Gender equality starts at home

March 18, 2021
5 2 Gender Culture Header
Photo by Alice Lee/iDE/2019
iDE Global WASH

Through our work culture, we hope to show how gender discrimination has no place in Ghanaian, or any, society.

One of the most substantial barriers to achieving gender equality is a lack of role models for girls and young women that enable them to see themselves working alongside men or in traditional male roles. To achieve Sama Sama's goal of equal access to opportunities, we are fostering a culture that allows and encourages everyone to take part. We do this by focusing on increasing opportunity for women in our organization, focusing on the staff we hire and how they can be gender ambassadors to the communities we serve. We also create space for Sama Sama's female staff to come together and support each other through gender-specific challenges they may face at work.

An organizational role model

Sama Sama strives to be an organization that leads the way in gender equality, serving as a model for other groups in Ghana. To achieve this goal, Sama Sama has engaged in staff gender training led by local gender consultants. The staff gender training involves staff from all levels, with the intention to build gender champions within the organization, ensuring a gender lens is applied throughout their regular team meetings and is used in all team decision-making. With a focus on group work and discussion, sessions include concepts such as gender blind, gender sensitive, and gender transformative, which inspired animated discussion.

As part of the gender training sessions, participating staff develop action plans to be implemented across the organization. One of the suggestions that came out of these action plans was to increase the representation of women across Sama Sama's range of roles, and to have an organizational gender representative, a role currently filled by our Measurement, Impact and Learning Manager. To increase women's representation across the organization, another suggestion raised was to create advertisements that better target women candidates and to prioritize women candidates throughout the recruitment processes. This led to revamped advertisements, and also sparked our engagement with National Service Workers, enabling us to bring a small team of high potential young women on board with Sama Sama, offering them job experience and a potential channel to future roles within Sama Sama.

Sama Sama's senior management are also being intentional about leading by example and using opportunities for learning. On one occasion, a group of staff members were having informal discussions about getting lunch, and one of the team members referred to one of the women in the group to coordinate this. The response from others was swift: “What is the basis for asking her to do this? If it is only because she is a woman, that is not a sufficient reason.” This interaction was then used as a learning opportunity for the team.

These informal changes are promising indications of the results of the training. In terms of formal actions, we are currently following up with the training participants on the implementation of their action plans. A key focus of the next gender training session will be developing gender sustainability roadmaps, and our gender consultants are working on sample roadmaps right now. We will also include an expanded range of senior management in the rescheduled gender training session, as some of the actions suggested in the action plans were beyond the scope of influence of the participants who recommended them, and we want to ensure that senior management who are able to put these kinds of recommendations into action are present.

Women's Empowerment Network

Sama Sama has also created the Women's Empowerment Network (WEN), which serves as a space for female employees to support one another. The network invites both external speakers and Sama Sama staff to reflect on their experiences as professional women in often male-dominated industries and are known to host meaningful - and often lively - conversations.

For instance, in April 2019, Municipal Chief for Savelugu, Ayishetu Seidu, shared with the group how she got started in her career, and how she was able to reach the position she currently holds. According to Ayishetu, politics in Ghana is not an easy field for women to enter or succeed in, and she shared how her husband was a strong ally, encouraging her to go for it when the time was right. She said it has not been easy working in a male-dominated environment, but that she has been able to lean on the support of her husband and others who have believed in and supported her. Ayishetu's view was that empowerment starts in the home, and that we should all encourage children to pursue whatever paths they choose, irrespective of their genders.

While COVID has delayed any in-person gatherings of the WEN, informational conversations have continued over virtual platforms and will resume in-person when it's possible to safely do so.

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Program undertaken with the financial support of the Government of Canada provided through Global Affairs Canada.