This journey of working in Ghana, can easily be described as one of the most frustrating experiences in my academic career only topped by that of a wretched physics course. It is also easily described as my most gratifying experience. After a loooooonngg and extensive series of pounding, I am happy to say that I have completed my data collection. We were able to complete over 250 interviews in about 2 months in the Dangbe West and Atwima Nwbiagya districts. The women were so incredibly eager and welcoming. Despite not getting any money or obvious benefit they were more than happy to answer the questions, and we often administered additional questionnaires because they requested it.
Many of the women were shocked we were asking questions about their emotions, given they had never been asked about such things before. In a country of exaggerated gender roles (as compared to the US) I was surprised that many men asked why they also were not included in the study, because they too “had problems”. In the 14 villages I went to, only 2 women refused to answer the questions. I left every day inspired and motivated to do more. In some villages they gave us soda or plantains to thank us for the work we were doing. I was truly humbled every time this happened because it was I who was indebted to them for the time I took away from their days.
The fieldwork component of our thesis is absolutely necessary because it reminds us of how important global health is, teaches us the reality of the communities that we study, and places our own world into context. I know that I cannot go back to the States looking at the world and development issues the same. This indispensable experience has helped me to solidify my career plan in the field. My grandmother told me after my first day in the field in Kumasi, after seeing me off at 5 am and welcoming me back at 5 pm, that the work I was doing was far from easy but I must love it or else I wouldn’t do it with a smile. She was absolutely right. I am passionate about research, global health, and mental health. Though the days were exhausting in the field and the days leading to the field left me in frustrated web of emotion…I know without a shadow of doubt that it was worth it. If the only thing the women in my study ever get is relief from talking about how they’ve been feeling then I know they will be content. However, I also know that, this is just the beginning and hopefully I will be able to do more for the communities here in Ghana. I will leave Ghana in a month and a half committed, dedicated, and evermore inspired to do more.