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February 2022

Preliminary Gender and Inclusion Analysis for Ghana

Executive Summary

Ghana is considered to be a stable and democratic lower middle-income country with a free press, active civil society, independent judiciary, and largely apolitical military, providing a strong, favorable environment for citizens’ economic growth. Ghana is a constitutional democracy, with a mixed legal system, and has ratified and/or acceded to most international laws related to gender equality and passed several laws at the national level designed to protect women from gender-based violence (GBV) and other forms of gender-based discrimination. Despite the presence of these laws, formal courts can also apply customary law in resolving disputes, often resulting in women and girls not enjoying equal rights with men in practice and facing continued widespread GBV and discrimination.

Domestic violence is often viewed as a private family matter in Ghana and as a result, it is difficult for victims to report abuse and seek help. The police, courts, social services, and the health sector are not sufficiently funded, equipped, trained, or connected to effectively protect women facing violence. Some referral pathways exist, particularly in urban areas, but are quite limited in Northern Ghana. The recent emergence of COVID-19 has resulted in economic disruption, especially affecting men and the self-employed, threatening a surge in GBV. Some studies have found that job loss can lead families spending more time together, increasing opportunities for violence. Additional stress due to job or income losses can also lower the bar for conflict or violence within families.

Traditional social norms positioning males as breadwinners, property holders, and economic decision-makers, and women as caretakers; social acceptance of GBV; and limited resources to respond to GBV effectively limit women’s rights and ability to participate in and benefit from economic activities. Consequently, women’s economic activities are predominantly in vulnerable employment, concentrated in low-wage jobs, and unpaid labor. Moreover, women entrepreneurs lack technical knowhow (they rely on business processes that have been passed down from one generation to the next) and business management training.

Women, especially rural women, face distance, transportation, and cost barriers to accessing formal bank accounts and credit, limiting their investment in enterprises. While there are no laws in Ghana prohibiting women from opening bank accounts or taking out loans in their own name, slightly more than a third of women report having a formal bank account and only 10% report borrowing money from a financial institution.

Digital financial services (DFS) have been found to help customers, particularly low-income and female customers, reduce the time and costs they incur to make financial transactions and improve the security of those transactions. Access to DFS agents has also been found to reduce poverty and smooth consumption in various contexts. To increase the use of DFS in Ghana, there are two important use cases of DFS for women: savings and entrepreneurship. Ghanaian women are savers and often pay others (susus) to save their money for them. DFS enable women to protect and save their money, even if temporarily, without leaving their home or village or without requiring them to carry cash around, which protects them from theft or other pressures they may face to share their money with others. Moreover, most merchants and customers of markets are women. Female merchants who can support DFS payments for their goods contribute to the broader ecosystem for DFS and this also protects the merchants themselves from theft. Female merchants who can support customers to make DFS transactions, such as saving or withdrawing savings, earn commissions which increase merchant revenues and income.

In 2017, the World Bank’s Global Index indicated that 39% of Ghanaian adults owned a mobile money account, with women experiencing a 17% gap in mobile money account ownership. Low literacy and awareness of mobile money benefits and concerns about safety, trust, and affordability limit women’s use of mobile money. The digital ecosystem for DFS in the Northern Regions of Ghana is further challenged by its higher poverty rate, limited connectivity and broadband access, lower uptake of DFS among women, and women’s limited access to female DFS agents as compared to the wealthier urban areas around Accra, who could help women overcome low confidence and distrust of conducting DFS transactions.

In conclusion, women in Northern Ghana face not only limited access to financial services and business training to start and grow businesses, but also limited access to GBV referral pathways and support information. Female DFS agents can potentially play a role in bringing these often-disconnected needs together in an integrated approach for the benefit of women entrepreneurs and others in their communities. The “Women Entrepreneurs in Northern Ghana Gain Access to Integrated services via Agent Networks” or WE GAIN initiative is designed to do specifically that. WE GAIN theorizes that engaging trusted local female community agents to deliver doorstep digital financial and non-financial services (DFS+) will increase women entrepreneurs’ access to and uptake of DFS and DFS+ for their households and businesses by decreasing financial transaction costs, increasing women’s confidence and trust of DFS+ services, and expanding women’s access to other complementary services.


