Monday, September 16, 2013

‘Edwumagyan!’ Is it the name or the attitude? The story of a Ghanaian community

BY EDMUND SMITH-ASANTE

Members of the 'Edwumagyan'community in a meeting
In 1945, a man procured a piece of land to start some work. He thus employed the services of carpenters, masons, steel benders and all manner of craftsmen whose trade would come in handy for construction work.

But after a while when work had commenced, the employer returned one day and packed off all the materials he had purchased for the work without paying the artisans he had contracted to do the work, or explaining to them why he had decided to terminate work which had begun in earnest.

When the workers realised they had worked in vain, they exclaimed “oh this has been a wasted effort” hence the adoption of the akan name “Edwumagyan” by the workers who settled on that portion of land in the Shai Osudoku (formerly Dangme West) District of the Greater Accra Region, Ghana.

What is in a name?
However, that name seems to have had a negative effect on development in the community of about 320 people and nothing seems to work there. That is – if names have influence as many believe.

“Nothing goes on well here – we have to change the name,” Charity Addo, treasurer of the community’s Watsan (water and sanitation) committee said, expressing a sentiment shared by a large number of the community members.

She made the statement, when a four-man team from Pronet-Accra and WaterAid Ghana, non-governmental organisations in water, sanitation and hygiene, as well as the Ghana Watsan Journalists Network (GWJN), paid a monitoring visit to the community.

The community is being assisted by a partner of WaterAid Ghana, Professional Network Association (Pronet), to gain access to potable water, improved sanitation and hygiene education.

On arrival at the community on March 19, 2013 though, the team realised to its chagrin that many of the processes had stalled because members had not been so keen to follow them through.

Apparently they had lost sight of the age-old adage that “He who climbs well deserves a good push.”
So it was after so much back and forth that it was gathered only two community members had began work on their private latrines, whereas it was expected that many of them should have finished construction – It was noticed they were content using the only community public latrine built years ago.

Watsan treasurer, Charity Addo and few others said they were yet to start construction of their private latrines because they could not get help earlier to dig their holes.

Change of name
What came up very strongly however, was the clamour by some Watsan and community members for a change of name, claiming that was responsible for the laissez-faire attitude prevailing in the community.

“We even feel ashamed anytime we mention the name of our community when we have to alight from a public vehicle. They always ask us why we chose to have such a name for our community and whether we have done any work in vain,” the animated watsan and opinion leaders said in unison.

“Because of that sometimes when I have to alight I do not mention the name of the community but say ‘I will get off here’ to avoid any embarrassment,” Diana Amehoda, a natural leader in the community stated.

John Doe Atiapa, the community head, who initially was of the opinion that a change of name would be very costly, proposed that in the event that it is changed, the new name of the community must be Atiapakrom – after the name of the first settler in the early 90s, Tetteh Atiapa.

More headaches
That is however not the only headache of the community. Water is also very scarce. “We do not have water here. We have dug a well but it dries up during the dry season. We are really suffering here,” Rebecca Ladja Tiakpa, seen as the mother of the community, groaned.

The committee disclosed individuals have to travel to another community – Odumse, some 6 km away, to buy water and pay high transport charges to carry just a gallon - GH¢1 for a round trip by public transport and GH¢8 when a vehicle is hired.

Triggered for action
After the Watsan committee and opinion leaders had been admonished on the importance of being up to speed on matters that affect the community so things will improve, Charity Addo, the Watsan committee treasurer who deputised for absent chair Simon Addo, stated: “Now we are very serious. If someone says he will help you, you also have to put in some effort.”

The community mother, Rebecca Tiakpa, however summed it all when she said: “We are ashamed. Now we do not have any questions. We will have questions for you when we have been able to do something.”

Indeed, the facial expressions of the committee and community members showed they were embarrassed by their inaction and lack of a show of commitment to processes that will be for their own benefit as exposed by the visiting team.

Although the team left disappointed that little had been done by the community to better their lot, it was yet satisfied they had been triggered to make things better, as evidenced by the serious discussions that had commenced as the team departed with no bye byes.

This story was first published in the Daily Graphic Monday, September 16, 2013 issue
 

GJA 2010 Award Winners

GJA 2010 Award Winners
Dzifa, Emelia and Gertrude

GJA 2011 Award Winners

GJA 2011 Award Winners
GWJN's 2011 GJA Award-Winning Team

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New WASH-JN Executives
They are from left - Edmund, Ghana, Aminata: Guinea, Alain: Benin, Paule: Senegal and Ousman: Niger

Celebrating Award

Celebrating Award
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Hard Work Pays!
In a pose with my plaque