A few years ago, I travelled to the town of Mafi-Dove in the Central Tongu District of the Volta Region of Ghana with The Maternal Health Channel Television Series. It was an interesting revelation that there existed a town that forbade women to give birth. Seems like something very strange to be mandated, but it’s been practiced for a long time in this village. Women are expected to leave the village and travel to another township before they are ready to deliver their babies. Since a woman could deliver prematurely, it’s normal for a woman in that town to pack her bags and leave about 1-2 months before she is due. We followed one woman on her journey in the program.
Recently the Gender Minister in Ghana, Otiko Djaba, paid a visit to the small community. The practice still continues and she is on a mission to end what she said to be an ‘archaic practice’ and that it’s cruel to the wellbeing of women.
At the time I visited this town, they were in the process of building a maternity clinic just outside the town line so women would have a place to get medial care and not be too far away from their husbands. They could give birth and still uphold the traditional practice of their town. I thought by now the clinic would have been completed, but it seems it was abandoned and there are intentions to revive the project.
What exactly is the belief?
It is said that the founder of the village heard the voice of God tell him that pregnant women should not give birth there. They also have come to believe that blood stains the land, which is part of the reason they also cannot keep livestock in that village.
The Gender Minister hopes to have continuing conversation with village leaders and discuss how they can make some changes in order to protect the lives of women and children from a cultural practice that can be harmful. She says the conversation is not meant to force them to change, but rather help them understand why it’s so dangerous and hopefully the understanding will gradually make change happen.