Discussing topical issues for women in cross-cultural and inter-continental relationships

Asanempoka on Sisterhood

comtemplating Sisterhood on a remote Ghanaian beach.

July 2013

Tell us a little about yourself. 

I am a female in her 30’s who is married to a Ghanaian.  I am Australian and we have one four year old daughter between us and a son from my husband.  Hopefully he will be with us soon.  I am a primary distance education teacher and we also run a community market stall selling handmade clothing and jewellery from Ghana (soon to be seen at www.unitycraftcoop.com) and we run African drumming and dance classes and performances within our region.

I have lived in Ghana, volunteer teacher trainer, pregnant woman and wife, and Kenya, tomato farmer, before and have also travelled to Burkina Faso, Togo, Benin and Uganda in Africa.  In Asia I have been to Bali, Laos (loved Luang Prabang), Thailand (Bangkok only on two overnight stopovers – not my kind of place), Cambodia (Angkor Wat), South Korea, The Philippines and recently Malaysia (Kuala Lumpur).  I have been to Dubai. I am not a travel adventurer.  I prefer to live somewhere and engage myself long term in communities and experiences, otherwise it is just geography.   I have no desire to see America or Europe, sorry.  Africa is for me.

What are your feelings about being female?

To be honest growing up, in my early teenage years, it was absolutely awful.  I was an early developer and bore the brunt of other girls’ malicious jibes, taunts and, in a way, jealousies.  This started in Year 5 – aged 10, way too young for any child.  So my initial feelings about my femininity were shame and embarrassment.   It also meant I was introduced to my sexuality from that young age and I was not ready for it, nor should I have been.

As a woman in her twenties I became a serial monogamist going from one relationship to the next without a break until I married the wrong boy.  We separated quickly after marriage and I then spent four years by myself – a hard time of loneliness, insecurity and social awkwardness  but also a time about me and my needs, not someone else’s.

Then came my 30’s and I found myself in Ghana, pregnant and marrying my motorbike mechanic in a far northern town amongst people who were strangely familiar and in an environment that allowed me to sit back and view the world.

Once my daughter arrived and I openly breastfed her everywhere and anywhere she needed.  That is what women do in Ghana. I wasn’t challenging any social taboo.  I wasn’t doing anything different.

I was awakened.

Here was a new purpose for my femininity and my breasts: A functional one, with purpose, not just to please a man.

So as a grown woman my feelings of being female have completely changed.  I am now happy to be a woman and I can see why my body is the way it is.  I accept myself far more than I ever did and I have very little insecurity.  So in reference to being female, I am happy and content.

What does Sisterhood mean to you?

Sisterhood means connecting with other women as equals, sharing ideas and stories in an open environment free from jealousies and comparisons.  Sisterhood means acceptance among women and generosity, a sharing of spirit and experience.

Do you feel you connect well with other women?

To be completely honest, not often.  The awkwardness I went through in my twenties has left me with residual nervousness around certain people and friends and I very rarely come across women who I truly connect with.  I am not a very social person.  I prefer just a few close friends around me but I am transient, and I live in a transient place, so it is not always easy to maintain the contact with those people.  Friends from my past drift too easily out of my life and I realise my part in that but I also think technology is to blame too.  People rely too heavily on the voyeurism of social media but to me that’s not connecting, it actually distances people.  I’d much rather a phone call or Skype.  Making time to do that with my sisters overseas, those girls who are also married to Ghanaians and we knew each other in Ghana, is always challenging with time zones and the end result is we never do it.  At least with those sisters I know that when we do see each other there will be so much we can talk about.  It’s harder these days for me to connect with women who do not understand Africa AND Australia.  Even then there are some women I don’t particularly get on with.  I am not a woman who can ‘fake’ it.  I’d rather not bother.

I often have to segment myself a little to adapt to my company – work colleagues, African sisters, old Aussie friends, Aussie married to Ghanaians.  Each requires a different part of me to fit in and interact in that environment.  Perhaps it’s the same for everyone?

Please tell us about an experience you’ve had with another woman, family, friend or stranger, which demonstrates connectedness and Sisterhood.

Two weeks after my daughter was born I flew back to Tamale and caught a trotro (public minivan transport) back to Bolga.  We left at 5am and on the trotro at 9am I realised I hadn’t changed her nappy.  Just as I realised she did a poo.  I had to change her on a crowded minivan with 20 cm space in front of me and none either side.  The women on either side of me helped hold my baby and her dirty nappy without even asking or talking.  My daughter wee’d all over one of them and she ignored my apologies and said, ‘It is normal.’  I knew then what Sisterhood meant.  We help each other because we understand and don’t need to explain.

Please tell us about an experience you’ve had with another woman, family, friend or stranger, which demonstrates (dis)connectedness and Sisterhood.

My daughter and I flew to Australia from Ghana by ourselves when she was almost two.  The flight from Dubai is 14 ½ hours and she slept for none of it.  She ran up and down the Airbus A380 almost the entire time and by the time we were flying over Western Australia I was exhausted and sat up the front of the plane, whilst she ran down the back, in tears.  No-one helped me and I was distraught that this was the social environment I was coming back to.  One woman came up to me and patted my shoulder saying, ‘its hard isn’t it.’ and then walked away.  I don’t understand her attempt at connectedness there.  To me it was a slap in the face, though I know she meant well.  But my insides were screaming for someone to step in just for a few minutes.  After 3 ½ years in Ghana I was so disconnected from Australian culture all my hopes at going ‘home’ were dashed on the plane flight.

Thanks so much for your time and for sharing your experiences.

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