Esther Apreh, a 31-year-old wife and a mother of three, is the provider of most of the family’s needs due to the unstable nature of her husband’s job.
Out of the meagre income she makes from selling oranges at the Madina lorry station, Esther is often the one who pays the school fees of their three children and provides food for the entire family.
“I sell oranges at the Madina Lorry Station. My husband is a carpenter, but his job is not stable because he does not always get contracts. So it is my trade that often supports the family’s day-to-day upkeep, and it is really difficult.
“In a day, I earn between GH₵15 and GH₵20. Out of this, I try to always save GH₵5 for any emergency. On days that my husband also brings something home something, that becomes an added advantage – but it is not constant. On daily basis, the family manages to spend about GH₵35,” she said.
The family of five has lived in a weak wooden kiosk for over seven years without access to basic facilities such as a toilet and suitable washroom, but Esther maintains that it is the only option her family has.
Renting even a single room, she said, will rob the family of its other basic needs including food.
“We don’t pay rent; the landlord permitted us to keep our kiosk on his land, and that is where my family and I sleep.
“For seven (7) years, we have been living in this kiosk. Even though it is not fulfilling and not secure, we have no choice because we simply cannot afford to pay rent,” she said with a catch in her voice.
Esther is one of the thousands of low-income women living in scant shelters within densely populated communities of major towns and cities across the country.
Studies have shown that women and children suffer most in the absence of a stable and decent home for a family.
Given their income level and family responsibilities, renting or buying decent accommodation for their families may never be a reality.
Such factors range from cost of educating children of school-going age, clothing, feeding, medical care and other general household expenses.
In most low-income families, women contribute as much as men – and in some cases even more – to cater for the family housing and domestic needs.
Mrs. Apreh believes that without women a lot of families would have suffered, “Because in my case and those of others that I know of, we the women do more than the men these days and are not able to save anything for the future”.
Genevieve Adu-Obeng, who is in her early 40s and a hairdresser with two children, also told the B&FT that her family’s upkeep is heavily dependent on her – but adds that her husband supports with some money occasionally.
She said: “These days, we the women provide for the family more than the men do. As a hairdresser I make about GH₵100 a day, and we spend about GH₵40 each day…which I provide. With the school fees, my husband pays part and I do too.
“Meanwhile, we women work less hours because we are also responsible for domestic chores in the home, which I do each day, and take care the children go to school before I can go to work. Then later in the day I have to close from work earlier than I should, just so I can cook dinner for the family,” she added.
Commenting on the issue of rent, she said of the single room that her family of four lives in: “We used to pay a monthly rent of GH₵50, but now it has been increased to GH₵80. My husband and I contribute to pay for that as well”.
For Yussif Hamid, a taxi driver at the Madina taxi station, women these days are actually the pillars of families, and men have to regard them as such.
“As for me, my wife does a lot for my family, and I don’t know how I could have catered for all my three kids without her support; and the story is same with most families as well,” he admitted.
Ghana’s housing deficit
Many reasons have been ascribed to the large housing deficit in the country — which threatens to explode over the next decade given the current population growth rate.
The current housing deficit in the country is estimated at 1.7 million units — a figure that has been thrown into doubt by experts who contend that it’s probably more — with an annual growth of 70,000 housing units.
With a housing deficit of 1.7 million, the country needs to provide about 170,000 homes annually for the next 10 years in order to bridge the existing gap.
Many people are homeless or live in inadequate shelters they call home in large urban centres and many commercial districts of the country.
The Ghana Real Estate Developers Association (GREDA) estimates that about 50% of Ghanaians are said to live in sub-standard housing and various unsuitable structures.
Various sources estimate that Ghana’s population could reach 32.2million people in 2020, with about 57 percent living in urban communities.