Just like every other culture I’ve observed, women are the center of the family unit. When my wife leaves town, I become as helpless as a child… I can’t find anything and would starve if it weren’t for restaurants.
The work ethic of the women here has blown me away. Just like at my house, they start the day by getting up early and preparing breakfast and getting everyone ready. The difference is they have to light charcoal, get water from the well and then they can begin. There is no gas or electric in these villages. After food is prepared and everyone is out of the house, they then head to the fields to tend and harvest the vegetables. Then they gather wood, usually carried on their head, and begin the walk back home. I don’t think it’s uncommon for them to walk over 5km (3 miles) each way every day.
They also play a critical role in cocoa, particularly during the harvest. The farmer cuts hundreds, sometimes thousands of cocoa pods during the season. Guess who picks them up? Ding ding ding. The wife. Many farmers, particularly, Muslims have several wives. I heard of one who had seven. Why? To pick up cocoa pods, of course!
But they do so much more. I was incredibly impressed with a young woman who was the finance manager at one of the cooperatives. She spoke English and had an amazing grasp of the business. She knew all the figures from her head and could clearly articulate all of the successes and challenges of her business. She was responsible for payment to all the farmers and setting up loans for them. She was a women leading powerfully! Yet another woman was Deputy President of her cooperative and also a cocoa farmer herself!