The skies were blue with fresh warm air blowing from both ends of the village in Mbaupe community in Ghana. This time of the year, smallholder farmers are done with active farming activities, and women go to harvest tree branches for firewood.
Other women in the community use this time to bond with family and friends and some away time before farming season.
But the story changes for women in the 4R Nutrient Stewardship project, Ghana cooperatives in the communities where the project operates.
Tiwanban Nabilin, a mother of six from the Mbawupe community and a Rural Commercial Women Groups (RCWG) member in East Gonja District is a 4R beneficiary who has had the opportunity to be taken through a series of capacity building training such as leadership, assertiveness, and confidence training, financial literacy, business skills, and livelihood empowerment training.
“Before the 4R project, it was challenging for women to sit in the same meetings with men. We could not talk in meetings with men and even suggest anything. We may be present, but we cannot contribute our ideas to any discussion. We were told women are supposed to be quiet. It is the men who do the talking,” Tiwanban Nabilin added.
Women are ignored in so many ways in most communities in Ghana’s northern and savannah. Men make decisions without consulting their wives.
“Joining the 4R project has truly given me the opportunity to think differently. As a RCWG, now I engage in trading activities besides my farming activities. I am busier than other women in the community during this season. In the lean season. I will be selling my grain to get more profit for the production season,” She narrated.
Tiwanban Nabilin has moved from being timid to a very expressive woman. She and her colleagues in the 4R cooperatives do not leave decisions only for men in the communities to make. Instead, they share their opinions and ask questions for clarification during meetings.
Men in Mbaupe community are becoming very tolerant and beginning to support women’s inclusiveness in decision making and leadership roles.
Tiwanban Nabilin has decided to contest for the coming assembly elections in her community in 2023.
Her husband Ibrahim TiJu, the chief of Mbawupe, confirmed this assertion and encouraged her to contest. He expressed his confidence in his wife and women in his community and is committing to #BreaktheBias or obstacles that stand in women’s way. He is encouraging women to keep striving and to be expressive.
Ibrahim TiJu said, “I’m the chief of this community and earlier when the meeting was called the women were not interested to come and if they did come, they were quiet. But since the 4R project came to the community, the women in the community are expressing their views in the meetings and are the first to be present at meetings.
I promise to use my power to encourage women and break every bias seen in this community. We cannot keep on making them feel less and rejected as if they are not part of the society.”
Madam Tiwanban expressed her joy and encouraged all women to speak for themselves, contest for leadership positions and not leave leadership roles for only the men in the community. She appealed to other women to support her when she is contesting next year.
She added, “I am not listening to what people around me will say. I am ready to contest for any position that comes my way; if I win, I win, and if I fail, it does not make me a failure; it means I am strong.”