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Navigating Identities in Ghana

Peace Corps’ Intercultural Competence, Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility (ICDEIA) approach seeks to reflect and support the diversity of the United States through its staff and Volunteers, who represent a broad collection of social identities, including race, ethnicity, color, national origin, disability, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, religion, marital status, and socioeconomic status, among others.

How might a Volunteer’s social identities impact their service?

The information below provides additional context about how different social identity groups may experience service and what types of ICDEIA-related support you can expect from the Peace Corps.

Accessibility and disability considerations

Volunteers may find accessibility and accommodation very different from what is found in the United States. Only a few schools and institutions have accessible infrastructure and additional facilities for people with physical disabilities. Furthermore, the law provides persons with disabilities access to public buildings “as far as is practical.” However, most buildings, transportation, and educational facilities do not meet the needs of persons who require physical accommodations.

In Ghana, the Persons with Disabilities Act (2006) explicitly prohibits discrimination against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, and mental disabilities in employment, health care, transportation, and other domains. The government does not systematically or overtly discriminate against persons with disabilities, but such persons may experience societal discrimination. Many people in Ghana may attribute stigma with disability and may perceive that disability is caused by spiritual and supernatural forces. However, Peace Corps staff will work with Volunteers with disabilities to support them in training, housing, jobsites, or other areas to enable them to serve safely and effectively.

Gender role considerations

In Ghana, traditionally, men are expected to provide, lead, and protect their families while women are expected to do household chores and care for children. Men tend to exercise control and domination over their partners and children.

Women and girls are less likely to participate in decision-making. Women’s inclusion into decision-making processes in Ghana is still low. Although women are guaranteed political participation rights under the 1992 Ghana Constitution, there are few women in government.

The Peace Corps provides gender training as part of pre-service orientation and throughout Volunteers' service. This training helps Volunteers understand the cultural context of gender roles and dynamics in their host communities and equip them with skills to navigate them in a culturally appropriate way.

LGBTQI+ considerations

Ghana does not recognize same-sex marriage, and same-sex relations are criminalized. Individuals who engage in same-sex sexual relations may face severe punishment, up to ten years in prison.

In 2024, Ghana's parliament passed legislation that criminally prosecutes LGBTQI+ persons and people who advocate for lesbian, gay or other sexual or gender identities. Ghana’s criminal code outlaws “unnatural carnal knowledge,” which is frequently interpreted by local authorities as consensual, same-sex sexual relations. Gay sex was already punishable by up to three years in prison. The bill now also imposes a prison sentence of up to ten years for the "willful promotion, sponsorship, or support of LGBTQI+ activities."

Peace Corps Ghana is committed to providing effective and appropriate support to Volunteers of all sexual orientations and gender identities and encourage Volunteers to support one another. Though Peace Corps Ghana encourages diversity and will do whatever is possible to ensure Volunteers’ safe and successful service, due to changes in legislation and preexisting cultural attitudes towards LGBTQI+ persons, Trainees/Volunteers are asked to heavily consider the mental toll they may experience serving in Ghana.

Racial and ethnic diversity considerations

In Ghana, foreigners are called “obroni” meaning “White person.”

Historical events (European exploration, slavery, colonialism, neocolonialism) have an impact on how Ghanaians perceive foreigners and Volunteers. On one hand, Ghanaians may refer to all Volunteers in a group as “White people.” On the other hand, they may refer only White individuals as Americans and not perceive other ethnicities/identities (especially Black and African-Americans) as Americans.

White Americans: Ghanaians place White Americans on a pedestal and, therefore, they may be afforded privileges. One such privilege may be that you are assumed to be American, while many of your fellow Volunteers of color may experience the contrary. Navigating this and being an ally to Volunteers and local people who may not be treated in the same way will be important as a Volunteer.

Black and/or African Americans: Black and African American Volunteers have the paradox of being considered White/foreign, yet not being afforded the same privileges as White Americans or locals. Black and African American Volunteers also may think they should be welcomed in Ghana since they can “blend in,” but may find it uncomfortable or “odd” to be considered white on the African continent or not to be perceived as American at all.

Asian Americans and Latino/Hispanic Americans: Ghanaians perceive anyone with light skin tone as ‘White’. Therefore, they consider lighter skin Asian Americans and Latino/Hispanic Americans as White and extend them similar privileges. Ghanaians may refer to all Volunteers of Asian descent as “Chinese.”

Age considerations

Showing respect to elders is an important value in Ghana. The older the person, the more respect the Volunteer is expected to give. It is also expected to greet in the correct order of right to left, regardless of age or gender. As a sign of respect, men over the age of 30 may be addressed as “pah-pah”/uncle; women over the age of 30 may be called “mah-mee”/auntie; and people over the age of 50 may be referred to as “nah-nah.” As a result of the respect for the elderly in Ghanaian society, Volunteers who are older are generally not expected to do things on their own or perform tasks by themselves. Ghanaian society places the responsibilities of elderly care on the younger generation. A younger person is expected or required to help elders shop, cook, clean, and perform menial tasks. Older Volunteers are not considered helpless, but rather that they have paid their dues to society, so now the younger generation is expected to take that responsibility.

Religious considerations

Ghana is a country that celebrates diverse religions and is tolerant and respectful of all its tribes and customs. The three predominant religions are Christianity, Islam and Traditional. More than one-half of the population is Christian, about one-fifth is Muslim, and a small segment adheres to traditional, indigenous religions.

Volunteers are expected to respect the country’s diversity and not make derogatory remarks about any religious beliefs, practices, or behaviors.

Considerations for Volunteer couples

Opposite-sex couples: Communities work with Peace Corps staff to provide suitable housing for couples. Opposite sex couples are readily accepted by community members, and they may be better able to integrate, as community members support them in language learning, cooking the local cuisine, and celebrating during community durbars. However, couples must be mindful of appropriate behavior in public. By engaging with community members and participating in local activities together, couples can foster meaningful connections and promote cultural exchange.

Same-sex couples: Same-sex couples may face prejudice due to societal attitudes, and safety concerns prevent them from serving in the same community.

Types of ICDEIA support available in country

Peace Corps Ghana has HQ-mandated and country-specific sessions to contextualize general ICDEIA themes. Specific topics—depending on the ethnicity and identity mix of Volunteers—may be addressed in sessions and activities. Peace Corps Ghana also has an ICDEIA focal person to coordinate ICDEIA-related programs that support both Volunteers and staff.

Post is working towards having vibrant ICDEIA staff committees and strong Volunteer affinity groups.