The project manager on my project is now assisting with a village savings and loan project, and told me some interesting things about working in Bawku, a region in Ghana where violence has broken out between two tribes, the Mamprusis and the Kussassis.
According to my colleague (a Ghanaian), in the first century, the Kussassis, who were traditionally farmers but not fighters, asked the Mamprusis, who were known as warriors, to come to move to their land. In exchange for protecting the area, so the Kussassis could farm in peace, the Mamprusis were given the chieftaincy in the region. The agreement has held for centuries, and in Ghana’s system of parallel democratic and traditional governments, the Mamprusis still hold the chieftaincy, although they are far outnumbered by the Kussassis. The democratically elected official for the region is Kussassi.
Several years ago, the Kussassis became unhappy with this arrangement, demanding the return of a Kussassi chief. Violence broke out between the tribes. Despite interventions by the central government, including curfews and prosecution of those perpetrating violence, the situation has remained tense. The Mamprusis control Bawku’s city center while the Kussassis control the surrounding land and villages, and members of the two tribes cannot safely visit the other’s territory, although visitors from other tribes or countries are safe.
This situation has posed difficulties for the IPA survey team in the region, as they are trying to collect data in both tribes’ territories. It is crucial that surveyors be hired locally, so they have knowledge of the area, culture, and languages. Since young men on motorcycles have been responsible for much of the violence, the Ghanaian government has recently banned all men in the region from traveling on motorcycles --the chief form of transportation for IPA surveyors.
Enter the ladies. IPA surveyors are overwhelmingly male, as it can be difficult to find women with top educational qualifications and a willingness to take on the physically demanding work. In Bawku, the project manager was successful in finding half a dozen qualified women with motorcycles to fill out the ranks of IPA surveyors in the region. Women are not subject to the ban, and can legally ride motorcycles to visit respondents. The team includes women of both ethnic groups, to enable IPA to work in both territories and with respondents of both tribes. The field manager, who will oversee the survey team in that region, is a women of mixed descent, half Mamprusi and half Kussassi, and can safely work in either tribe’s territory.
I wish the team the best, and hope that they will demonstrate both the ability of women to be exceptional surveyors and the possibility that people of these two tribes can work together toward common goals.
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I have worked in economic policy and research in Washington, D.C. and Ghana. My husband and I recently moved to Guyana, where I am working for the Ministry of Finance. I like riding motorcycle, outdoor sports, foreign currencies, capybaras, and having opinions.