Abigail Tuitt - Law & Human Rights in Ghana
Arriving in Ghana
My friend Riannah and I arrived to the airport at around 5am local time and were greeted by a chatty Projects Abroad staff member, Nyame, who was smiling from ear to ear. He told us all that was to be expected in Ghana and even dubbed us with our Ghanain names Aquiah and Acosua. After a traffic-filled and humid drive home we reached Nungua Estates in Teshie to Mrs. Danquah’s house where we met our lovely host family who made us feel at home right away. Soon after a Projects Abroad employee Kirsty came to our home and took us out to Osu to get us acquainted with the city.
The ‘Culture Shock’ was not as bad as I expected – except for the tro-tros! I had read the descriptions before but thought it was an exaggeration; however I was in for a surprise when I found myself almost brawling with grown men to get a place on one! It is not always like this and you do get used to it, but be prepared for a light sprint to make sure you get on.
The atmosphere in Ghana is so warming and welcoming – especially the boys – we often heard them calling us ‘Dollar Girls’ thinking we were American tourists. What I was surprised at was the amount of people selling goods in the middle of the road and balancing them on their heads. We saw one woman balancing a huge tray of loose peanuts on her head seemingly effortlessly.
My Law & Human Rights Placement
There are various projects running simultaneously which the volunteers are all expected to research, prepare for and then deliver a lesson or conduct an activity/event based on their research. This is all done as a group under the guidance of a project supervisor. I worked on Human Rights Clubs (where we went to various schools and taught about human rights issues such as domestic violence and free and fair elections), Osu Boys Remand Home (where we taught a small group of boys at a Remand Centre about Human Rights issues such as how they should be treated whilst on remand and during their trial), CPU training (where we taught members of the Community Police Service about human rights issues such as how they should treat suspects of a crime) and the legal aid project (I was working on a case concerning a boy who was shot by the police and our aim was to receive compensation for him and improved medical care).
Whilst doing my research I learnt of some of the injustices in Ghana and flaws in the criminal justice system, and was given the choice of writing a research report on any legal or social justice issue of my choice. One of the supervisors took us to the Supreme Court library to do some research and we also sat in on some cases while we were there.
We also visited a slum nicknamed “Sodom and Gomorrah” and were able to witness first-hand the lives of some of the poorest people in Ghana. I saw what I expected of a slum but the reality of the situation only dawned upon me when I remembered that I would be returning to a clean, safe home, but these families would remain in such unsanitary conditions. Pavements and clean water were a myth, the slum housing some 80,000 people was built entirely on dirt roads. No bins are provided by the Government and they cannot be afforded so the citizens literally live in their rotting rubbish.
Projects Abroad was campaigning for the improvement of living conditions, the teaching of human rights issues within this community and to prevent the citizens from being evicted. The most rewarding part of my trip to Ghana was without a doubt the children I met and was able to teach. Every child was a joy to teach and the respect they showed was unbelievable. Whilst teaching a group of young teenagers about domestic violence, the difference in culture became clear. Many girls believed it was acceptable to be beaten by their husband for reasons as small as not cooking dinner.
I was only in Ghana for four weeks which was definitely not enough. As soon as you get accustomed to the lifestyle and routine you are torn away from it which is quite upsetting and it is also a shame that you may not see the closing of one of the projects you are working on or you don’t get to take part in a project that you spent a while planning. In the short time we spent, we managed to go to Labadi Pleasure Beach, very near to where we worked. Wednesday night is Reggae night but Sunday is normally a busy and fun-packed day in general. We rode on quad bikes, a pony, held a snake and even saw a drumming and dance performance from a drag-queen!
There’s a swarm of tradesmen selling anything and everything, we were offered a puppy, cigarettes, necklaces, wooden sculptures and a lot more. Another destination I would recommend is Cape Coast. We stayed at Oasis Beach Resort and it really is a lovely area. The community seems so close-knitted; children roam freely playing in the streets along with the odd goat, pig or chicken! Whilst there we visited Kakum National Park and did a canopy walk in the rainforest which was a daunting yet breath-taking experience, literally exploring the forest through the tree tops.
We were also able to visit Cape Coast Castle, where slaves were held in captivity during the peak of the slave trade. Going to a place with such a shocking history was a saddening experience but put into perspective some of the injustices we are still fighting today and made me even more enthusiastic about the work I was doing with Projects Abroad. On a lighter note, there are plenty of bars, clubs and restaurants to visit, especially around Oxford Street in Osu.