Thursday, January 30, 2014

Memoirs from the Upper East: 6 things I love about Ghana

1.      The work we do
When I came out to Ghana it was purely out of optimism that I could invest my time in work that makes a positive impact for vulnerable communities, and I have not been disappointed. TradeAID is a productive NGO, genuinely working to empower the diverse communities of the Upper East. I can’t actually express how excited I am by the values TradeAID comply with, such as sustainable development, fair trade and even elements of green chemistry.

2.      The women
Over the past couple of weeks in Ghana I have observed some of the most beautiful women I have ever seen. They are not rich and famous movie stars or singers, but I can’t call them ‘ordinary’ either. They are beautiful because they inspire me.

Ghanaian ladies are strong, mentally. I personally cannot bear to be in the scorching African sun for long, nor do I feel comfortable or capable of carrying loads and being covered in more layers than I need to be.  I am surrounded however by mothers, walking miles on end to continue daily errands, with their babies attached via the Ghanaian baby carrier. Picture a small child, happily sat on their mother’s back, with a sheet of fabric wrapped around and tied securely.  As comfortable as this is for the child, I can’t imagine an additional weight and layer of insulation being as comfortable for the mother. Often these mothers are carrying an extra load on their head.

I love seeing the elderly women in bright colourful traditional attire, I get lost in thought looking at their magnetic amiable faces. When I see how hard they work and the loads they carry it instantly empowers me, but at the same time I contemplate the hardship.
From the older women to the mothers to the young girls; working, carrying water or commuting to and from school, I have so much respect and admiration for the women here.

3.      The people and attitude
I am yet to see begging in Ghana. Contrast to other developing countries I have visited, or even the UK where the frequent street corner is occupied by an unfortunate homeless person requesting spare change; the Upper East has displayed only hard workers to me, committing to any job possible.
I am also impressed by the opinions and outlook expressed by those around me. One colleague in the office, Conrad, is undeniably a feminist. Though one could argue this is not a big deal, I personally think his stance is revolutionary in a culture that over the years may have continued certain traditions- such as inheritance laws denying women assets. It is important to acknowledge such issues in-order to address and change them.

I have had the opportunity to engage in an interesting discussion with another acquaintance, Yusuf.  Yusuf works as a taxi driver, but also uses his Chemistry degree as a science teacher. It was motivating to hear the ambition he had for his country to progress through education, a view I share.

I understand this is now sounding like a long soppy diary entry, but I can’t conclude this section without mentioning our lovely, lovely driver, Pastor Solomon. He is so pious his face lights up, and I love his gracious outlook on life and the small life ‘tips’ he gives, such as ‘give a present, someone will say God bless you’ and ‘if you do good, you do good to yourself, if you do bad, you do bad for yourself’.

4.      The music
There’s not much I can say here except the music is great! The vibe everywhere, from the craft workers listening to Hip-Hop to shops playing Dancehall is right up my street. R&B, Hip-Hop, Afro-beats and of course Azonto makes packed hot taxi rides and the heat bearable!

5.      The coexistence
There is a sense of good nature all around which seems to be fueled by love for God. The local population despite different faiths, shares this common ground. There is no tension, no disputes, no ‘frowning upon’ between the practices and people of different faiths. I don’t think I have ever come across such an accepting community, and the whole world (as far as I have seen) could learn a lesson from Ghana!

6.      The Azan
This is something personal. The Azan/Adhan is the Islamic call to prayer. Growing up in the UK this is something rarely heard, and a treat. Despite flying continents apart to a completely different culture, climate and community, it’s funny how hearing the Azan made me feel right at home.


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