At the proposal stage of the WE GAIN initiative, which was developed late 2019, a preliminary Gender and Inclusion Analysis (G&IA) was prepared through joint efforts of Dechert LLP, whose attorneys prepared the first draft of the analysis, Grameen Foundation, and ABA ROLI. The analysis was based on desk research and analysis of pertinent laws, policies, and secondary sources. Limited input from the implementing partners, RISE-Ghana, GDCA, HKN, and MTN was included, where relevant. As per WAGE methodology, the analysis from G&IA informed the initial project design and both the G&IA findings and the project design are further validated with local partners and complemented by program-specific needs assessment during the inception stage of the program. Moreover, this G&IA report can serve as a resource for future and similar programming in Ghana, broadly, and more specifically to the Northern R Regions of Ghana where data were available for analysis. Data on policies, laws, and statistics are assumed to be current as of late 2019, unless otherwise corrected where easily known or updated as this report was published for external audiences.

Read the Report

    The statements and analysis contained in the report “Preliminary Gender and Inclusion Analysis for Ghana” are the work of the Women and Girls Empowered (WAGE) consortium, led by the American Bar Association Rule of Law Initiative (ABA ROLI) in close partnership with the Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE), Grameen Foundation, and Search for Common Ground (Search). The Board of Governors of the American Bar Association (ABA) has neither reviewed nor sanctioned its content. Accordingly, the views expressed in the report should not be construed as representing the policy of the ABA. Furthermore, nothing contained in this report is to be considered rendering legal advice for specific cases, and readers are responsible for obtaining such advice from their own legal counsel.

    This Preliminary Gender and Inclusion Analysis for Ghana was prepared through joint efforts of Dechert LLP, whose attorneys prepared the first draft of the report and then was complemented by Grameen Foundation and ABA ROLI. Bindi Jhaveri, Emily Romero, and Bobbi Gray of Grameen Foundation and Paula Rudnika and Brianne Stuart of ABA ROLI contributed to the development of the report. Bobbi Gray of Grameen Foundation and Tanyel Taysi, Abby Attia, and Muthoni Kamuyu-Ojuolo of ABA ROLI oversaw the thorough review and editing of the final report.

    WAGE is thankful to Alfred Yeboah and Francis Arthur of Grameen Foundation, Awal Ahmed Kariama and Jaw-haratu Amadu of RISE Ghana, Osman Abdel-Rahman, Abdallah Mohammed, Suweidu Abdulai, and Saani Imoro of GDCA, Daniel Mensah and Patience Owusu of HealthKeepers Network for their support in our original research.

    Last but not least, WAGE wishes to express its gratitude to the U.S. Department of State Secretary’s Office of Global Women’s Issues for funding this assessment as well as the WAGE WE GAIN Initiative.

    This publication was funded by the United States Department of State through a grant provided to the WAGE consortium. All opinions, findings, and conclusions stated herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the view of the United States Government, WAGE, or any members of the WAGE consortium.

    About WAGE

    Women and Girls Empowered (WAGE) is a global consortium to advance the status of women and girls, led by the American Bar Association Rule of Law Initiative (ABA ROLI) in close partnership with the Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE), Grameen Foundation, and Search for Common Ground (Search). WAGE works to strengthen the capacity of civil society organizations (CSOs) and private sector organizations (PSOs) in target countries to improve the prevention of and response to gender-based violence; advance the women, peace and security agenda; and support women’s economic empowerment. In this context, WAGE provides direct assistance to women and girls, including information, resources, and services they need to succeed as active and equal participants in the global economy and public life. WAGE also engages in collaborative research and learning to build a body of evidence on relevant promising practices in these thematic areas. To account for the deeply interconnected nature of women’s and girls’ experiences, WAGE’s initiatives employ approaches that are highly collaborative, integrated, and inclusive. WAGE is funded by the U.S. Department of State Secretary’s Office of Global Women’s Issues.