Ghana needs critical shift in infrastructural design – Prof Appiah-Adu

By Samira Larbie

Accra, Feb 2, GNA- Professor Kwaku Appiah-Adu, Senior Policy Advisor to the Vice President, has called for critical change in how infrastructure is designed, delivered, and managed to ensure that it works for everyone.

He underlined the need to consider the systematic disadvantages and exclusions that women and girls face because of gender relations, societal norms, attitudes, and behaviours when developing infrastructure projects.

“Failing to consider these factors can result in the creation of a “gender-blind” infrastructure, exacerbating and perpetuating inequality.

“Furthermore, such oversight hampers the ability of women and girls to contribute equally to society and hinders their access to safety, opportunities, and equal rights,” he stated.

Prof Appiah-Adu made the call at a day’s dissemination event on research conducted by the International Center for Evaluation and Development (ICED), an Africa-based think-tank body in Accra.

The event saw the presentation of findings and evidence on the “Impact of Infrastructure on Nutritious Diets, Women’s Economic Empowerment and Gender Equality.”

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation supported the two-year study (2022/2023).

According to Prof Appiah-Adu, infrastructure promoted inclusive growth and maximized beneficial outcomes such as better well-being, sustainable development, and women’s and girls’ empowerment.

He noted that when infrastructure was well planned, delivered, and managed in a gender-inclusive and responsive manner, it could help remove gender-based barriers that impede women and girls from accessing services and reinforce inequalities at the household and market levels.

Prof Appiah-Adu explained that the disparity in distributing infrastructure investment benefits equally between men and women arises from the assignment of their roles, expectations, and levels of decision-making.

Consequently, women and girls may experience reduced opportunities to fully enjoy the advantages brought about by infrastructure development compared to men and boys, he added.

Dr David Sarfo Ameyaw, the President and Chief Executive Officer of ICED, said the aim of the research was to increase understanding of the role that infrastructure played in improving access to and affordability of diets and empowering rural women, bearing in mind the challenge of seasonality and its effects on diets among low-income consumers in developing countries.

Even more importantly, he stated that the project aimed to increase understanding of the pathways connecting infrastructural development to diets, markets, and women’s economic empowerment in the existing literature.

With the usage of a variety of methods, the project compiled, collected, and synthesised evidence on the impact of different types of physical infrastructure (production, post-production, markets, information) on nutritious diets, women’s economic empowerment, and gender equality, while also noting the existing evidence gaps.

It was expected that the research products and evidence tools would assist policy- and decision-makers, researchers, and donors, to assess the effectiveness of their policies, identify successful strategies, and address policy gaps, thereby promoting sustainable development.

Emerita Professor Takyiwaa Manuh, Gender and Women Empowerment Consultant and Project Team Member, also advocated for more research linking infrastructure to diet, nutrition, women’s economic health, and gender equality to advance Ghana’s development.

She argued that this was important because the existing literature indicates that infrastructure designs in the country do not place a high value on those links.

“So, the practical implication is that we need more studies to be commissioned, funded, and the results disseminated in such a way that policy makers can use it in decision making,” she added.

Prof. Manu said the research marked a significant milestone in the collective pursuit of knowledge for transformative practice and progress.

The meeting brought stakeholders from all sectors, including market women, to share their insights and perspectives on the findings.

As a result, it summarised the effects of infrastructure on nutritious diets, women’s empowerment, and gender equality among low-income consumers in rural areas of low and middle-income countries in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa.