Negotiating Spaces, Exercising Agency and Managing Multiple Roles: The Lived Experiences of University of Ghana Women Academics under COVID-19

  • Mjiba Frehiwot University of Ghana
  • Deborah Atobrah University of Ghana
  • Irene Appeaning-Addo University of Ghana


This article interrogates the lived experiences of women academics at the University
of Ghana (UG) between March 2020 and March 2021. It highlights their emotions
and care decisions as they navigated through the multiple spheres of their lives –
physical, emotional, and financial – while meeting the challenges brought on by the
COVID-19 pandemic. It further interrogates the innovative ways female academics
handled the state and UG’s responses to COVID-19 protocols while endeavouring
to meet their career responsibilities amidst an increased familial, institutional, and
community care burden. We find that women academics at UG reported to have
worked under intense stress and strain to meet their family care obligations and
the demands of their jobs as three levels of mothering – biological, othermothering
and community mothering – dominated participants’ narratives of their pandemic
experiences. It is also observed that self-reported productivity levels, including
research and writing, dropped drastically for most women academics as demands
for care increased, and this lack of productivity resulted in anxiety. This is because
the women academics prioritised the safety of their families, communities, and the
University over their career progression during the lockdown. Moreover, the COVID-
19 restrictions limited extended family members from reducing the care burden
on women academics specifically during the lockdown. To deal with the anxiety
and stress, some women academics found respite in institutional and social level
networks. However, the women academics also acknowledged that working from
home was beneficial because they were able to combine their childcare responsibilities
with their academic work.