Report by Stina Edin (Apr 2008)

Field work practice at a local social welfare office in Tamale

As a part of my education in Sweden to become a social worker I did my 20 week long field work practice at a local social welfare offices in Tamale, Ghana. The reason I went abroad was that my program is focusing on international and intercultural social work and students like I have to do the second practise outside Scandinavia. I got my placement through REVSODEP and they have been a great support from beginning to end of my stay especially in the beginning when I didn’t know anyone in town. During the 20 weeks with my colleges at the office many questions have been asked which in the end has given both me and my supervisor and colleges different perspectives on social issues. One of the greatest experiences to change environment like I have done is that you are able to see the human being in the society and the society in the human being which I think is a basic understanding when it comes to social work. Questions like “what’s normal” are not so clear when you change context. How can someone be “disabled” in Ghana and not in Sweden and someone not “disabled” in Ghana but in Sweden? The disadvantaged groups and the way we discriminate these groups are obviously different. Compared to Sweden you are disabled if you are homosexual in Ghana because the general opinion about homosexuality is that it doesn’t exist in Ghana and in Sweden many immigrants are disabled because of their culture informs of language, their religion and so on. I find it very interesting to try to understand why? For someone like me who is interested in social constructions I think a practice like this has given me a lot. When you change environment you realise that there are so many thing that people create and that many things can sound odd in the beginning like the clan system, witchcraft villages, polygamy and so on. You also see that there are so many phenomenons from your own world you have to explain for others and most important for your self. In Sweden for example we have anorexia, young women with self destructive behaviour cutting themselves and shoppoholics which can sound weird even to your self when you try to describe them. It is good to be forced to do that because you start to understand yourself better and become more aware of your actions which give you greater opportunities to also choose your actions.

A lot of the knowledge I’ve got from school have been activated during this time. In the last course we had at the university before I went we were talking about post colonialism and those discussions has helped me to see the difficulties with the power relationship and how our images “put up fences” for changes. It has been interesting to spend time with other white people because sometimes you hear your own thoughts through them and it gives you a better picture of your sometimes disqualifying thoughts. Instead of asking why things have become like that we like to give it a name and laugh about it. Two good examples are “African time” and “people from Africa are not honest”. Things didn’t just become like that because of no reason. Another course we had was called “gender and culture” and we were talking about “intersectionality” which means that things like gender, age, ethnicity, class, race and sexuality are all involved in each other and have to be seen in the context and the time (history). I have many good examples of this… When I went to witness a Muslim wedding and met a friend’s relatives and there was one situation that made me think about this. We were sitting in a room with men and suddenly one of the older sisters came in and gave her dress to them so they could iron it. I told them that that would never happen in my family because the man would refuse and the woman wouldn’t think he couldn’t do it the proper way. One man tried to explain this for me… he said that in this case the age and that she was an auntie, was more important than that she was a woman. It also had something to do with that they were in her brother’s house and not in the anti’s house. I think this is a good example of how complex the power relationship is and that it also depend on the context and the history. This was just meant to give you a brief insight of the knowledge that has been activated. I wrote in my mid evaluation that I think I have learnt more during these weeks than the last two years in school. I’m not saying that the things we have been reading about is not to any use but it’s one thing to read about it and one thing to face the reality. In school we have been thought that as a social worker you have to be prepared to criticise both yourself and the society and changing context like I have done make me understand why.

Stina Edin, student of social work, Mid University, Sweden

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