Images of climate innovation

The Queens of Change

This image depicts the 'queens of change' - unseen, yet powerful women who oversee, protect, and promote informal markets in Ghana. Generally known as the market queens, these women do not wield official political power; however, their collective force embodies an ingenious way to tackling environmental waste issues in Ghanaian informal markets. This research explores the unique role of market queens in waste management solutions in Ghana.

Two women carrying pots on their heads, with the sunset behind them

Markets in Ghana are largely managed by women traders who have been organised into groups according to commodity. The commodity leaders are often referred to as the 'market queens' female traders who rule the markets and represent other traders to the outside world. Historians mention that the queens strong personalities, powerful economic positions, and effective organising both within and outside of the markets, were significant to Ghana's successful independence from colonial rule (Hendricks, 2017).

Yet recent strategies to tackle issues of shared concern like climate change and waste disposal, seem to have overlooked Ghanaian market queens as leaders of social movements who can strategically mobilise support to address these challenges. Emphasising the inattention to the market queens network, Asomani-Boateng (2016) states that politicians are quick to use these associations as their support base to canvass for votes and financial donations during political elections, but have failed to exploit their immense potential to solve the myriad of problems facing cities in Ghana (p. 191).

This qualitative study highlights the importance of female leadership in waste management solutions in Ghanaian informal markets. Reports indicate that generated waste from Ghanaian markets constitutes a large proportion of municipal waste in urban communities; and has often required the efforts of strategic and powerful actors including market queens, to manage. Acknowledged as power brokers in the informal economy, our research reveals that Ghanaian market queens utilise their high levels of power both inside and outside the markets to transfer knowledge, regulate commercial activities, settle disputes, and mobilise support for waste management.

Importantly, our findings emphasise the significance of African female leadership and informal institutional arrangements in addressing several of the global challenges and sustainable development goals, as observed from the resourcefulness of Ghanaian market queens in tackling issues of waste.

Entrant: Afua Owusu-Kwarteng , Lancaster University

Copyright: Mohamed Mahmood Hassan

Funding: UKRI Global Challenges Research Fund RECIRCULATE project (ES/P010857/1).

Collaborators: Dr Cynthia Forson, Dr Priscilla Otuo, Anthony N-Yelkabong (Lancaster University Ghana).