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Gender inequality has generally rendered many women disadvantaged, in developing and harnessing their human capital. Whilst various reasons have been cited for the existence of gender inequality in Northern Ghana, the most widely cited reason is culture, specifically the patriarchal system, low participation in decision-making, and unpaid care work.

Gender equality and social inclusion are seen not only as fundamental aspects of human rights and social justice but also as a precondition to improving the development process by placing social concerns at the forefront of interventions. Recognizing the numerous normative issues that contribute to gender inequalities in Northern Ghana and their effects on improving the socioeconomic status of women, URBANET, in partnership with MEDA under the GROW2 project, seeks to tackle these inequalities by implementing Gender Equality Champions (GEC) by engaging men who are passionate and can serve as Community Partners to ignite change.

Under the leadership of the GESI coordinator, 35 men from the North East and East Gonja districts were taken through two days of intensive training.  These men will serve as Gender Equality Champions (GECs) within their various communities. This initiative aims to improve their knowledge and skills as well as equip them with the tools necessary for effective and efficient advocacy. This will ensure community support for women’s socioeconomic empowerment topics such as gender awareness on sex and gender, negative masculinities and their effects, and equity and equality.

As part of the GESI activities for year 3 of the GROW2 project, our GESI office, with support from the MEDA GESI team, organized a community dialogue on gender equitable workload within households within the Lingbinsi community in the North Gonja district. This activity was a result of the rate of gender gaps in terms of domestic work, access to economic opportunities, and the inability of couples to make decisions together.

This engagement was meant to serve as a platform for awareness creation on gender equitable workloads and pave the way for women to have enough time to engage in economic activities. The gender equity workload ensures a fair distribution of unpaid care work within households, intending to reduce time poverty amongst women and household burdens. The redistribution allows men to understand the effects of unpaid care work on women and girls, hence, increasing their support for them.

The gender module families who participated in the event shared their experiences on how the redistribution of workload within their households has impacted them positively. Women from these families or households have established businesses with the help of their spouses due to the availability of time. Participation in household decision-making has also promoted peaceful coexistence between spouses and co-wives and a good understanding of their children’s needs.

This initiative has fostered peace within households, thereby reducing the cases of SGBVs, improving economic stability, proper dietary and nutritional health, and increasing focus on children’s education and well-being, amongst others. A gender equality champion (GEC) who participated in the dialogue intimated that “equitable distribution of responsibilities and resources is the beginning of peace, unity, and good health at the household level’”.

The Gender Equality and Social Inclusion (GESI) officer at Urbanet has, under the GROW2 project, commenced a series of pieces of training on the Gender Action Learning System (GALS) in various communities in the operational zones of the GROW2 project. The training will include selected couples within these communities and village agents, who will later transfer the knowledge learned to others within and outside the community.

The Gender Action Learning System is a community-led empowerment methodology that uses specific participatory processes and diagram tools that aim at giving women as well as men more control over their lives and resources. Couples and clients will be introduced to setting goals, making active decisions, and planning towards achieving these goals. The component takes participants through the processes involved in goal setting, identifying challenges or obstacles that hinder the success of the goals they set for themselves, and how to mitigate these challenges.

Participants in this training are guided to understand the concepts of goal setting, effective decision-making, and planning strategies that foster the achievement of these goals. And with the help of illustrations, they can draw out their visions, and schedule for goals, opportunities, challenges, and targets. They are made to identify on their own how they can achieve these goals using existing resources and opportunities and controlling challenges.

The primary focus of these activities is to first empower these women, to be able to take charge and create an environment that aligns with the future they want for themselves and their communities. And secondly, ensure that couples and households can make collective decisions that foster growth within and outside their household. It is also meant to address the issue of gender and social injustice in economic development by using an inclusive and participatory process, which in itself is an empowerment strategy.

Since the inception of the Gender Module Family (GMF) within the various communities of the GROW2 project, gradual monitoring has been made to determine the impact the module has had on various households. The GMF is a gender component of the GROW2 project, which seeks to elevate the opportunities of women, create space for them to venture into or have time to generate more income through reducing unpaid care work, foster participation in household decision-making, and improve their standards of living.

The GMF is currently running in the Savelugu, Nanton, and Central Gonja districts and has made a lot of impact on the participating households despite the challenges in the beginning. Families that have embraced the concept have shared the changes they are seeing in their households. Led by the GESI officer at URBANET Ghana, couples are taken through how to foster inclusiveness in the household, especially how men can support their wives.

