Q&A with Rose Tchwenko, Country Director of CARE Ghana

Q&A with Rose Tchwenko, Country Director of CARE Ghana


This September, CARE Action caught up with Rose Tchwenko, the former Country Director of CARE Malawi, for the first time since last year’s CARE on Tour to chat about her new role as the Country Director of CARE Malawi, persisting gender inequalities that drive her work at CARE, and the real-world impacts of the Women’s Entrepreneurship and Economic Empowerment (WEEE) Act.  

Watch Rose’s video message to hear how CARE advocates continue to inspire her work on-the-ground and read the Q&A below for more! 

What’s happened since you left CARE on Tour? How has your move from CARE Malawi to CARE Ghana been both personally and professionally?

I was in Oregon [on CARE on Tour] when I got the news that I was moving to Ghana. Suddenly I had to wrap up a lot of things in Malawi, I had to get the kids ready, move them to Ghana, find schools, and connect with the new CARE office. The chaos of packing and trying to sell my car and everting else was a lot but it went well.  

Ghana is very, very different from Malawi. Malawi is the poorest country in a non-conflict setting — even some conflict countries have better [development] indicators than Malawi. Ghana is lower-to-middle income and introduced the Ghana Beyond Aid agenda (the country’s commitment to set its own development path beyond foreign assistance), which resonates a lot with the United States Agency for International Development’s (USAID) journey to self-reliance. There’s a vibrant democracy and it’s bustling. 

But, when you go up to northern Ghana, the indicators are very different and they are closer to Malawi than to the rest of Ghana, so we’re seeing reports that even in this economic growth [for Ghana], there was a growing gap of inequality in the North and the South. The Western region is one of the latecomers to the oil and gas production, reports show that between 2013 and 2017, and key indicators on health and education and other development indicators in those regions are worse off than they were four years before. 

What are the factors in Ghana contributing to such inequalities?

In the North, there’s been conflict centered around chieftaincy and land. It’s been one of the reasons why gains in education and development did not reach the North. There’s also some tribal ethnic issues around which Ghanaians are loathed to talk about. It’s more cultural and preceded, but development has made it seem worse because most of the activity is in the South.  

CARE was part of the [Northern Ghana Development Conference] to talk about what is needed to accelerate development in the North so that the gap, which is about 12,000%, is reduced to 400% in the next 10-20 years. The private sector is another opportunity — Ghana is the second-largest producer of cocoa in the world, so CARE has had a long engagement with the chocolate producers in cocoa-producing communities, along with Mars and Cargill (both corporate partners of CARE), to help improve livelihoods, community development, supply chains, VSLA’s and child labor. We’re looking to expand that and make it a much more comprehensive package of interventions because in an economy like Ghana, our traditional models of intervention don’t work anymore. 

When you were in the U.S. for CARE on Tour in 2018, we were talking about the Women’s Entrepreneurship and Economic Empowerment (WEEE) Act. Even though it is U.S. legislation, do you see it impacting the work on the ground?

It is. We got an email from the U.S. Embassy telling us that there were three staffers from the House Foreign Aid Committee who wanted to meet with us to talk about women’s economic empowerment. We’re already seeing that recognition on-the-ground and they’re thinking about how to translate that into action. There’s real traction on the ground around WEEE and Ghana is well-place to drive it.  

We’ve asked for an assessment of our VSLA activities in ongoing projects so that we can see how we layer on other interventions and available resources to begin to demonstrate what [WEEE] means. 

There are still problems — the microfinance sector has imploded recently in Ghana because of corruption. Some of our [VSLA groups] had engaged [with the microfinance sector] and had savings, and some groups have lost their savings in the process. We have to get creative and find other ways of engaging with the formal sector where people can feel some degree of security. 

What’s one story you can tell from Ghana?

One of the things we’re so proud of are our women in the Northern Ghana Governance Activity (NGGA), which is about governance in the agriculture sector and inclusivity of women farmers. CARE is the lead on that grant, and we have agriculture platforms built from VSLAs and these women are just amazing leaders. One of them, Stella, was selected by the U.S. Embassy as the 2019 Woman of Courage which was awarded by the U.S. Ambassador to Ghana. Stella was a participant in the VSLA, but she was recognized for her leadership fighting for women’s land rights in her community and it’s directly related to the work [CARE] is doing. There’s a lot of women that as a result of CARE’s work with them through VSLAs and other projects are really doing great things. 

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