Akumaa Mama Zimbi is probably Ghana’s most popular sex therapist, a fixture on radio and TV. Colourful, garrulous and with one gold tooth, Mama Zimbi – Dr. Joyce Akumaa Dongotey-Padi – host a widely popular talk show, Odo Ahomaso, in the conservative west African nation. Even the grim-faced police at roadblocks crack a smile and call out her catchphrase – “Medaase” (Thank You) – which is emblazoned in pink across the back of her 4X4.
Even when the show is over, women call her, and some of their stories are heartbreaking. In Ghana, as in many African countries, a traditional gender bias often left women economically, politically and socially marginalized. When money is tight – a quarter of the population live below the international poverty line of $1.25 a day – it is boys who go to school.
Compelled by her callers’ experiences, Mama Zimbi has become a leading activist for women’s rights and education. Her Mama Zimbi Foundation helps women organize co-operatives and learn basic financial skills. “We teach people the reality,” she says. “You have to look after yourself.” The work is funded mostly out of her own pocket, aided by $20,000 from the Qatari backed World Innovation Summit for Education.
Most beneficiaries are widows, such as Beatrice Atzo Addede, kicked out of her family home when her husband died. Widows, lacking social status, are among Ghana’s most vulnerable people. Bank accounts and assets are typically held in the man’s name, and often his family will try to claim them after his death. Property should go to the widow and children but without education women often simply do not know the law is on their side. Ms Atzo Addede, 75, works with a charcoal making co-op in Akuni village in east Ghana. Each woman makes around 200 cedis (£37) a month, the income is an opportunity to escape the stigma of widowhood. “What we do now, we are free,” she says.
Small-scale farming is still the largest employer of women. Rural livelihoods are fragile and climate change has made them more so. Wet seasons are now unpredictable and farmers must adapt to stop crops dying. Agricultural advice is critical but many women are illiterate, and live far from public services. Source: Peter Guest, London Evening Standard