More EWB-UBC Questions

Here are some more questions from my awesome UBC Chapter back home.

In your blog post, Fight Patriarchy, you mentioned that many charities are aimed at helping men. In what ways do NGO programs benefit men more than women?

To begin, my apologies.  I often make sweeping generalizations in my blog posts that I don’t back up.  To answer this question, I’m going to narrow my scope and focus on Tamale.

In this city, there are a lot of different NGO projects with different agendas.  There are a lot of different NGO projects with different agendas.  Many of them specifically target women as recipients of aid or education.  Unfortunately, however, it is extremely difficult for foreigners to understand the local cultural implications of their work

For example, I’m currently working with a group that is educating women on obstetric fistula.  Since this a medical problem that occurs from prolonged childbirth, it first appeared to be a “woman’s issue.”  Consequently, they started their project by focusing on women.

They soon discovered, however, that the problems surround obstetric fistula are much more complex.  Early marriages, teen pregnancies, malnutrition, and poverty all contribute to the high rates of obstetric fistula.  Moreover, it often doesn’t matter how educated a woman is on the subject because ultimately she needs permission from her husband to go to the hospital – either to give birth or get treated afterwards.

We exist in a patriarchal society, so all these small patch-up solutions ultimately help to uphold patriarchy.

Here’s another example.  For the GIFTS project, Amplify hired Ghanaians to work as field workers.  They record housing information, GPS coordinates, and paint numbers on the houses.  Out of 10 data collectors, only one is a woman.

This isn’t because Amplify is biased: they actually aimed to hire more women.  But many women can’t work a full-time job here.  Instead, they need something that they can organize around household chores and childcare responsibilities.  For instance, my seamstress’ 1-year-old son usually hangs out in her stall with her.

As a Canadian, I view my job life and home life as separate entities.  Women here, however, often don’t have that luxury.

Does that make sense?  Have I answered your question?  I wanted to delve into counterrevolutionary theory, but that would have started a long “end patriarchy!!!!!” rant so I tried to give examples instead.  Let me know if I haven’t been clear.

If people are using pay-as-you-go cards, then would they be paying to answer the surveys you’ve sent out?

With pay-as-you-go, you only pay when you make the outgoing call.  Receiving calls doesn’t cost anything.

In what other ways can we/NGOs help if we don’t build infrastructure directly? How do we help improve infrastructure indirectly?

By helping countries improve their government’s accountability, which leads to your next question:

You suggested improving the tax system, however, how could developed countries help developing countries improve their governments as whole?

I wish I had concise answers for you.  Honestly you’re asking me things way outside my depth of knowledge, so please take everything here with a grain of salt.  Actually, take it with a mountain of salt.

I think we need to focus on our own governments and lead by example.

In South Africa, I got to meet the Governor General because my friend’s boss was receiving an award.  As a fellow Canadian, I was invited to the party.  We went to the Canadian Diplomat’s house in Pretoria, which was huge.  I met Craig Kielburger, the guy who started Feed the Children.  A large group of important Canadians were traveling around southern Africa to meet state leaders and see the countries for themselves.

It was outrageous.  Besides the lavish food spread, they had also brought in Canadian beer and maple cookies.

Most African governments are disgustingly corrupt, but we’re not shining ideals either.  As Canadians, I think we need to demand more from our politicians.  Advocacy is key.

I know that’s not a great answer.  I’m basically saying that we can help African governments by ignoring them and letting them fend for themselves.

More than that, though, we also need to recognize that many of our actions in Canada undermine sovereignty in African states – like our electronics that often contain minerals from conflict zones.  We need to consume less stuff.  If oil, gold, diamonds, and other resources weren’t so precious, then people wouldn’t fight over it.

These are tough issues.  It’s so complicated that I have no idea how to tackle them.

That being said, things change quickly.  Look at how quickly China and India created a new middle class!  Nothing is hopeless.

If anyone else has more ideas, you’re invited to share.

Source: Rebuilding Foundations


After reading yesterday’s post, you can probably guess that I haven’t made very many Ghanaian friends here.  I chat with my coworkers and host-family, but that’s it.

Is this a failure on my part?  I could be more outgoing and tolerant of the cultural differences, but it’s especially difficult in Tamale because women don’t go out at night.

I don’t only mean to bars and clubs, but just out.  They’re expected to stay home.  One of my host-sisters often doesn’t come home at night or arrives after 9pm and her father yells about it to the rest of the family.

After work, I always try to be home by 6pm before it gets dark.  After that, my choices are to hang out with my host-family or hang out with other expats.  Not only is it dangerous to travel in the dark, but women live with their families so they have responsibilities in the evening besides hosting their new friends.

This sounds horrible, but I don’t want to be too friendly with Ghanaian men.  The culture is so different here: if I “hang out” with a man, it’s basically seen as “courting.”

Other EWBers in different cities have been more successful at making friends.  Southern Ghana is much more liberal than northern Ghana.

Source: Rebuilding Foundations

Princess Leia

Street harassment is probably my biggest issue with Ghana.  I just want to walk around without men yelling at me.  The constant onslaught is exhausting.

Luckily Hollaback Street Harassment recently made a great video to illustrate what a huge problem this is, even in North America.

Even luckier, a fantastic parody was made!  This video is excellent.

Sometimes, you just have to laugh.

Moreover, it makes sense that so many men here have no idea how to relate to me.  They probably get most of their information from TV.  Can you imagine if you judged women from beer ads?  No matter they think I’m going to have sex with them just because they say hello.

Compared to here, Canadians are way more sexually active.  Ghana is relatively conservative, especially in Tamale with its high proportion of Muslim population.  Most people probably have a friend of a friend who dated an expat and they had sex without any thoughts of marriage.  So weird!

So I try to be more understanding.  Look at how Canadians view Africa, after all.  We generalize “Africa” as if it’s one big country.  We listen to songs like the new Band Aid 30 version of “Do they know it’s Christmas,” which is full of lies, racism, and bad rhymes.  We see Africans as lazy, dependent, and vulnerable.

Which is wrong.

Sometimes I feel like an alien from a galaxy far, far away – but I’m not.  I’m not going to say something stupid like “we’re all human so we should be able to empathize” because I don’t think that we can.  More and more during conversations, I realize “I have absolutely no idea where this guy is coming from.”  I can’t dig down deep to his fears, desires, and motivations.  Our cultures are too different to understand each other.

But I think that’s ok.  I think it’s ok to accept our differences as long as I realize that it’s not a black/white thing or men/women thing.

Source: Rebuilding Foundations


I’ve been told that if you only do one thing in Ghana, you need to visit Mole (pronounced “m?l-ay”).  Although I haven’t gone to any of the other tourist attractions (like Cape Coast), I agree.

Last weekend, a group of us finally went to Mole National Park.  It’s best to go in the dry season because then the elephants have to come out from the forest to visit the water sources.

From Tamale, it’s worth hiring a taxi driver.  We hired two cars and drivers for ?380 each.  One car took 4 people and one took 5 people (luckily it was a hatchback so one person sat in the trunk instead of 4 people squishing in the back).  ?380 includes the drivers’ food and accommodation fees as well.  Public transit, however, costs ?30 each way and only leaves at inconvenient times, like 4am.

Once we arrived at Mole, we had to pay to get into the park.  It’s ?30 for a normal expat, ?15 for students (unfortunately I didn’t have my student card so had to pay full price), ?15 for Ghanaians (like our 2 taxi drivers), and ?5 cedi at car.

This means that our private taxis actually cost ?400 each, plus a ?5 bribe we paid to the police on the way to Mole.

The restaurant in Mole has Ghanaian food and some western food.  Most meals are under ?20 each.  There’s also a gift store and snack store.  We should have brought our own crackers and cookies because they were overpriced, but that’s to be expected.

Behind the Information building, there’s another small restaurant with cheap Ghanaian food.  It’s open 6am-2pm.   When I checked it out, though, they only had wakye (rice and beans).

All rooms include breakfast of a small tomato omelet and toast, which comes with Blue Band spread (sort of like margarine, except gross) and jam.  The jam was super exciting.

One of my friends can’t eat gluten so the restaurant gave her beans instead of toast.  I asked if I could have the beans replacement as well and the server told me no, so make sure you’re the first to ask!

Every day, my friend asked for fruit but the restaurant was out.  If you bring your own, though, they’ll cut it up for you.  Considering that watermelon are in season and only ?2 cedi, we should have brought a couple.

The hotel has a beautiful swimming pool.  We spent hours paddling around and lounging on the beach chairs.  Warning: African sun is stronger than Canadian sun.   Always wear sunscreen!  I saw many lobsters walking around.  There were lots of lobsters walking around.

It was weird to see tourists walking around in bathing suits.  In Tamale, I feel self-conscious if I show too much knee!  My bikini felt almost a little scandalous.

A Ghanaian high school class visited the park on Saturday and seemed more interested in us tourists than the elephants.  When they first arrived at the hotel, they gathered around my chair and asked if they could take my picture.


“Because of the way you’re sitting with your book.”

I guess I did look like the typical tourist: reclining beach chair, bright orange bikini, book in my hand, one leg up.  If only I had sunglasses.  It felt weird, though, to be such a fascination.  I told them that I didn’t want to pose for photos.

“Why not?”

“Because, you know, I’m not part of the park.  I’m not a tourist attraction.”


But I think they still took photos from a distance anyways.

We stayed in the dorm rooms, which were clean but nothing special.  You have to make sure to shut the door tightly, otherwise baboons get in and destroy everything in their search for food.  The beds didn’t have mozzie nets, which disappointed me.  I don’t think many places in Ghana include bed nets, though.

The best part, of course, was the elephants!  We went on a walking safari Saturday morning for 2 hours, which cost ?20 each.  We saw elephants, but they were in the water most of the time.



We did a driving safari on Saturday evening for ?40 cedi each for 2 hours.  It was fun to drive around gossip, but we didn’t seen much.



On Sunday morning, we talked to one of the guides and asked if he would bring us directly to the elephants for a “donation.”  For ?5 each, we got up close and personal with some elephants hanging out in the forest!  It was super cool.

Key points from our adventure:

  • Hire a car and driver
  • Bring your student card
  • Bring your own snacks and fruit and pure water sachets
  • Ask a guide to take you around outside of the official tour times
Up close and personal

Up close and personal

Source: Rebuilding Foundations

Beads of Hope – PLEASE DONATE

“Nafisa Rafiatu Adams is a social entrepreneur. Her business, Beads of Hope, started with ten women and girls in the community and now has nearly 50 women, who consist of rescued child brides, teenage mothers and girls engaged in child prostitution. She is proud of the fact that she have been able to provide an alternative source of income to these women through beaded jewelry and they are in turn able to cater for their children.”

Please donate to Nafisa so she can come to Canada as part of EWB’s Kumvana’s Program.

More information can be found here.

This is exactly what I was talking about in #1 from my Ways to Help from Home list: Support overseas education.  C’mon, do it.  You know you want to!

Source: Rebuilding Foundations