Jul 06, 2011
A vendor cells a wide range of cellular phones at a central market in Kumasi.
Interviews have been coming in fits and spurts. I’ve finished about ten interviews at the hospital’s chronic disease and family planning unit. The people at the hospital have been very accommodating and have really made this project mature into a promising piece of academic work as well as a useful tool for Ghanians. Cell phone use patterns have been very interesting. Many Ghanians have multiple cell phones and use them for Facebook, Twitter, email, texting and calling. Some have multiple phones because of network availability, while others designate specific phones for one of the functions just listed.
The second half of the project, condoms, is much more complicated. Condoms occupy a complicated position in Ghanaian society. While they are widely available, and appear to sell very well, the stigma attached to buying one (especially if you’re a woman) are relatively high. Many people expressed that they felt shy, awkward, or even scared when asking for a condom at a pharmacy. While this may not sound much different than how it is in the US, it appears as though the intensity of the negative feelings is higher and more uniform across most people. (The one exception being those enrolled in university. I imagine this might have to do with socio-economic correlations.) We also visited about eight pharmacies and I asked the employees about condom sales. Most were happy to talk about it, but only one store had them displayed above the counter, at a reasonably viewable height. Most were behind the counter or up on top of a high shelf. Employees said they kept them slightly hidden so that one may purchase them inconspicuously, but still see them for sale. Most people assume that a pharmacy will have condoms in stock. They could be cheaper, but are not horribly expensive. No one has reported seeing a condom package with a dark-skinned person on it. They are all light-skinned Europeans or Asians. The condoms appear to be made primarily in China and India.
This means that our original assumption -that there was a problem of information, not acceptance- was inaccurate. While the condom-finding texting system has gotten positive feedback, it doesn’t seem to attack the bigger problem of acceptance. We plan on brainstorming with hospital employees tomorrow, and consider new approaches to making the purchase of condoms a more comfortable experience.
The next half of the week promises to be tough, but I can see a breakthrough on the horizon.