New livelihood practices and shifts in gender norms: a case study on the impact of urban sprawl on women’s empowerment in Bamahu, northern Ghana

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This thesis delves into the phenomenon of urban sprawl and its impact on the position of women within these formerly rural communities. Using Bamahu, a once rural village in northern Ghana, as a case study, the research measures whether peri-urban landscapes enhance agency for women in the study area. Central in this research is the shift from agricultural- towards non-agricultural livelihood practices and how this transforms households and communities. Using Giddens’ notion of structurality, this research shows how new livelihood practices impact patrilineal structures and male dominance in northern Ghana. By measuring economic- and social empowerment, the main arguments made in this thesis are that the rural-urban transition has empowered women in Bamahu regarding their self-perception, their enhanced involvement in household decision-making and has given them more financial autonomy. However, on the downside, the transition has left women in a more financially unstable position than before the transition. Next to this, another challenge lies with the engagement in community decision-making in which traditional male-dominated structures still prevail. The research indicates that despite the village undergoing spatial transformations, these structures consistently retain their traditional character and in certain aspects, they may appear even more conservative with traditional leaders resisting cultural change.
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