THE GRASSROOTS SISTERHOOD FOUNDATION
GSF is a women’s rights advocacy organisation working to ensure improved gender equity and grassroots participation through good governance in rural communities in Northern Ghana.
GSF was founded in 2000 as a support group for women and girls suffering from domestic violence and unable to access justice either from the traditional or the formal courts. Today, GSF consists of a network of over 3000 women from 75 community groups in the urban and rural districts of Tamale, Zebilla, Saboba Bawku West and Saboba. GSF engages with traditional chiefs and local government authorities to review customary practices that discriminate against women’s rights including access to land rights, the practice of early and forced marriages, and the practice of witch craft accusations. At the heart of GSF’s work is the process of changing cultural norms and negative community attitudes in order to ensure women live in an environment where they are able to access justice, land and livelihoods without facing discrimination in their communities.
African Initiatives is currently developing two projects with GSF. One is focussing on reducing and ending early and forced marriages, with a second project focusing on ending the discrimination of women accused of being a witch.
In Northern Ghana women’s cultural exclusion has over time become ‘law’. This is to the extent that a woman is often seen as an appendage of any family, whether her husbands’ or her fathers’. This exposes women to all kinds of discrimination and abuse. Among the most marginalised in society are those who are accused of witchcraft. They are subjected to severe torture whilst any property they have been able to acquire is torched, vandalised or “inherited” by their accusers. Often their ‘guilt’ depends on nothing more than how a chicken lies when slaughtered. In the Northern Region alone seven “witch camps” exist, spread over six districts. They house about 1400 women and 890 children of school going age that have been accused and banished.
Early, forced, exchange and abduction marriages are practices of the Konkomba and Chekosi ethnic groups of people of the Northern Region. Girls and women have no rights over their own bodies and the manner of the “bride price” makes the girl part of the man’s property and he chooses to do with her as he pleases. Many of these marriages end in misery, death and in bondage. It contributes to high maternal mortality among teenagers, health issues such as malnutrition, stunted growth and labour complications such as fistula. Early pregnancy also results in school drop-outs, illiteracy and increased poverty.
Find out more
Witches’ will suffer victimisation – The Chronicle
Meeting the Grassroots Sisterhood in Tamale – African Initiatives