Good for Parents but Bad for Wives: Migration as a Contested Model of Success in Contemporary Ghana
Darkwah, Akosua K.
Boateng, Doris A.
Teye, Joseph K.
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This paper contributes to the literature that critiques the New Economics of Labour Migrations’ perspectives on the motivations for migration. It uses both a gender and generation lens to explore the multiple meanings that parents and wives make of the migration of Ghanaian young men to Libya and beyond. The paper draws on a range of qualitative methods – interviews, focus group discussions, river of life approaches and ethnography – conducted in three phases (April 2018, July/August 2018 and January 2019) of research to make its arguments. It argues that parents share a view of migration which is more in line with the New Economics of Labour Migration perspective. This view is exemplified in the traditional Akan conception of an Opanyin, a successful adult (Miescher, 2005), which focuses on economic success (taking good care of one’s family, providing one’s family with a home). Wives, however, hold an alternative view, one that the New Economics of Labour Migration perspective fails to capture. For wives, their conception of a successful male adult is informed by the changing socio-cultural context and focuses on affective ties (physical proximity, day to day care and sexual ties). Thus, while parents are generally supportive of young male migration, wives generally disapprove of migration.
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