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Ghana Study Reflection

lgleysteen's picture

Over the past few weeks I have been studying NGOs in Ghana.  I was not very surprised by the information that I learned by specifically looking at Ghana but I was surprised by the role of NGOs on an international level.  The first question I wanted to learn when I was assigned this topic is what exactly is the role of an NGO?  Why does its name only describe a thing that it is not? Couldn’t there have been a more descriptive title than “non-governmental”.  I was interested to see how people in our class would respond to being asked to describe NGOs in one word.  I was not surprised that it was difficult for people to do because NGOs cover such a wide variety of interests.  Depending on the area of need, NGOs will help with poverty, healthcare, childcare, nutrition, microfinance, and education. 


            The main focus of NGOs in Ghana is to address poverty alleviation. Poverty is the highest in rural areas  (51.6%) compared to urban areas (22.8%).  Poverty is a greater issue among the self-employed who do not have a stable income and are more prone to economic risk.  Often people in Ghana fall into extreme poverty when they are too sick or undernourished to work in manual labor jobs.  Since poverty is such a huge issue within Ghana it takes more than just the government to address all of its underlying issues.  There are between 900 and 1500 NGOs in Ghana, which include World Vision International, Action Aid (Ghana), and Poverty Watch Ghana.  The majority of the poverty alleviation NGOs attempt to lift people out of extreme poverty into a place where they can have adequate nutrition, health, and potentially send the next generation to school.


            Ghana’s economic situation is improving.  Ghana was able to reach all of their millennium development goals, which Peony mentioned in our presentation.  The reason that Ghana is able to overcome some of these challenges is that the country is politically stable.  In many other developing countries, development is a much slower process when there is corruption and warfare. NGOs are successful when the government of the country they are in is collaborating with them. 


            Living in the United States as well as just being at Bryn Mawr, the impact of NGOs are not completely apparent.  We do not interact with the work of NGOs on a daily, weekly, or even monthly basis.  The most interaction many Americans have with NGOs is when they are asked on the street or in a store whether or not they want to donate to organizations such as World Vision or Children International.  I am interested in seeing how NGOs shape the daily life of those who live in a developing country.  I am wondering how much the work of NGOs will be visible in the village we are visiting.  Are there NGOs that change lives as much as they claim to?


alesnick's picture

government v "non-governmental"

I wonder about the claim that the government has too much to handle, thus the need for NGO's -- where does this idea come from?  It suggests that the government is somehow static . . . if people conceived it differently, could it address poverty alleviation in a more thoroughgoing way?  

Also, I wonder if we could push/test the idea of our being isolated in BMC from NGO's.  If we think of NGO's more broadly as non-profits, does that change?