Until I travelled to India I would not have called myself a feminist. I didn’t wantto be lumped in with the group that continually debates the importance of changing Alderman to Councillor at City Hall and really had never experienced anything that would make me change my mind. But I am most definitely now a feminist, not to fight for more at home, but more as a recognition of the rights and opportunities I have, even as a female, in Canada.
Last week I sat at my desk while Natalia consoled a young girl who just wept. She had completed junior high school 2 years ago along with her two brothers but their father had only been willing to send the boys to high school. School here is free (as long as you provide a uniform) through junior high school and then costs a few hundred dollars per year for the 4 years of high school. Her father had finally agreed that he would let her go if she could raise the money herself. This is basically impossible. She had come to see Natalia in hopes that the education office could support her but this did not happen. The tears just streamed down her face and I don’t blame her.
In my first workshops, which were all for primary school teachers, the split was about 60/40 men to women. In the workshops I have run for junior high school teachers the split was 100/0. Not one single female math or science teacher. I did ask the men one day why they thought this was and the response was that maybe the women had not learned their math or science well enough to teach it. And they are probably right. Education wasn’t free until about 8 years ago and therefore most girls didn’t go to school. The ones that did often couldn’t keep up with the homework because they had to do all of the house chores. This is still an issue. It is not uncommon for the girls to spend hours hauling water, cooking, cleaning, doing laundry and looking after other children while their brothers do their homework.
When I was little and my parents told me I could do and be whatever I wanted, they were right. Most mothers and fathers here can’t (yet) tell this to their daughters.
Just as a follow up after Steve’s comment I have been meaning to say for a while that when I talk about the way things are “here” this does not mean Africa, or even all of Ghana. My stories are from rural Ghana. A person living in Accra (the capital, 400 km south) leads a life much more similar to ours in Canada (minus the snowmen….or women I guess I should say!) than with a person from the north of Ghana. I think sometimes we have many misperceptions of “Africa” and I don’t want to be adding to that. Glad to hear you are talking about this with your students, Steve!