Challenging traditional gender roles

Following the GLO/BRO Camp in late April, another PCV facilitator, Amy, invited me to her site to run a similar workshop with part of her health club. Apparently the girl who suggested we do skits on gender inequality was one of the participants at the GLO/BRO Camp – I like to think she was inspired by my session.

I immediately agreed as what could be more fun than to work with motivated teenage girls who want gender equality? Amy is a teacher and works at an all-girls senior high school. I immediately noticed her awesome rapport with the students and knew it was going to be a hoot working with them that day.

Working with about 27 young ladies, we first went over the definition of gender inequality and what that means in Ghana. We brainstormed Ghanaian gender roles and then presented what exactly we would be doing. The skits they were to come up with were to challenge these traditional gender roles in a simple way. The audience will be their younger peers and the skits are intended to make these young people think about how they behave towards one another and that these socially defined roles can change.

With the entire health group: evening session to practice acting

The ladies were broken up into three groups and each one selected a gender role to challenge. Amy and I put the creative powers in their hands and we only facilitated to make sure they were on track. Within twenty minutes, one group was ready to rehearse for me. Their skit consisted of a female tro driver, which is non-existent in Ghana. A male passenger comes up to her asking where he can buy a ticket only to learn she is the driver. He simply does not believe it and so ensues a conversation where he claims it to be impossible. He buys a ticket to ‘see for himself’ and she sends him to sit in the back. A female passenger then purchases a ticket and she is allowed to sit wherever she pleases – including the front (which is also a rare allowance in northern Ghana). I gave feedback for better performance and helped develop the dialogue and premise by having another male passenger exclaim “She’s a great driver!” They rehearsed again and the improvements were huge.

The two remaining groups also rehearsed for me and we went through the same process of feedback and dialogue development. Their topics were domestic abuse and husband and wife dynamics with a focus on malaria. Both did so well and we were able to “solve” the problems in culturally appropriate ways. The ladies were so flexible and attentive I cannot wait to see them perform to an audience!

Volunteers giving acting a go!

I really want these skits to be performed to adults as well. To at least plant the seed of change in their minds. And at the most, get them talking about it right then and there. I have had countless conversations with Ghanaians who have no way to explain why something is the way it is (re gender) except by saying “that is how it is in Ghana.” And I tell them it does not have to be. That they can dare to be different. Just like these teenage girls. What role models they are and I hope their futures will be whatever they want it to be because they choose it to be so.

This session took place in the evening during the girls’ study time. Hence the bad lighting! Which we did lose for a brief moment.

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