From the rhythmic photography of PETRIe contributor, Campbell Addy - Straight Up Kasoa - to PETRIe contributor Samantha Cheddie's revealing anecdotes in Welcome to Ghana, PETRIe has been immersed in Ghana's colourful culture over the past month. Speaking with PETRIe Features Associate, Elizabeth Neep, Ghanaian-British power couple Emily and Godwin Aduah shed yet more light on the brimming culture, but also discuss some of the poverty and problems that this beautiful country presents.
I rush hurriedly towards the doorstep, knock politely and step back, inconspicuously smoothing my work-crumpled blouse. It is exactly 6pm; against the odds, and a little out of breath, I am on time for my interview with British-Ghanaian power couple, Godwin and Emily Aduah. I needn't have rushed, as it soon turns out that spontaneity and hospitality are the Ghanaian way.
Embraced into their home, the Aduahs share their lives with me at ease. Theirs is, in part, a love story. He is from Walewale, a small town in the Northern Region of Ghana. She is from Nottingham, born with a heart for adventure. "For some reason I had always wanted to go to Ghana," Emily explains. "I had made it one of my goals for life."
Heading to Ghana to complete a charity project at the age of 16, Emily instantly fell in love with the place: "I connected to the people, to the culture, it felt like home." It wasn't until much later, however, that she fell for the boy: "Years later I ended up going again with some friends. We went to a church, where I apparently met Godwin," Emily explains, referencing some photos that were taken at the time. "But neither of us really remembers. It was dark so... you couldn't really see," she explains, turning to laugh with her husband.
Deeply connected, Emily visited Ghana multiple times over the coming years, with the couple's closely-linked charity projects continuing to ensure their paths crossed time-and-time again, before finally moving there in 2010. And yet, with their friendship now developed, Emily and Godwin's paths soon parted ways as Godwin travelled 270 miles north to Tamale to begin his university education. Absence making the heart grow fonder, a long distance friendship developed into so much more. "The journey to visit each other took 17 hours on the bus. It wouldn't have [taken so long] in this country - but the roads were terrible," Emily adds.
Back in Accra - the capital city in which the couple would later be reunited - the same dirt tracks exist, in contrast elsewhere with wide and developed roads: "Ghana is a-middle income country," Emily explains, "so you obviously have huge diversity. There are some areas that look like Hollywood."
And yet, these were not the areas demanding Godwin and Emily's attention. "The focus of my work was with sex workers in deprived areas of the capital," Emily explains. "Some lived in brothels; others were homeless, sleeping at the railway station. We were going to meet them, to make friends, increase their confidence and self-worth. But we were also trying to find creative solutions for them, enabling them to learn a new skill, to sell and make money, encouraging them to get out of what they were doing."
"We tried to teach them how to sew beads on to flip flops," Emily continues, disappearing momentary to redeem a box of multi-coloured examples. "In Accra, half the population sells to the other half, and so it is an easy concept for the women to get their heads around." In devastating reality, however, their bodies fetch a higher price than beads. "Most of the women eat by what they do," Emily continues, "so often they are like: 'you want me to starve?'"
Sadly for many, prostitution is all they know and, in certain pockets of the city, the impact is harrowingly prevalent: "I remember hearing about this one place where almost daily, you'd have a women getting rid of a foetus that she had killed herself," Emily explains. "They can't afford to go to the right doctors to have an abortion, so they stick things up themselves or take a pill, have a shower and take the remains of their unborn baby to this particular place."
"Some of the stories you hear are hard," Emily admits, "and just seeing how they live… I remember one woman, sitting watching TV, her baby in a cardboard box, nothing else there. What I've found most frustrating though is that there is no easy solution. We have tried a few things, and there are other charities doing different things, and yet people don't seem to work together in a way that will help."
Far from empowering these women to work, many Non-Government Organisations in the area have a reputation for simply giving things away. "The NGOs would come to the same houses we were at and give out T-shirts and bars of soap," Emily explains. "We would buy snacks and want them to sit there and work - many wouldn't because they believed you need to give them something to get them out of their situation. The NGOs are trying to do the right thing but, in this case, simple aid doesn't work - it undermines any confidence they might have, it undermines their power of choosing for themselves, to get themselves out of their situation."
"That's the most challenging thing," Emily continues. "How do you make a situation where you can encourage them to believe in themselves? To give them skills to find a job, to provide for their families so they can pull themselves out? There are no easy answers." And yet, this is the solution the Aduahs seek to find. The couple, who returned to the UK last year to get married and reconnect with Emily's culture, plan to return to Accra within the next few years to create a business enterprise that will help anyone - not just sex-trafficked women - who need to get out of what they are doing and make a new life for themselves.
"In Accra, as soon as you call it a charity, you skew the aims. People think you are providing things for free [and] that's not what we want to do," Emily explains. "It's a big thing, and we don't have all the answers, but we long to create the kind of place where people can get training, learn skills, get ideas, access resources like loans, a saving scheme, and ultimately give them opportunities to work, creating places or helping them start businesses of their own."
Words: Elizabeth Neep