Surviving the Sun in Accra

My Adventures Living & Working Abroad in Ghana

Part B: All in a Days Work…

Well its Friday evening now, I just got home from work and it’s nearing sun down. As I sit on the couch and sip from my glass bottle of pop, waiting to walk to the internet café with Theresa, I’m pretty relieved that this week went by without much trouble. I made my way around the stations to ride the tro-tro home yet again for the second day in a row, and it feels like a pretty big achievement.


With a clear depiction of the informal transit system from my previous blog post, I thought maybe I should move on to discuss the rest of the week’s happenings: our new job placements, a tour through the Kwame Nkrumah Memorial Museum, a political riot and arrest, and finally, the topper of all great weeks… laundry, or lack there of.


This week was dedicated not only to getting a grasp for tro-tro routes, but also to become acquainted with our new job placements and settle into our research. Theresa is placed at ‘FIDA’ which concentrates on women and children issues, while Collin is at ‘Media Foundation’ which clearly, concentrates on matters concerning the media.


My placement however is with the Ghana Commission for Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ), located in the Old Parliament Building. The goal of the organization is to mediate between feuding parties with regards to human rights injustices to ensure both parties come to an amicable settlement. The majority of the employees are lawyers by profession, but there are a few of us, like myself, who aren’t lawyers, but must still play the part in understanding the rules of the law and what does and doesn’t fall within CHRAJ’s mandate for mediation. At the moment, I have been placed in the Complaints Unit, which is where individuals must first come to create a formal complaint, before we can determine which department of the organization can benefit them, or if we have the jurisdiction to help them at all. Monday I will find out if this is my permanent position, and there is talks of placing me into the Women & Children’s Issues Unit which may enable me to work on a join project with Theresa and Collin (I’ll keep you updated).


Although I have only worked for two days, I have learned a great deal about their legislation and how the country is organized. One thing I thought was very interesting is that being engaged in Ghana is actually considered a ‘traditional marriage’, where the parents of the groom must provide a dowry to the family of the bride. An additional option is to create an ‘official court marriage’ where papers are signed similarly to in Canada. A couple can have both marriages, and can divorce from both. To divorce from an official marriage, its similar to divorce in Canada, but to divorce a traditional marriage, the brides family must give back the dowry (which is very hard for many families to afford).


This week was also very exciting because on Wednesday afternoon, the former chief executive of the Ghana National Petroleum Corporation, Tsatsu Tsikata, was sentenced to jail for creating ‘economic loss to the state’. The State Court House is directly beside my building, so we watched as he was driven away to jail with a police entourage, and a massive crowd began rioting in disapproval à This year is an election year, and Tsikata happen to once be a member of the opposition party, who many respected greatly when he was in politics. Many are questioning if this is an effort of the current party to smother support for the opposition, but as far as I know, its all only speculation.


Well, after that excitement subsided, Vince took Collin, Theresa and I across the street from my office to visit the museum and mausoleum of Dr Kwame Nkrumah, the first president of Ghana after independence from Britain in 1957. The mausoleum is a gorgeous marble structure, and I have posted some pictures in the ‘Pages’ section. It was truly fascinating to walk through the museum and see the history of his life, the number of books and theses he wrote and see photographs of him with many other important leaders of the 20th century, including the founding fathers of the African Union (AU).


I am truly looking forward to tomorrow, as we have planned a trip to Cape Coast (west of Accra) to tour the city, the slave castles and go on a canopy-walk (similar to swinging bridges) at Kakum National Park, a rainforest reserve. It has been a long couple of weeks being isolated in our humble little abode in the suburbs of Accra, but I can’t wait to see more of the country and learn more about their history.


With that being said, I should wrap up this blog post, and try to figure out how to work our new washing machine. (Weird I know, but we splurged and bought a washing machine… its cheaper than having our dress pants and dress shirts cleaned each week, so we figured why not). If only washing machines were that cheap in Canada!



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