Gender, Nation and the African PostColony: Women’s Rights and Empowerment Discourses in Ghana

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Bawa, Sylvia
Globalization , Nation , Rights , Women , African , Postcolonial , Social Movements , Colonialism
This dissertation examines the ways in which socio-cultural, economic and religious ideologies shape discourses on women’s rights, higher education and empowerment in Ghana. The study starts from the premise that female identity in Ghana is constructed through discourses of reproduction that produce and reproduce unequal gender relations that negatively impact women’s higher socio-economic and educational attainments. Consequently, discourses of women’s rights and empowerment are inextricably linked to normative reproductive labour expectations. Using a postcolonial feminist theoretical framework, I argue that women’s rights and empowerment issues must be located within particular historical, local and global socio-cultural and political discourses in postcolonial societies. Subsequently, this study situates women’s rights concerns within the larger framework of global systemic inequalities that reinforce the local socio-cultural, political and economic disadvantages of women in Ghana. I interviewed women’s rights activists, conducted focus group discussions with male and mostly female participants during an intensive six-month field study. In line with postcolonial feminist epistemologies, I consider participants as knowledgeable subjects in the production of knowledge about their lived realities, by centering their voices and experiences in my analyses. The experiences of research participants (heterogeneous as they are) provide excellent insights into transnational feminisms, gendered postcolonial landscapes, and global cultural patriarchal hegemonies. These experiences also illustrate how global discourses of rights provide leverage to simultaneously challenge and politicize colonial discourses of race and gender in the global south.
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