Keeping mum

baby in the office Ghana

“What do you mean I’m a distraction?”

If there’s one thing that you can’t avoid in Ghana, it’s contact with babies. Mothers think nothing of putting their baby on your lap on the bus if they have a bag or box on their own, and on venturing out for breakfast or lunch it is not at all unusual to find that you are expected to hold the child of the person that you have asked to make it. Even the average person walking down the street may find that they are unexpectedly handed a baby out of the window of a trotro (local bus).

baby in the office Ghana

“I’m just minding my own business while mum works…”

But the place in Ghana where I found the presence of babies most surprising was indubitably the office. There are 15 full time employees and 3 full time babies at RAINS. We share our office with 8-month-old Wunnam, who is possibly the closest I have ever come to a Disney character in real life (my trip to EuroDisney excepted). He is a bundle of cuteness – big eyes, big smile, big personality.But for somebody who is used to working in a UK office, it can come as quite a surprise to be given a baby when his mother is going to a meeting, to have to go and pick him up when he wakes up when his mum is not around, or to find him charging up to your desk in his plastic car, which is all the while playing a high-pitched version of ‘Old MacDonald.’

baby in the office Ghana

“It’s not my fault if everyone wants to play with me…”

The phenomenon of babies in the office is an upshot of the fact that in Ghana, the minimum maternity leave to which employees are entitled is only 12 weeks (in addition to annual leave accrued). Given that at this stage of a child’s development, nearly all mothers will still be breastfeeding, it is in most cases necessary for them to bring the baby to the office with them. Nursing mothers are entitled to interrupt their work for an hour during working hours to breastfeed their babies. This time is treated as part of their working hours and paid accordingly.

baby in the office Ghana

“…although it is good fun…”

It would be interesting to assess the impact of Ghana’s maternity leave entitlements with those of the UK, where eligible employees can take up to 52 weeks of maternity leave, and receive statutory maternity pay for up to 39 weeks. Does a shorter period of maternity leave lead to greater productivity in the office because the mother is away from her desk for less time, or lower productivity because she and all the colleagues around her are distracted by the baby? Are mothers more likely to return from a longer period of maternity leave, by which point they may find it harder to readjust to life in the office, or a shorter period, when they may still be adjusting to life as a mother and embarrassed about breastfeeding in front of their colleagues?

Certainly, the evidence suggests that longer paid maternity leave is associated with a wide range of benefits for mothers and their babies. Returning to work within the first 12 weeks of a baby’s life is associated with lower cognitive development scores for the baby and a greater number of depressive symptoms for the mother, while the availability of one year’s paid maternity leave is associated with a 20% decline in post-neo-natal deaths and a 15% decrease in fatalities occuring before the child reaches five years old.

Given that infant mortality rates remain high in Ghana, perhaps there is a need to extend the length of statutory maternity leave in the country.

Advertisements

Lights, camera…

Lights, camera...

The team interviewing a past board member of RAINS

Well, it’s week 7 which means that we are now halfway through our International Citizen Service project in Ghana

We’re now in the fieldwork phase of our project, which involves:

  • Filming beneficiaries of past projects implemented by RAINS, our partner organisation, for a documentary to commemorate their 20th anniversary.
  • Holding focus groups on the subject of child labour, child trafficking, and child migration, in a variety of communities, with a view to writing a briefing note on some of the key trends and issues in the Northern and Upper East regions of Ghana.

There’s an awful lot still to do and only 6 weeks left… wish us luck!

Where do we go…?

By Fatawu

Doctors strike Ghana

Members of the Ghana Medical Association have been on strike since 8 April.

I never imagined that the current strike in Ghana by medical doctors could have had dire consequences like this until I became a victim to this power play between the Ghanaian Government on one hand and the medical professionals on the other hand. I believe that those who wrote our labour laws did not make any mistake when they categorised certain services, including medical services, as being essential.

According the labour laws of Ghana, those who are categorised as essential are not supposed to go on strike – but should they continue to work to detriment of their conditions when all supposed avenues to addressing their grievances have proved futile and unhelpful? Your guess is as good as mine.

Personally, I am not so much concerned about who is right or wrong; I am more interested in what the innocent poor villager would have to go through under this difficult condition. As a subscriber to the National Health Insurance Scheme, a social policy meant to cushion people when they fall ill, I majestically walked into the hospital to be treated for the malaria that I have been battling for some time now. The moment I got to the hospital, I could see hundreds of destitute parents and their children lying on the ground waiting to access health care services.

I made an enquiry at the front desk as to why these helpless souls were lying unattended, only to be told that there was nobody around to attend to them. I pushed for more answers as I ran out of patience. All the front desk officer could do was to direct me to the administrator of the hospital. The administrator told me that the hospital was in that state because there wasn’t any doctor to attend to these patients – including myself – because the doctors are on strike.

At this point, I wasn’t looking at myself as a patient, because I could still go to the private hospital and access good health care services. I was so much touched by the condition of the innocent and helpless children and their parents who have no option at all. So I ask myself, so why do we have this situation in modern Ghana? Why should it get to this extent? Is there any end in sight? I don’t know…

Introducing…

…Team Tamale #2!

team 2

Fatawu and Zoe have been joined by 3 new volunteers – Iyanu (who has been given the local name Chentiwuni by our colleagues), Molly (Timtooni) and Ali (Nasara).

Over the next ten weeks you’ll be hearing from all 5 of us about our project at RAINS and our experience of life in Ghana.

Meet the team.

So long, farewell… and now there’s plenty of work to do…


IMG
With the end of March came the end of Phase 1 of International Service‘s project with RAINS, and the end of Tolu, Ben and Rhogan’s time in Ghana.

The three of them have been amazing volunteers and they’ll be missed by everyone in the office.

The placement ended with a validation meeting at which we presented the results of our Impact Assessment of RAINS’s Next Generation Project, which set out to tackle child trafficking and child labour, and to address the downsides relating to kayaye (headportering) and fostering, in the Northern Region of Ghana.

IMG_5729Our report included suggestions for how projects like the Next Generation Project could be improved. It also highlighted a number of opportunities for further work in the Northern Region of Ghana. The next groups of volunteers coming to RAINS will use this analysis to build on some of the opportunities identified.

Time flies…

Validation meeting

Today we had a Validation Meeting at which we presented the results of our project report to 20 stakeholders including community members, RAINS and International Service staff.

Tomorrow, it’s our last day in the office before flying down to Accra next week.

This has been a VERY short 11 weeks… we seem to have lost track of time.

(Something that we must have caught from the Ghanaians we met, as most of them didn’t turn up until 1 1/2 hours after our meeting was supposed to start.)

Awesome Africa

Happy Red Nose Day!

I hope that all of you watching in the UK enjoy the entertainment and dig deep for those who most need help in the UK and in Africa.

But like I said in my previous post, there’s SO much more to Africa than you can see in charity appeals like Red Nose Day. So today, upload a picture of Africa onto facebook or twitter (#awesomeafrica) and show your friends what an amazing and diverse continent it really is. Here are a few of the pics we’ve received already: