There are certain characteristics that distinguish a “traditional society” from a “modern society”. These characteristics are quite many and some are unique. During my study of sociology at the University of Ghana, I was fascinated to hear about the features of traditional societies because of their unique advantages which includes interdependency and a strong communal spirit.
Ghana has become a modern society and this comes with a lot of benefits and issues, opportunities and challenges. One of the challenges people are faced with are dealing with the individualism and impersonalisation of relationships.
Most people know that in modern cities and communities, each man lives for himself and that the communal spirit is lost. People move into communities, settle down and live there for ages without knowing who their neighbours are. Some never get the opportunity because they are never there anyway. Others get the opportunity to know their neighbours but never bother to connect with them. They simply don’t care. After all, what do I need from them, they seem to say. They go to work, attend social activities, travel and come back, sleep and wake up and when it’s time for them to move on to other places, they just move without a word to anyone.
When I got married, we lived in our previous neighbourhood for more than a decade and although I knew some of the neighbours I never met the neighbour on the left side of our house and those behind him because there was no occasion for me to meet them. This neighbour was the Chief of the area but he never called for a meeting or organise any function to bring the community together.
We always cherished and longed for the communal life we had lost but we had no choice; times have changed and things are not the same anymore.
With all this at the back of our minds, we were totally ready to live a life of solitude when we decided to move to another community out of town. We had heard a lot about living in a gated community and what I heard indicated that these communities are highly private where everyone was minding his/her own business. We packed our belongings, ready for this “Ï walk alone” life.
The time came for us to leave. We moved into the new place, settled down and went about our activities. Not long after that, we got invited to a party. Well, let’s enjoy this one, we said to ourselves. Perhaps it will take a while before another party comes.
We were totally unprepared for this. It was parties upon parties. Indeed we were warned that the community loved parties so we had to get used to it. When there is a holiday, we partied; we connected water to the place, we partied; and when the main street was tarred there was a street party. Interestingly the party had drinks and food for all kinds of people with different interests and guess what, palm wine was always served and held in yellow gallons. The touch of palm wine shows the real village setting.
We arrived in quarter four of 2015 and were introduced to the Resident Association who welcome us warmly into the community and the fun begun. There was a whatsapp platform and we joined. We were also invited to the residents’ monthly meeting. The Association looked very well organised and the meetings are taken seriously. Minutes of the meetings are captured and actions and responsibilities assigned to respective officers or neighbours. Feedback was given in between meetings on the whatsapp platform.
What we found amazing was the mobilisation skills of the executives of the association. They organised the children to put up a Christmas concert (we had nine lessons and carols with the children leading all the carols) and in addition the neighbourhood had a Christmas party as well.
The Christmas parties were not the only ones held. Neighbours are informed when there is a new born baby and get invited to outdoorings, weddings etc. Birthdays are also celebrated in style and sometimes there are unannounced breakfast meetings. During the recent Eid festival there was a special “waakye party” in the morning of the holiday hosted by one of the neighbours.
Anytime a neighbour spotted something new worth celebrating, they will shout for a party. When there is a promotion, a new car, or a new facility, the party organisers will push for it. For example we recently held a party to celebrate the completion of our summer hut and although the facility was not 100% completed the neighbours had to come and commission it. Guess what, there was a match being played on DSTV so the summer hut was converted into a stadium, the game was projected on a wall and the football fans watched the game live amidst eating and drinking. Dumsor occurred whilst the game was being played, and the chairman of the association quickly brought a generator and before we could say jack the game was on again.
Away from Football played on TV, the men also play football. They community has a business club as well, and other sub groups. It’s amazing!
Security issues are also raised on the platform. One of the things that endeared me to the association is the forming of the watchdog committee. To improve security in the neighbourhood, the residents formed five groups (made of males and one woman who is known as the Yaa Asantewaa of Willow Court) who had to go on patrol late in the night to complement the work of the security men. When neighbours are travelling they would mention it so that people can keep an eye on their houses for them.
When people are going to town, all they need to do is to sit at the gate and wait for a neighbour to offer them a lift. Alternatively, they will ask digitally if anyone was willing to offer them a lift. The community is also kept informed of traffic situations in town and what alternative routes are available. If you need any help or information, all you have to do is to put it on the platform and help will come if it is available. For eg, recently my husband woke up one morning to find that our car battery had run out. He was wondering how to get a battery jump starter and he decided to put it on the platform. Within minutes someone had offered him one and he got his battery up within a twinkle of an eye. It’s really one big village.
I must add that it is not mandatory to join the association and there are members of the community who have declined to be part of the association. Their views are respected and they continue to enjoy their privacy without any interferences.
It is amazing how the community managed to build that kind of bond, like the kind that is only found in traditional society. Perhaps the Ghanaian communal spirit is not totally lost in the cities after all.
For the experience we have had in our community I can only commend the residents association chaired by Malik (Chairman One) and his team members; Carl, Chief, Ernest, Nana Yaa, and other shakers and movers like Kobby, Enoch, George, Kartey, Danny, Martin, Francois and all members of the community.
If I were the Chairman of the Willow Court Residents Association – GHS Housing, I will blow my own trumpet to the world. He and his team have managed to set a high standard for residents associations to follow in order to ensure that they stay together. The community is one of a kind.