Women and change in Ghana : the impact of environmental change and economic crisis on rural women's time use
In the last decade, Ghana, in common with several other African countries has adopted a Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP) in response to economic crisis. Widespread concern has been expressed about the deterioration of living standards and the severe erosion of both the human and natural resource base of the economy following the implementation of these adjustment policies. Periods of drought and irregular rainfall patterns have exacerbated these problems in the savannah region of Ghana. At the household and community level, macro economic policies have often had a diffeintial impact on women and men. This thesis delineates the link between the effect of the adjustment policies, deteriorating environmental conditions and the feminisation of poverty in Ghana through a comparative analysis of women's time use in 1984 and 1991. A case study from a small savannah village in northern Ghana illustrates how the micro-level impact of adjustment has combined with environmental degradation to make women more vulnerable to impoverishment The study finds a visible process of impoverishment, with a deterioration in living conditions of most households and an intensffication of women's workloads. It looks at the household strategies adopted by women as prices rise and as farm yields decline from a deteriorating resource base. Women are increasingly working harder but with diminishing returns as they struggle to ensure the basic survival of their households. Gender inequalities in access to production resources and inequalities in gender relations are examined. It is argued that these have been exacerbated by the crisis brought about by environmental degradation and adjustment policies, so that women have borne a greater share of the burden. The thesis urges the need for policies which recognise not only women's productive roles, as the current adjustment programme does, but also their reproductive and community managing roles, and for action which would empower women to take more control over their own lives.