The Western region has a total population of 1,924,577. Out of the total figure, 978,176 are females while 946,401 are males. About 36.5 percent of the population also live in the urban areas whereas 63.7 percent reside in rural areas.
Though women constitute a larger chunk of the population in the region, they are yet to enjoy the benefits that oil discovery in the region.Majority of women in the Western Region who were actively engaged in farming activities including the cultivation of staple crops such as cassava, plantain, maize, yam and vegetables say oil and gas exploration activities in the region has negatively affected their activities. In Light House, Princes Akatakyi and Akwaala, some of communities close to oil fields in Cape Three Points, the lives of the women haven’t changed much.
Fishing and farming used to be the backbone of the community but that is on the decline as farmlands have been taken for the construction of facilities for the oil and gas infrastructure. Fisherfolk in the area say they are no longer able to explore certain areas because they are now under the control of managers of oil companies. This creates a situation where food production reduces and increases the poverty levels in the community.
Six years since the country discovered the oil, most of the communities still lack basic amenities.The schools, hospitals and roads have not seen the improvement that was promised when the projects started. Many communities close and far to the oil fields still have challenges with access to potable water and electricity. The lives of residents have not improved though the country has generated millions of dollars from the sector, making about $900 million in 2014 alone.
Some women, during an interaction said they are yet to be compensated for their farm lands that were destroyed years ago for oil production. A resident said the situation has rendered her jobless. “Our farm lands were destroyed but they have refused to compensate us. Government has since not also intervened. I was only given 250 cedis and since then I have not received anything from anyone. I am unable to pay for my utility bills.Government should intervene.”
Another said, “the oil companies have destroyed our farmlands and have not compensated us. We are now jobless and we do not have work to do. We expect these oil companies to provide jobs for us, pay our utility bills and provide basic amenities but they are not doing all that. We are not really benefitting from these companies. We have complained about these problems several times but no action has been taken.”
The lack of effective policy guidelines to shield citizens from gas exploitation, which has resulted in deep-rooted poverty in oil producing areas, was also revealed during an interaction with women in the area.
Aside these challenges , women have very few opportunities in the oil and gas industry primarily due to low level of education and skills.While some women say they are unqualified for the job, others believe oil production is a very masculine job which they seem not to have the capacity to engage in.
“I do not have that strength and capacity to drill oil and engage in oil production like how the men do,” a lady in the region complained. Despite these challenges, other women in the area believe that oil discovery will offer them some indirect opportunities. Some women indicated that oil activities in the region has created job opportunities and increased productivity for their husbands.
“There has been development since oil production started in this region and it has generally improved the livelihoods of people in this area. We were happy when the oil companies began production here. They have provided jobs for our husbands and children,” a resident in the region said.
One other lady stated that “my husband is now employed due to oil production here. He is able to cater for me and the family.”Some children, whose parents have also benefited from oil production in the region said their parents are now able to pay for their schools fees.
“I can now concentrate on my studies and go to school like my colleagues. Since my father started working with these oil companies, he has been paying my fees consistently.”
It is clear, there have been benefits from the oil sector but the challenges outweigh these benefits. For Ghanaian women to truly benefit, the government should ensure owners of farmlands are compensated and other avenues created to sustain their livelihoods. Government should work with the oil companies to enhance food security in the areas as well as reduce the vulnerability of the women. To ensure the active participation of women in the sector, there should be training and other technical programs to equip women in the area with the needed skills to work within the industry and not just on the fringe.
It is important that the Local Content law is enforced for all Ghanaians including women to take advantage employment opportunities in the sector. This this end, there is also the need for public-private partnership, constant dialogue with traditional leaders, regular meeting with civil society organization and general education using the media, religious bodies and organized women groups.
This article was funded by Ghana Oil and Gas for Inclusive Growth (GOGIG)
By: Marian Efe Ansah/ghanadecides.com/Ghana