Redefining Stereotypes: Motordames, Ghana

Redefining Stereotypes: Motordames, Ghana

This article appears in Volume 31: The Freedom Issue.

(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

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

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

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

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

@jessicasarkodie |

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