this country to not have the love and respect between a man and a women in the most sacred and unifying of all earthly acts. Lynley expressed how beautiful women are and how God blessed women with a natural good nature that should be honored by men. I couldn't tell how it was received. Mostly with silence.

We finished our discussion by singing to each other. We chose Count Your Many Blessings. Again, I found myself feeling a flood of emotion...this time as the reality of what I was singing collided with the reality of where I was and who I was talking to. Count your many different those many blessings are from my own. The sight of the auburn sky through the windows in the back as I looked out at these strong women is just another of the hundreds of images that will stay with me forever from my experiences here in this country...a country with a separate sky than my own. The strength of the women was the beauty of this sky I had to find tonight, but it was still tainted from the reality of their world. Cultures bring such diversity that I have to remember not to force my own on another....but what happened to basic human rights? How can the betterment of a nation ever come about if half of its members feel an emptiness where there should be a strength, a silence where there should be a voice, and a sorrow where there should be the greatest joy?


  1. What a hard thing. I am so touched by your quiet strong voices that will remain in their hearts as examples.

  2. Love it Anne, you look so beautiful, so glad you are there.

  3. I am just spent. And, I'm not even there. Do you remember dad's blessing? That you might open your heart and feel its expansion? Well. Blessing realized.

  4. VERY fun to read your blog. It has brought back so many memories! It is neat to read all of the things you have experienced and felt as your have been exposed to a completely different way of life. Many of your feelings are the same as mine were as my eyes were opened to the customs/cultures of the people in ghana...feelings of sadness at the hard realities of a woman's and child's life there, and gratitude for what we are blessed with in our country. Glad you are having an amazing experience.