Interview with Prof. Dzodzi Tsikata on 3 September 2015 at the University of Ghana, Legon. – Part 3
To come to an end, what drives you intellectually and personally? What is your motivation to do this kind of work, engaging in this project?
Tsikata: (chuckles) That’s an interesting question. (laughs more) I would say that the same things that drove me into a research career continue to drive me.
I studied law and I think my parents thought that I would be a lawyer and that I would practice. And I did finish and I was called to the bar, but in that period I also became very interested in research and writing about the experiences of social groups such as women. It was simple, my experiences as a woman made me to feel that women were not full citizens in the way they should be. I could see it all around me growing up. Some of the girls I grew up with dropped out of school. I could also see it in the ways in which everything was run by men, whether it was politics or industry. And I could see possibilities in the determination of my parents that we should not be disadvantaged because we were girls. My father in particualr tried to make sure that he brought us up in an equitable manner. We did not see distinctions because somebody was male or female. So that always fed my consciousness and interest in gender equity issues.
It also happens that my parents met in a small market town on the Volta River, Akuse. That’s where they got married, that’s where three of their four children were born. In the period I was born the Akosombo Dam was being constructed and that whole area was flooded because it was part of the new lake that was forming. That childhood experience always interested me in riverine and rural livelihoods.
When I work at ISSER, my research was more narrowly focused on gender equity and rights; I was interested in women in politics, for example. This soon extended to rural livelihood issues and the experiences of dam affected communities of the Volta River Project. These interests also developed into work on informal labour relations. Anyone in interested in labour issues in a country such as Ghana soon finds out that the informality in labor relations are quite disadvantageous to women. So over the years, I have pursued these three interrelated lines of research- women’s rights and citizenship, rural livelihoods and agrarian change; and informal labour relations and conditions of work. So this is what I have done for the last two decades, and it is still fascinating to me because there is so much to learn. In the last ten years an issue I have been researching is the conditions of domestic workers in Ghana. One of the factors which sustains my interest in these issues is that my research interests coincide with my political concern for promoting women’s full citizenship and also rights at work. I consider myself lucky in that way because not everybody has the luxury to care in that way about the work that they do.
Dear Prof. Tsikata, thank you very much for sharing your view on land issues in Ghana, your working experience with the Feminist Economics, your expectations for the DEMETER project and last but not least for allowing us to be inspired by what is motivating you to engage in this kind of research. We wish you all the best.