Ghana: Seeing Double; Research Has Shown That West Africa Has the Highest Rate of Fraternal Twinning in the World. Now, a New Foundation Has Brought Together Some 800 Identical Twins at the First Ever Festival of Twins in Ghana. Douglas Akwasi Owusu Reports from Accra

Article excerpt

Surprising as it may sound, there are as many as 48 twin births in every one thousand in the West African region, compared starkly with North America's average of 10-15 deliveries. With such figures, one can see the significance of this ratio--a birth rate of over four times as many.

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In Ghana and much of West Africa, twins are traditionally regarded as special gifts from God and a harbinger of good luck. As a result, they are cherished and sought after by couples. The belief is so intense that people place wooden images of twins in special corners of homes where they are worshipped at regular intervals.

Traditionally, there are several rites and rituals performed when twins are born. However, with the introduction of Christianity these ceremonies have been disappearing, sometimes frowned upon and even stopped altogether in some areas by the churches. But many such traditional practices still remembered as customary procedures have only really been deeply influenced by Christianity over the last 40-60 years.

That there is strength in numbers is something which has manifested itself even among the rank and file of twins in Ghana. It is not known how many sets there are in the country, but around 800 of them have come together as an association to form the Ghana Twins Foundation.

Founded by identical twins Zena and Maya Abou-Jaoude to improve the well-being of the ever-growing number of multiples in the country, the Foundation has for the past three years been organising the National Twins Festival. The event, which is gradually catching on with the Ghanaian public, has been adopted by the Ministry of Tourism and Modernisation of the Capital City.

Speaking on the activities of the Foundation at their home in the port city of Tema, Zena and Maya say they first conceived the idea of forming the Ghana Twins Foundation when they were growing up. "We always wanted to do something unique for the less privileged in society. …