Rural women need legal literacy to reduce gender barriers

BY: Joana Guo
Rural women
Some onion farmers at Bianbong in the Garu District of the Upper East Region

Gender stereotypes, social norms, the burden of unpaid care work and the dominance of patriarchal structures continue to stifle efforts towards the economic empowerment of women particularly in relation to their access to productive resources such as land and capital.

An Oxfam baseline report for the Women’s Economic Advancement for Collective Transformation (WEACT) project revealed that, generally, very few women have knowledge of the rights pertaining to their economic activities.

For instance, only about 33 per cent of women in the project area interviewed expressed knowledge about their right to acquire productive resources such as land.

The report further revealed that a good proportion of men and women still hold the view that men should not undertake unpaid care work at home, hence perpetuating the burden of unpaid care work on women.

Some rural women’s little knowledge of their economic rights and the burden of unpaid care work makes it difficult if not impossible for them to actively participate in economic activities outside the home to earn an income many women, especially across rural communities, are therefore plunged into a vicious cycle of poverty and dependence on their families for their survival.

This is even more dire for women in the shea and cocoa value chains as their livelihoods are seasonal and dependent on several external factors.

Read: Opuni Trial: Supreme Court to decide A-G's application on Honyenuga prohibition, October 26

Project communities

Oxfam and partners with support from Global Affairs Canada have rolled out 126 Legal Literacy Volunteers (LLVs), mostly women, to serve as paralegals in the 18 project communities in the Western, Western North, Savanna, Upper West, and Upper East and Northern regions of the country.

The LLVs will educate women and communities on their economic and social rights and available legal services they can seek redress. They will also create platforms for women to report abuse cases and access legal aid under the project.

The Oxfam WEACT partners have trained 18 community gender mentors to facilitate the Gender Model Family (GMF) approach among couples in the project communities.

The GMF will help households to redistribute and reduce the burden of unpaid care work to free up time for women to participate in economic activities outside the home.

The GMF approach also involves monetising unpaid care work with couples to help households appreciate the value of unpaid care work.

Read: Radio Gold, 132 entities granted radio broadcasting authorisations

International Day

As the world marks International Day of Rural Women, we call on the relevant government institutions to continue to empower women with information on their rights and how to apply them to seek redress when their rights are violated.

We also call on communities to embrace and support the legal literacy volunteers to ensure that their work reaches a wider audience. As indicated by one of the volunteers.

“It is important to empower women because it has a great impact on the whole family,” Legal Literacy Volunteer for Nyankaman, Aowin District, Patricia Mensah.

Read: Buduburam Camp demolition on hold

We urge all families to recognise, redistribute and reduce the burden of unpaid care work on women.

It takes conscious effort to promote equitable living in households and we encourage all families to embrace the gender model family approach for the transformation and economic empowerment of women.

Happy International Rural Women’s Day to all the hardworking rural women of Ghana.

The writer is the Project Coordinator of the Women’s Economic Advancement for Collective Transformation (WEACT), Oxfam.