Coming to Ghana has made it extremely evident how reliant I am on the technologies that one has constant access to back home. When a simple question arises about the ins and outs of Ghanaian politics, it would be so easy to grab a wireless internet connection and have the answer immediately. Here, however, things are a bit trickier. There is an internet café near Kapital Radio (where I am at the moment) that we usually head to after leaving the station. After arriving here one afternoon, I was quickly informed that the electricity had been off since the morning. This was not too surprising. Power shuts off sporadically even at the best of times due to inadequate infrastructure to deliver the amount of power demanded. During our first week in Kumasi, Mufty told us about a recent case in which a Kumasi resident successfully sued the Electricity Company of Ghana (ECG) for damages of over 22,000 Ghanaian Cedis (about CND$16,000). In this case, the company illegally disconnected the resident’s power, claiming that he had unpaid electricity bills. His bills had, in fact, been settled seven days prior. After the disconnection, his medication, which had to be kept in the refrigerator, spoiled. The Kumasi High Court ruled that the actions of ECG were unjustifiable and they did not have the right to deny the resident his access to electricity.
The concept of access to electricity as a right may be an upcoming topic on Mufty’s radio show, “Know your Rights”. This Saturday’s segment looked at the situation of abortion procedures here in Ghana. Under the current law, abortion is illegal except under conditions of rape, or where the pregnancy poses serious physical or mental threats to the woman. The guests, including a law student, a local senior nurse, and a radio journalist from another station in Kumasi, discussed whether abortion in Ghana should be legalized from a medical, ethical, and legal perspective. In the Canadian context, there tends to be consensus that the women should have complete agency in deciding whether or not to have an abortion. However, an interesting focus of this discussion looked at whether the father should have a legal right to determine in part whether an abortion should be performed.
This past week has been an interesting one. On Wednesday, Ashley, Laura and I presented a workshop on the principles of news writing, and particularly, how to write a story about human rights issues. It was really inspiring to see how interested the new Kapital interns really are about human rights issues. One intern even wants to begin a jhr university chapter at the Kwame Nkruma University of Science and Technology here in Kumasi.
The next day was a statutory holiday, Republic Day (and what a coincidence… it was also Canada Day)! We decided to take a walk down to the market. Kumasi has the second largest market in all of West Africa. After visiting the markets of Accra, it was a nice surprise that Kumasi’s market, as large as it is, seemed a bit more organized. We entered the labyrinth through one aisle (the length of a city-block) that was entirely filled with the bright colours of fabrics in every texture and design. Then we turned the corner into a street full of spices and produce. The streets between the rows of merchants are extremely narrow and we often had to find a place to duck into while a cart was pulled through.
The things being carried right past you are just as interesting as the wares being sold on either side of the narrow street–a large metal bucket on one woman’s head with the large naked body of a goat dangling out of it, multiple rats strung up by their necks into a bundle and big furry paws with three large claws from an animal that I couldn’t identify. Even on the way home, there were plenty of things to catch our eyes. An entire street glistened as sunlight reflected off the silver enamel of motorcycles lining the street from one end to the other. Posters for sale depicted the face of Jesus and Bob Marley (almost in equal numbers) along a wooden wall. It’s an adventure walking down any street in Kumasi, but to explore the marketplace is to take a straight shot of Ghanaian culture in its most condensed form possible.