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January 12, 2010

What It Costs to Be Me: Women's Average Salaries

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esi cleland

Photo Credit: Jane Hahn/Panos Pictures

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ESI CLELAND, 27, ACCRA, GHANA
Occupation:
Copywriter for Publicis, a global ad agency
Annual income: $28,500 (converted from Ghanaian cedi)
Average income for a woman in Ghana: $1133

Home sweet home: "I rent a section of a large house, including a bedroom, kitchen, living room, and bathroom, for about $100 a month. A lot of landlords have reservations about renting to a single woman — most think it isn't safe. But I went to college in the U.S. and am used to having independence."

Bills, bills, bills: "I have to pay for my own water and electricity, but it's really cheap — my last electric bill was $5. My company pays for my cell phone. I have trouble getting up in the morning, so I often end up taking a cab to work. It definitely adds up. Every month I probably spend about $200 on cabs and bus fare."

Only in Ghana: "You don't rent on a month-to-month basis here. Landlords typically ask for two years' worth of rent up front. That's why it's so difficult for young people to move out of their parents' homes."

Meal plan: "I have no time to cook during the week, so I'll just buy something to eat on the street, like curried rice or fufu [cassava and yams]. Nothing costs more than $1."

The weekender: "Most people in Ghana don't have washing machines — you have to do your laundry by hand. So I'll let it pile up for a month, or until I have nothing left to wear. Then it takes about three hours to wash and hang dry. On Saturday nights, I'll go out for dinner, which costs me at most $10, and then to a bar with friends. Drinks typically cost about $3...I'm not much of a drinker, so I never end up spending much money."

Jeans Index: "I once spent $155 for a pair of Seven jeans."

Recessionomics: "Ghana has a pretty isolated economy, and we haven't taken much of a hit. Mostly I'm hearing about Ghanaians who were living in the U.S. coming back home because they can't make any money there."

Checks and balances: "I spend about a quarter of my monthly income; the rest I save. I'm trying to start a clothing manufacturing business with a friend, and I'd like to build my own home before I am 35. I could take out a loan, but interest rates here are about 70 percent...that's insane! I know how to live simply, but I've got big plans that I'm really excited about."


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