Redefining Stereotypes: Motordames, Ghana
01 September, 2020
MotorfoÉ (pron: motofwoh). In Twi, this means motorbike riders. The word however conjures images of grown men riding motorbikes. This view, of course, is commonplace for a Ghanaian: Drive around Accra, or other parts of Ghana, and you are significantly more likely to see men riding motorcycles. If you do see a woman on a bike, she will most likely be sitting behind the man operating the two-wheeled vehicle. For the duration of the journey, he is in control.
Another image that is common to see in Ghana concerning women and bikes is the female hawker, carefully trying to weave her way in a traffic jam, doing all she can to dodge a painful and wounding clash with any motorfoɔ - analogical to a classic power struggle.
When envisioning this image, it is important to note that motorcyclists in Ghana generally do not comply with road rules. They cross red lights, they drive on the wrong side of the road and they are more reluctant to stop at zebra crossings than cars are. There are little to no legal penalties to the motorcyclists' chaotic manner of navigating Ghana's streets. Thus, as is expected, the bedlam is recurrent, further corroborating the power struggle.
Before my trip, I asked numerous people that are more familiar with the terrain about their experiences in Tamale. I received an extensive list of things to checkout, foods to try, places to stay. One of my friends added in passing, "Oh, motorbikes! They're everywhere!"
I now knew to expect countless motorfoɔ in Tamale (a predominantly Muslim and stereotypically conservative part of Ghana). What I did not expect was the myriad of women operating them in kabas* and hijabs, with young children strapped to their backs. Therein laid the beauty of everyday transportation in Tamale - redefining stereotypes in it's own little way.
*kaba - traditional Ghanaian garb