Women & Girls

An Unexpected Role Reversal

By Heifer International

March 14, 2014

An Unexpected Role Reversal

Prior to the roll out of the Project for the Enhancement of Livelihoods in Northern Brong Ahafo (PENLILOBA), gender inequalities were so entrenched in this area of Ghana that mere discussion of gender issues in public by women was considered taboo. However, three years into the project, it is not only possible to discuss gender inequities publicly but men now undertake tasks that were once considered to be the responsibility of women.

Yaw Sarpong, a resident of the Koforidua community who is affectionately referred to as Agya Yaw, is a 70 year-old widower who lives with his daughter. Following the numerous public discussions on the need for equitable distribution of household chores amongst male and female household members in neighboring Heifer project communities, Agya Yaw noticed a marked attitude and behavioral change.

During a routine monitoring visit by the project’s field staff, Agya Yaw was spotted carrying a baby on his back, a practice that defied the ‘norms’ in that community. When he was questioned on what had prompted his action, he said “I had taken notice of changes in the attitudes and behaviors of some members of the Bonsu community (a project community). Men were assisting their wives in chores, which were believed to be women’s chores."

Agya Yaw, who is not involved in a Heifer project, asked why these men were doing women's work. He was told there was an NGO working with some groups in the community that sensitized the people on the need for equitable distribution of household roles.

Agya Yaw carrying his granddaughter on his back

"Today, I feel very happy that my granddaughter has become so fond of me that she readily stays with me which allows her mother to engage in her domestic chores without disruptions. My satisfaction is even greater when I see other men in my community now helping their wives in different ways. I am so excited to be associated with the behavioral changes that are taking place in my community because of that step that I took.”

So, by doing ‘little things’ with resource-poor project communities, Heifer’s work is inspiring changes and breaking age-old gender barriers.