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.

Monkeying around

– by Zoe

Last week, we went on an awesome day trip.

After possibly the bumpiest journey I’ve ever been on (and that was in a 4×4, so I can’t even imagine how the people in the taxi behind us felt), we arrived at Boabeng-Fiema monkey sanctuary. The monkeys go daily to the villages of Boabeng and Fiema between 7-9am and 3-5pm. Unfortunately, we arrived at about 11am, so we had to search for them in the nearby forest. We also saw the monkey cemetery, where all monkeys are given a proper burial by the villagers.

Afterwards, we went to Kintampo waterfalls, which may now be my favourite place in Ghana…

 

Kukere II

By Iyanu

So far we’ve been enjoying Ghanaian musical delights and testing our dance moves here and there.  Music and dancing is everywhere in Tamale, whether indoors or outdoors, so you can imagine everyone’s curiosity when my Kukere dancing challenge was announced in the office. After hours and hours of channeling my inner Sasha Fierce hard work, sweat, blood and tears I was able to produce a performance of sorts. I pretty much brought the whole office to a standstill because of my surprising lack of talent!. Let’s just agree it was interesting because it was. I enjoyed it nonetheless and I’m glad to have seen my challenge through, the whole office has now been FIZAMED! 

(Note:Definition of  FIZAMED – To be  impressed with, wowed, surprised or baffled by the amazing team of Fatawu, Iyanu, Zoe, Ali and Molly!)

Kukere challenge

Kukere challenge

Clap-clap!

by Zoe

Walk through any residential street in Tamale (or indeed any other settlement in Ghana) and you are bound to hear a clap-clap! clap-clap! sound, from girls playing what must be the most popular playground game in Ghana…

It’s always played by two girls; as far as we can understand, one girl wins if you both kick out the same foot as each other, while the other one wins if you kick out opposite feet.

The game is exceptional training in co-ordination and timing. Forget patting your head and rubbing your belly; try clapping, jumping and kicking in time with these girls…. it’s nigh-on impossible.

Killer Kenkey

By Ali

Challenge 3

Kenkey is a staple dish of West Africa served with a soup, stew, or sauce. Two days ago, brave souls of the RAINS office were given the challenge to be the first to finish two servings of Kenkey. Although I was no match to the Champion who ate it all in less than three minutes, I still managed to finish one serving in 10 minutes, and that was the second Kenkey I ever had!

Kenkey

What were the chances I’d live to tell the tale?
SAM_1149

Iyanu’s Kukere!!!

By Iyanu

Challenge #2.

So, there’s this really great song by the Nigerian artist Iyanya, called Kukere. It came out last year and it’s quite a popular song here in Ghana; we hear it everywhere we go. After being here a month, we have become obsessed with it by singing out a few random lines here and there, in taxis, restaurants, at home, in Ali’s face and on the road accompanied with some enthusiastic dancing. As we are in our challenge week, I have been tasked with learning the lyrics and dance moves, to some sort of performable standard. I think I’m cautiously optimistic about it, perhaps not the dancing as I can’t dance, but rather learning the lyrics because it’s a very catchy song. Only thing I’m unsure about is how many hours I’m going to need to sweat it out until I master it, but anyway watch this space…

Week #5 – CHALLENGE WEEK

By Molly

Week #5 here at Team Tamale has been declared the week of the challenges. Each team member has been assigned a challenge they must complete/stick to within the week and there will be forfeits for those who fail to succeed in their challenge. 

Challenge #1 – ‘No carbs in Tamale’

One of the main questions asked by friends and family about our time here in Tamale is ‘What’s the food like?’. To say that Ghanaian people love eating carbohydrate foods would be a massive understatement; carbohydrates make up about 80% of every meal. Whether it be fried rice, plain rice, jollof rice, banku, fufu, TZ or kenkey – the carb is always the most important part of the meal.

So, myself and Zoe decided there was a little incentive here to run a ‘no carbs in Tamale’ challenge. For one week (and one week only!) we will be eating no carbohydrate foods to see if it is actually possible to survive in a country that is so dependent on the food category and we will be blogging about it at the end of the week to update everyone on our progress.

