Ghana: Women And Mobility
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'If you have come to help me you can go home again. But if you see my struggle as part of your own survival then perhaps we can work together.' Australian Aboriginal Women
In meeting with officials of the government of Ghana that deal with transport and rural development typical topics of conversation are: degrading of the environment; urban gridlock; the cost of road repair; health problems for women from carrying heavy loads; the cost of fuel; and a shortage of foreign exchange for vehicles, parts and construction equipment. Without a lot of fanfare, but with great dedication by the project managers, several ministries are addressing these issues.
The Department of Roads & Highways is designing many of its new rural roads on the assumption that: most of the traffic is non-motorized vehicles; they have to be locally maintainable; heavy equipment is scarce; labor is plentiful; employment is needed; women are most disadvantaged in the development process; projects should strengthen the structure of the community; and the program needs to be sustainable and reproducible. One readily apparent result of the change in assumptions is a 'single-blade' (4m or 13ft) compacted road. But the far more important products of the program are the change in the production process and the changes to social structure and the resource base and allocation -- because of the changes in design standards, a road can be built most economically by labor intensive methods (costing 10-15% less than with mechanical methods), more rural employment is generated and there is growth in the local economy supplying the projects. So far 35 private contractors have been trained and are employing over 3000 people. The target is for 70% of the employees to be women and to combine the employment with nutrition education and vitamin and mineral supplement (iron was specifically mentioned for women.) Annual total employment is about 3000 worker. Each works for about 3 months, receives food and vitamin/mineral subsidies, earns US$145 and has access to a savings plan to buy a bicycle to use on the new roads. The education and coordination of the program is provided by local NGO's, helping to strengthen these community organizations and insure their long term presence in the community. The program also includes a street-tree component, where citizens plant and maintain trees 6m apart on both sides of the road. In the semi-arid climate tree lined roads are a great relief to non-motorized travelers. And wells for safe drinking water are being drilled as part of the program. It is hoped that by improving rural quality-of-life, urbanization trends and the demand for expensive urban infrastructure can be reduced.
Bicycles For Women
A separate project is the Transportation Rehabilitation Project. One aspect of this is the development and initial production of 250 bicycle trailers and promotion of bicycles for women. Surveys of women show that the equipment was readily accepted as a substitute for head-portage. Women have avidly taken to using the bicycle and trailer and there has been no cultural resistance to the change. The main problem identified is a lack of money or access to credit to buy the vehicles. This obstacle is being overcome by the purchase of the trailers by local NGO's, who then sell them to community members on installment payback schemes. The program is now encouraging local entrepreneurs to produce trailers.
Bicycles For Local Government
Ghana is currently pursuing a decentralization and democratization process. The Ministry of Local Government's bicycle program is intended to support this. Many of the 7,260 members and staff members of the new district assemblies have had trouble attending assembly and committee meetings and visiting constituents. The problem is most acute in the north where some areas are served by vehicles only once a week, roads are bad and bridges are weak. There are reports of assembly workers walking 50 km (31 miles) to perform assembly functions. On the solution side of the equation: distances are moderate, the terrain is flat and the weather lends itself to use of bicycles. The LG bicycle project is starting in 3 districts. Bicycles are being made available through a revolving fund on a hire-to-purchase plan. The program is starting with 200 one speed roadster bikes with the goal of getting 1000 bicycles. A secondary aspect of the program is directed at employment generation. Local youth are being trained to assemble, repair and maintain the bicycles. IBF has assisted with technical information on bicycle transportation.
Also From Ghana
Bike Youth reports that the government of Ghana has revoked the import tax on bicycles and parts and that foreign investors are building a factory for one-speed bicycles in Kumasi. Bike Youth is continuing to build the network of politicians, government officials, academicians and citizens who are interested in bicycle transportation. IBF is providing Bike Youth with financial, technical and material support.
A new bicycle factory is opening, but despite the new technology in bicycles the factory will build "1940 roadsters."
Between 1988 and 1990 the price of gas went from US$1 to US$3/gallon. This was done in part to stop subsidized gas from being smuggled to neighboring countries where gas is more expensive.
The International Bicycle Fund is an independent, non-profit organization. Its primary purpose is to promote bicycle transportation. Most IBF projects and activities fall into one of four categories: planning and engineering, safety education, economic development assistance and promoting international understanding. IBF's objective is to create a sustainable, people-friendly environment by creating opportunities of the highest practicable quality for bicycle transportation. IBF is funded by private donation. Contributions are always welcome and are U.S. tax-deductible to the extent allowed by law.
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