Collective Familial Decision-Making In Times Of Trouble: Intergenerational Solidarity in Ghana

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In post-colonial populations the retention of the nuclear family concept of collectivism as the basis for decision-making is associated with familial and cultural survival. Collectivism within familial contexts provides intergenerational access to experience, information, resources, and sound decision making during times of conflict or dealing with the consequences of poverty. In contemporary Ghana inter-ethnic wars and conflict have marginalized minority groups, causing substantial internal displacement of people. Poverty and cultural issues have caused a persistently high level of child malnutrition and mortality in all areas of Ghana, including urban centers where appropriate food is in abundance. In each of these circumstances the senior women, particularly the grandmothers, have been found to be essential for child survival, protecting the family from dissolution, and ensuring intergenerational cultural transmission. This paper discusses the place of collective decision-making processes of older African women in two studies in Ghana that assessed the: (1) indigenous methods used for understanding and arresting violent ethnic conflict by internally displaced women who survived the 1994/95 Guinea Fowl War; and (2) parenting and grandparenting strategies from families who insured the survival of children suffering from kwashiorkor, a severe form of childhood malnutrition. In this paper, findings from qualitative interview data will include narratives and illustrative cases.

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