Title

Rights-based approach to poverty reduction: The Ghanaian experience

Date of Award

2019

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

School

School of Arts and Humanities

First Advisor

Associate Professor Vicki Banham

Second Advisor

Dr Ann-Claire Larsen

Field of Research Code

1605

Abstract

The 1992 Republican Constitution of Ghana obligates the state to guarantee that all citizens have access to education, good health, housing, water, sanitation, employment and food security. As a consequence, the government implemented the ongoing Livelihood Empowerment Against Poverty (LEAP) programme in 2008 to sustain development in these areas. Although Ghana has achieved pockets of progress in reducing extreme poverty and hunger, there is considerable evidence of poverty and widening inequality across the country. This study draws on the theoretical lens of the human rights-based approach (HRBA) to poverty reduction to examine how the implementation of the LEAP programme aligns with beneficiaries’ human rights entitlements. It argues that the LEAP programme has failed to align with the HRBA and leaves unattended Ghana’s constitutional obligations.

This study employed an exploratory sequential mixed design (SMD) strategy using a two-phase, chronological design to explore beneficiaries’ and key stakeholders’ experiences of the LEAP programme. The first phase was grounded on a qualitative research approach using in-depth face-to-face interviews, focus group discussions, participant observation and document analysis. The second phase employed a quantitative research approach, drawing on the themes that emerged from the first phase to develop a standardised questionnaire to conduct a household cross-sectional survey with a sample of 250 respondents.

The findings suggest that the LEAP programme has led to some positive outcomes for beneficiaries, including enhanced self-esteem and happiness, household cohesion, social interaction and increased community involvement for beneficiaries. Nevertheless, many of the beneficiaries perceived their deprivation (poverty) as a way of life, making them vulnerable and defenceless. For them, the LEAP programme was an act of charity from the government and not an escape route from poverty. The study also found that the community engagement approach used by the LEAP implementers failed to conform to the active stakeholder engagement approach of community participation, consultation and collaboration. Overall, the evidence suggests that the implementation of the LEAP programme only partially aligns with the HRBA to poverty reduction, which potentially undermines efforts to eradicate poverty and sustain development in Ghana.

The findings from this study confirm support for a community-based empowerment model that captures the emerging dynamics and complexities in advancing the social and economic status of the vulnerable and indigent in society. This new model of community based empowerment is underpinned by beneficiaries’ active engagement in economic activities and their economic empowerment. This model of economic empowerment addresses the inadequacies associated with the LEAP programme that directly threaten its sustainability. The new model has the potential to advance and strengthen the human rights of beneficiaries, widen the scope of beneficiaries and support the long-term sustainability of social intervention programmes in developing countries.

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