March 8th is a day when economic, political and social achievements of women are celebrated around the world. As International Women’s Day fast approaches, join us in celebrating the important role women play in Sang, Ghana.
When thinking about the power of women, there seems no better place to start than in the village of Sang. For decades this village has elected a “Woman Leader” from among their community members to act as a village leader. Musah Sana, pictured on the right in the above photo, has filled this position for the past 10 years.
Musah Sana is a confident and highly-respected member of her community. Born in Sang, she raised seven children – three boys and four girls – here. She did not attend school and earns a living by farming rice, just like the majority of village women in Sang. But she is no ordinary community member, because for more than 10 years she has placed the welfare of the Sang community above her own needs.
Musah Sana explains her role as Woman Leader: “I am responsible for ensuring that everyone in this community receives the help they need. This could mean that I organize volunteers to help pull weeds from another family’s field or ensure that farming equipment is loaned out to those that need the extra help. I am the female lead for the Parent Teacher Association and act as a mediator between parents and teachers when issues arise at the school. I’m often brought in to help solve problems between community members, and I also organize regular meetings where community members can express their concerns or opinions in an open forum,” she said.
The Woman Leader is directly appointed by the village elders. “I did not apply for this position, but when the elders approached me they told me they thought I was the perfect candidate. I was told that they wanted someone who would take the duties seriously, and someone who was strong and reliable. I am all of these things, and so I accepted the nomination and was then elected by the community,” Musah Sana said.
Health and sanitation services – things we tend to take for granted in Canada – are scarce in many African villages. Musah Sana’s duties include ensuring that weekly clean-ups happen around the village. She gathers the women and they pick up garbage and clean the latrines. They started the process of using bins to collect rubbish around the village, which has seen tremendous results in improving sanitation and has resulted in improved health for community members.
When asked how much longer she will stay in this role, Musah Sana responded with a smile, “I hope to retire next year. The work that I do, supervising other community members and running regular meetings, takes up a lot of time, and takes me away from my own chores and farming.” Musah Sana is an inspiration and representative of the simple, yet important work that women are accomplishing in their own communities around the world.
Most of us are lucky enough to enjoy good access to water and sanitation. Has there been a situation where you’ve been deprived of water, garbage pick-up or electricity? How was your life affected?