The Construction of Gender in Gender-Sensitive Work of International NGOs in Ghana

  • Abstract:

    My paper focuses on gender in the context of international NGO interventions in Sub-Saharan Africa specifically Ghana. In my current PhD research, I aim to address a number of questions of which some shall be discussed in this paper such as what impact did the “gender sensitive work” of certain NGOs have in the construction of presumed changed ideas of women’s roles and responsibilities? What understanding of ‘women’ do specific (international or European) NGOs conducting development interventions in Ghana display? My underlying assumption is that this understanding of women is often rooted in a European-enlightened context and disregards/neglects or at least treats as subsidiary more traditional views of women (within local communities they are working with). What, then, is the impact – both positive and negative – when international NGOs advocate for behaviour change within local communities that is implicitly centred in European-enlightened gender norms, which are times disconnected, at times overlapping with indigenous gender norms? In my paper, I will investigate and discuss whether and how elements from ‘traditional’ and ‘modern’ societal domains were linked, reformulated and reworked in a post-colonial setting to create certain perceptions and understandings of gender. My research focuses on the tensions between subjective / discursive / performative construction of identity and objective / empirical / universal components of social justice around gender. It aims at identifying ways of normatively evaluating gender images while critically unpacking values that are promoted in specific contexts – often, apparently objective / universal values really serve particular interest (as the study of modernity / post-colonialism tells us). My research aims at informing meaningful development work; such work has to go back to actually listen and try to understand the people in local communities NGOs are working with.