Recent monitoring has shown immense improvement in households and the relationship between spouses as well as their children. Men have begun to support their wives in household chores, including decision-making, providing social and financial support, and engaging in communication, which has reduced gender-based abuse, among others.

In the Savelugu district, through decision-making and effective communication with their husbands, a lot of women have been able to acquire certain pre-harvest and post-harvest technologies such as threshers, roller/push planters, and motokings, amongst others, under the GROW2 Price Discount Scheme with their support. Most women have received support when it comes to farm labour, and taking care of children, and they have also been able to acquire multiple sources of income to support themselves and their households.

In terms of communal conflicts, some traditional leaders have reported a reduction in household conflicts and minor community conflicts, and an increase in communal cohesion and peace. However, some men still face challenges in adjusting to the concept due to name-calling and mockery for assisting and performing roles that are generally known to be women’s roles. Most men have been able to fully embrace and adjust to their new roles and have become advocates for the concept in their group meetings and in the community at large.

The Gender Module Family concept has exceeded the expectations of many. A lot of women have shown appreciation and joy at the initiative, and how much stress and burden it has reduced for them. Others in polygamous households have expressed peace between cowives and support for each other. GMF, popularly and joyously called “dundong malimali” (sweet household) by our beneficiaries, has become a daily slogan sung in each practicing household.

The issue of women’s access to land has been discussed for decades. Despite the efforts to ensure land ownership for women, especially for farming purposes, it remains unresolved in some parts of the country. Although some women have been given access to lands or portions of lands to farm, most of these lands hold little to no value.

Urbanet, in partnership with the House of Chiefs and CECOTAP in North East Gonja district, organized a land dialogue to create awareness about the importance of women’s access to land, especially for agricultural purposes. The event brought together GROW2 WSHFs, chiefs, land owners, the DCE, opinion leaders, and gender equality champions, among other stakeholders.

The dialogue focused on ways to get easy access to fertile lands for women, with an emphasis on the significance of women’s smallholder farming. The GESI coordinator, Madam Nimatu, who led the dialogue, stated the significance of empowering women economically as well as socially. She stated the contribution of women to not just the household but also the community. She encouraged all the stakeholders present to advocate for women in any sense that contributes to positive development.

The GROW2 project aims to empower as many women economically as possible through agribusinesses. This is set to be achieved by providing opportunities for women smallholder farmers and entrepreneurs, this includes access to land and reducing inequalities. With the support of traditional leaders and other stakeholders, discussions will be held frequently to ensure success.

As part of the event, the GESI officer also engaged participants on the impact of WSHFs on households and the community at large. The contribution of these women to household development cannot be underestimated. It was a pleasure having the DCE, traditional leaders, and other stakeholders express the need to support them.

A major component of the Women Innovation for Sustainable Enterprises (WISE) project is alleviating poverty and ensuring economic empowerment for women. The project has, since its inception, provided step-down training, innovative saving methods, and business and entrepreneurial strategy training, among others, to equip women smallholder farmers and aggregators to transform their farming activities and livelihoods into profitable agribusinesses. Through start-up support, a lot of women have been able to secure businesses for themselves, while others have transformed already existing businesses to meet wider market standards.

Over the years, a few of these beneficiaries have become exceptional entrepreneurs, and some of them have participated in competitions where they pitched their businesses in the country’s capital. These women have been selected to serve as mentees and advocates in their communities. To ensure that a ripple effect is seen across the districts, these mentees have been allowed to engage in some savings groups within the Kumbungu and Tolon districts, sharing their entrepreneurial journeys and insights.

This experience-sharing is not just about networking; it is a platform for growth, empowerment, and learning new strategies to navigate the business world. They also engaged them in proper savings strategies that can be used in transforming their businesses, setting goals, and how to achieve them. The purpose of using mentees for this engagement was to ensure that, the rural women understood they could also succeed if they put their minds to their businesses. And to also provide them with a sense of hope and boost their morale, knowing that people from amongst them have been able to go this far.

To ensure the sustainability of the project, we are aiming at getting as many advocates and mentees as possible within each community of implementation and equipping them with the needed skills to support and uplift others. The aim of URBANET is not just to support and provide relief to an entire community within our districts of influence, but to ensure that a considerable number of women are effectively transformed and serve as ambassadors in their communities.

Zoggu is one of the 28 communities under the Nanton district where the GROW2 project is executed within the Northern region by URBANET Ghana. It has been identified as one of the communities with much potential considering its vibrant women smallholder farmers and aggregators and their zeal to embrace change. Through the project, many initiatives under the market systems component and gender transformative approaches have been implemented in the community, which have seen great progress.