Just to give you a sneak peak of what our week will entail; Monday morning commenced with ‘egg in a bag’. A more traditional Ghanaian breakfast from a food stall would be an omelette between two thick slices of bread served to you in a plastic carrier bag to take back to the office… but without the bread for us ‘no carbers’ it was literally just egg in a bag.

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Wish us luck friends…

Ugly noise or media freedom?

by Fatawu

Daily Graphic Ghana3 May is a date set aside every year by the UN to celebrate the contribution of the press to the socio-economic development of humanity and to award a deserving individual who might have contributed in one or more ways to the emancipation of the media. This memorable day was marked worldwide with fora and public lectures.

In Ghana, such occasion was marked with symposia organized by the stakeholders of media freedom. In Ghana, this coincided with a report about an investigation into the alleged brutal attack on a journalist by the military during the Independence Day celebration. It was therefore expected that most of the commentary run on that particular day would be targeted at condemning the draconian act of the military, more especially it happened as on the august occasion of the nation’s Independence Day celebration.

Ghana, as a country with an estimated population of 25million people, can boast of 256 radio stations, 16 registered TV stations and numerous newspapers providing information, education and entertainment to the populace. This means that each region has, on average, about 25 radio stations and 1.6 TV stations. Because of the rural nature of Ghana, coupled with considerably high illiteracy and poverty, about 87% of the populace gets their information from radio stations.

Nonetheless, Ghana did was not given this state of affairs on silver platter; people were incarcerated without trial and even had to die for Ghana to get to where we are now. The most notable breakthrough in the annals of media history in Ghana liberalisation of the air waves and the repeal of the criminal libel law in 2001.The effect of this repeal has been captured by a statement made by Nana Akuffo Addo, the man under whose tenure as Attorney General this repeal was made possible. According to Nana Addo, the repeal of these laws has contributed to the growth of a vibrant and critical media that has won Ghana the reputation of having one of the most media friendly and liberal climates on the continent and has contributed significantly to the deepening of democracy in Ghana.

The repeal brought along with it several abuses: most of the media houses employ people who parade themselves on the street misinforming people instead of informing them. As if this is not enough, they assassinate anybody’s characters  unduly provided they hate your face; as most of the stories they publish are done without paying much attention to their own code of ethics they so subscribed to. The multi- million cedi question that easily comes to mind is; who regulates content of these media profession? Most of the stories they report lack in-depth analysis. Most of these abuses are again captured by the same persons who champion media pluralism. Nana Addo opined that excesses and acts of unprofessional conduct by the media, some of which cannot be justified under any circumstance, have partly given a bad name to sections of the Ghanaian media and provided the ready ammunition to authoritarian and anti-democratic forces to call for the reintroduction of the criminal and seditious libel laws.

Rains at RAINS

RAINS Tamale Ghana

Rains at RAINS

by Zoe

As someone who has spent most of my life in draich, damp, dour old Britain, one of the great attractions of Ghana was the weather. The sun! The heat! Bliss, I thought… But I’ll be honest, I’m not made to withstand daily temperatures of 40 degrees plus. So when it rained for the first time (and the temperatures dropped a little), I did a little dance of joy in the rain. Before sheltering inside when our security gate blew down.

When it rains here in Tamale, it POURS. It wasn’t just our security gate that blew down. Hundreds of houses were damaged or destroyed, and one man died the first time it rained.

But water is life in the local communities. And agriculture accounts for 90% of household incomes in Northern Ghana, so even though it only rains for around four months per year in this region, these rains are crucial to people’s livelihoods.

And what’s astonishing is how quickly the landscape changes with a little bit of rain. The first team would barely recognise the area around our house, which has transformed in just a few weeks from a dustbowl into lush green fields that our neighbours are now preparing for farming.

Dry season Tamale Ghana

Before the rain

Rainy season Tamale Ghana

After the rain

The Sculptor of Tshigu

by Ali

IMG_0911Last night it rained, fearsome, like an endless wail of a newborn baby, and today it was really muddy, so this little fellow took advantage of the muddy situation and decided to sculpt his very own something. The level of concentration on his face when I saw him was testimony to his dedication to his art.