Out of the dark but not out of the cage: women's empowerment and gender relations in the Dangme West district of Ghana

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In Ghana, strategies to address poverty among rural women have often been linked to women's empowerment programmes with credit as a core component of these. Yet, many programmes focus on the economic benefit to women without necessarily looking at the impact on gender relations at the household level and its implications on women. Using quantitative and qualitative data from the Dangme West district of Ghana, this article shows how poverty reduction programmes with credit components can reduce women's vulnerability to poverty and empower them. But much more needs to be done to complement these efforts. The study shows that women beneficiaries as against women non-beneficiaries have significantly improved their socio-economic status through access to financial and non-financial resources. This has in certain instances improved gender relations at the household level, with women being recognized as earners of income and contributors to household budget. However, some women still regard their spouses as ‘heads’ and require their consent in decisions even in issues that have to do with their own personal lives. Moreover, the improved economic status of women has resulted in a ‘power conflict’, creating confrontation between spouses. The article recommends that, as part of their programmes, assisting organizations and institutions must address ‘power relations’, the basis of gender subordination at the household level, otherwise socio-cultural norms and practices, underpinned by patriarchal structures, will remain ‘cages’ for rural women.

Keywords: Dangme West; Ghana; empoderamiento; empowerment; gender; género; pobreza; poverty

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/0966369X.2011.572435

Affiliations: Department of Geography and Resource Development,University of Ghana, PO Box LG 59Legon,Ghana, West Africa

Publication date: June 1, 2012

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