Through the continuous support from URBANET Ghana and the GROW2 project, the community is slowly becoming a hub for serious agribusinesses owned by women, gender rights advocacy, and several other transformational development initiatives. 

As the sponsor of the GROW2 project, Global Affairs Canada (GAC) has shown immense interest in the project and its progress. Through the major implementor, MEDA Ghana, it pays working visits to its Key Facilitating Partners (KFPs) to measure the impact of the project on clients (beneficiaries).

URBANET Ghana hosted the Canadian High Commissioner to Ghana, Martine Moreau, the Senior Development Officer at GAC, Mr. Majeed Mohammed, and a team from MEDA Ghana in the Zoggu community. The visit was meant to interact with the women under the project, especially those who could acquire the various technologies under the project’s Price Discount Scheme (PDS) and members of the Gender Module Family (GMF) activity. Most of them shared their experience, the benefits they have derived from the project, and how it has transformed their households and businesses.

The High Commissioner, through the GESI officer of URBANET, interacted with some women who own tricycles and groundnut shellers acquired through the project. She found interest in how they were able to acquire such pieces of machinery and how well it is helping them. She expressed her satisfaction at how far the women have come and are working hard to transform themselves and their children.

Through the project’s market system and gender transformative approaches, many of them have improved their relationships with spouses and children, and have attained alternative income sources in addition to what they did previously, which has improved their financial status. The project intends to reduce poverty, if not end it, amongst women through business and market approaches. It seeks to create as many women in the agribusiness sector as possible, and URBANET, through its project officers across its Zones of Influence, is ensuring that it is achieved. 

The WISE project is a partner project with Plan International Ghana, and as an implementing partner, URBANET accounts to not only its beneficiaries and stakeholders but partners as well. Given this, URBANET has had a close relationship with Plan International Ghana over the years and has worked jointly to ensure the success of the project. Despite working with the northern branch of Plan International Ghana, our relationship extends beyond the branch office.

URBANET had the pleasure of hosting the recently appointed Country Director of Plan International Ghana, Constant Tchona, and some team members from the regional branch, in some of its WISE project implementing communities, as part of his visit to the regional branch. He engaged with the project beneficiaries in the Kumbungu district, sharing his life journey and as well immersing himself in their stories and experiences. From heartwarming interactions with the VSLA groups at the Kpilo community to monitoring the WISE project Safe Spaces for Children at the Tibung community, his visit was filled with impactful moments.

The team also visited the Voggu community, where the Country Director closely monitored our women-friendly solar hub and interacted with the hub agents and some women entrepreneurs. The resilience and determination of these women entrepreneurs left a lasting impression, showcasing the power of sustainable initiatives in driving change.

In recognition of the International Women’s Day Celebration, some groups in the Gumo community of the Kumbungu district organised an event to commemorate the day. As a core mandate of the Women Innovation for Sustainable Enterprises (WISE) project, uplifting and empowering women socially and economically is vital. The project has, through its components, provided several avenues to transform the lives of women across its implementing districts; Tolon and Kumbungu. Celebrating International Women’s Day is one of the recognized activities that are executed in selected communities every year by URBANET Ghana. This is to provide a platform for women to share their experiences and some of the transformative impact they have acquired so far.

This year, URBANET Ghana, in collaboration with Plan International Ghana, selected the Galinkpegu community in the Tolon district to host the celebration of International Women’s Day for its WISE beneficiaries/mentees. However, women in the Gumo community of the Kumbungu district challenged themselves to organize the same event in honour of the day. These amazing women were able to not only recognise the day but also see the need to organize an event to celebrate the day themselves, a testimony that, these inspired entrepreneurial women are making an effort to transform their lives. Through consultations and fundraising, they were able to bring together stakeholders within and outside their districts.

As part of ensuring the success of this project, we allow women to practicalize whatever they learn from pieces of training organised for them, as well as involve them in activities that boost their confidence level and build their self-esteem. Having a group of women take the initiative to bring such an event to life was very rewarding and indicates that the sustainability of the project is assured.

The WISE team that was present at the event commended the women for their exceptional work and encouraged them to generate more transformative ideas that will enhance the lives of other women, the community, and the district at large. This initiative has served as a pathway for other groups within the district to challenge themselves to become advocates for transformational development. URABANET Ghana is honoured to be a part of their journey and has promised to provide the necessary support they need each step of the way.