Insights from a deep dive into how gender affects purchasing

March 18, 2021
5 1 Gender Culture Header
Photo by Alice Lee/iDE/2019
iDE Global WASH

In Ghana, a woman's place is in the market, not the home, and that makes a huge difference for how we sell.

Increasing gender equality is central to Sama Sama's model—from recruitment to staff training to delivering high-quality customer service. In Fall 2018, we conducted a human centered design deep dive focusing on the women of Sama Sama. This in-depth study helped us identify the challenges for cultivating gender equality while driving impact in sanitation, and gave us a foundation for taking action.

For instance, two years after Sama Sama started operating, toilet sales were not as high as we expected them to be. As part of the deep dive to learn more about user needs and customer choices, Sama Sama captured an important lesson: while the male head of household might be the one to actually “purchase” the toilet, it was his female counterpart who ultimately determines that her household needs one. Once she has made that determination, she will actively begin convincing her husband or the male head of household that this purchase needs to be made. (Learn more: Watch Webinar Recording)

Sama Sama sales agents had been visiting the homes during the day. That sales strategy might make sense elsewhere, but in Northern Ghana, many women do not spend much time at home unless they have a business within their household. Instead, they are at the market. Some go every day, some go once a week. But the bottom line is that the market is a hub of women-led commerce.

Women of all different economic classes, educational backgrounds, religions, and tribes convene at the market to buy or sell anything that is needed for life in Northern Ghana: food, vegetables, cloth, baby clothes, cleaning supplies, chickens, goats, car parts, and the list goes on. Women who work at the market either have a formal stall space which they rent or set up informally outside of the market, or even in the aisles. But women don't go to the market just to buy or sell. They go to the market to socialize, and to seek and share information.

This discovery led to multiple changes. We developed market stalls for these locations to showcase the Sama Sama latrine and provide sanitation information. Sales agents changed their hours, visiting homes in the evenings when women would have returned from the market. Sama Sama even decided to change the name of our sales agents to Toilet Teachers to emphasize their role in raising sanitation awareness. With these changes, we started seeing the increase in toilet sales that we were expecting.

Since 2018, Sama Sama has worked to incorporate these findings into our everyday business operations and into the way we train and treat our staff. And of course, our sales agents and the rest of our team continue to spend time—formally and informally—in the markets.

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