Sun 8th December 2019
We spent the morning with the women of Alavanyo. Around 55 women gathered together. Alyrene asked questions to the women, which were translated by Mary, a ‘Queen Mother’ The Queen Mothers are the wise women of the village who, like the Elders (who are all men) look after the welfare of the community.
When asked if any of them used the toilets constructed earlier in the year they all said yes. With an average of almost four children per household this indicates that at least 326 people are benefiting from the toilets every day.
“I go every day. Very good. The place [the toilet] is good, nothing bad. I am very very happy”
As well as the obvious health benefits of the toilets, Mary explained that she, and others in the village, now feel proud to invite friends and relatives to their homes. Without a toilet they felt “a disgrace” when people came to visit as they could only offer the bushes for them to relieve themselves. Hospitality is integral to Ghanaian society so the toilets bring heath, dignity and hospitality – all so very important.
Learning a Trade
Keen to find out more about the women we asked more, each question was translated by Mary and the women took it in turn to discuss their answers. Almost unanimously they said they wanted to learn a trade to make money. None were looking for handouts, rather support to earn their own funds. A lot of their husbands work in Accra, Ghana’s capital city which is around a five hour drive away. The women stay in the village to tend to the farm and look after the children. Some, like Mary, already run their own business. Mary has been a hairdresser for 15 years and is trying to earn enough money to finish the construction on her house. Currently she rents a small house for herself and her five children. She was looking forward to seeing her husband for Christmas, the first time in three months.
When asked what made them feel unsafe, Gloria also spoke of needing a trade, “poverty, because we don’t have a trade, we have no money”.
Other women, such as 20 year old Beatrice said she wanted to become a business women. Trades they were interested in varied from making soap and beads to batick (Ghanaian tie-dye cloth) or baking. In order to set up these businesses they would need small loans, training and the use of equipment.
With no mains connection and a faulty borehole in the village the main source of water comes from three small streams and capturing rain water. In December we were at the beginning of the dry season with little to no rain and the water in the streams was already running low. The women spend much of their time “searching for good water”. They explained that by January they would queue for three to four hours at the one remaining stream for one bucket of water. This water is used to wash themselves and their families, to cook with, wash the dishes and clothes and keep the home clean.
Luckily affordable drinking water is available, sold in 500ml plastic bags for the equivalent of a few pence. These bags are sold across the country delivered on big lorries. The plastic waste and littering can’t be ignored but the health benefits since these bags of water have been introduced are immense.