When my daughter?s high school class graduated some six years ago, I was pleasantly surprised to see the girls collecting most of the awards. Today the only kid among the friends and playmates who is pursuing a high paying professional curriculum is the one boy among them. The class valedictorian does not seem to have taken on any special career path. The one girl who told me she was planning to go to Medical School changed her mind after her Bachelors degree. So how does the story play during the 25 years high school re-union? Who is going to be who?
Society has a role to play in shaping the children for effective continuation and management of the future. However, in the modern free societies, parents are supposed to give their children the freedom to choose. Is that such a good idea? Of the children who used to come to my house to play together, I am still interested to find out how they look after 25 years, especially the women. It reminds me of our childhood days in Ghana when we felt we could beat a girl in everything. Of course that was wrong, and we were kids. But was it because the girls felt we could beat them, or we really could? In America, most colleges today are finding more girls entering and graduating from College than the boys, and the ratio is higher for African-American girls over their boys.
The Ghanaweb Internet news of February 25, 2004, quoted an article from GNA which stated as follows:
A women's manifesto which aims at enhancing the role of women in the effective participation of the decision-making processes at all levels of society would be launched in May.
Already a draft manifesto has been produced and circulated around the country for comments and contributions from various stakeholders to enhance its quality.
Dr Rose Mensah-Kutin, Regional Programme Manager of ABANTU, a gender based non-governmental organization (NGO) concerned with the promotion and development of women on Wednesday announced this at press conference in Accra.
President Kufuor created a special Ministry for women and children. Honestly, one may questions if we need a special Ministry to empower women? Of course we need to encourage girls and women to stand up and speak up, but is the most effective way to create a bureaucracy? Anybody who has travelled and compared notes on how other societies treat women, will realize that Ghanaian society is not bad at all (pardon the Ghanaian English), so far as our women will stand up. I saw how one strong aunt we had in our extended family structure stood up and talked. The men listened, and she was respected. My aunt passed away two years ago at the age of 80+. May her Soul rest in Peace. Unlike America where women with the same PhD or qualifications were paid less than the men for the same work, our society seems to treat women at par economically. Of course this does not sit well with some men who lack self confidence. Some drunken men beat on their wives and get way with it, but society as a whole has to stand up against those behaviors if we are to live under the rule of law.
Educational disparity among the sexes should be vanishing in Ghana by now, if anybody has time these days to collect statistics in Ghana. In the olden times, men would have a first shot at an opportunity to be sent to school. Was that fair? Who educates our children? Who has the better influence on children? I challenge any man today who is educated, and would send his sons to school, and be able to deny his daughters the chance. It appears then, that our society is not that resistive to change, judging from the progress made to date in post-Independence Ghana. The right leadership is what is needed. We need women writers to take the leadership roles and instill some sense of self-confidence in the younger girls, and let them face the men intellectually, economically and socially.
Economically, women may even have a competitive advantage over men. My own friend who returned from Ghana to the US after 3 years miserable stay, tells how effective his wife was compared to him when they started a business. A man who obtained First Class at UST in Engineering, his wife was the one who showed the greatest talent for business and survival strategies.
Women, in looking at the mirror today, should know that they have lots to contribute. However, they need them to stand up! A proverb by the Akans of Ghana says if you don?t make any comments when you are getting a hair-cut, you end up with a bad hair-cut. In fact our women who make their money through entrepreneurial activities are well respected. Of course we don?t necessarily want our women to cut their nice hair, but what they need to do is stand up when the call for representation is made in their districts and regions, and be counted. As much as women may still feel they are being put down by some men, I would rather vote for a woman who has done well in her own business than a man who is wearing a white shirt and tie, but with fingers dirty from backroom governmental or other money dealings.
This does not mean women are angels and men are devils. No. The 1970s through 1990s seems to have changed the equation of women ethics in Ghana. Women were reported to have "used what they had to get what they wanted" (to quote the Godfather of Soul, singer James Brown). The 1990s saw some women in powerful positions who redefined societal corruption, and tilted the balance of the corruption calabash. As such it would not be fair to say that the search for self-interest is only limited to men. What the common saying means is that traditionally, women are known to have the soft touch in almost all known human societies. Conscience, good ethics, and sensitivity to social and moral issues, were part of a woman's expected inner fabric in our society. Their influence on society start from their children, and all of us looked up to women before we saw our fathers. As such the challenge is for women to stop pushing themselves to the back of the bus, and stop taking themselves as second in social settings. They have to develop their sense of self-confidence, and take their place of equality at the table of societal ethics, justice and governance. I recall how in the 1970s one Ghanaian woman laughed and made ridiculous comments when California Senator Diane Feinstein was seeking the seat of mayor of San Francisco, California. Today, a quarter century later, Diane Feinstein is one of the most respected US Senators. Why? Because she stood up when the call was made.
I will strongly advice the women not only to let their voices be heard through such mechanisms as manifestos, but go further to make their voices heard in their constituencies for the next elections. Women need to articulate the problems in their constituencies and propose solutions for others to judge and see their fitness for office. The back-seat generation should be retiring by now. After ten years, my own mother is almost convinced that I did the right thing in starting a political party in 1992 called GDRP, even though the brutal dictatorship of the PNDC called for necessary caution from any mother. Today, my 75 year old mother stands up to an Assemblyman in their constituency who was not taking adequate notice of the problems of flooding and mosquitoes in their area. At first some of the women thought she was crazy to confront the Assemblyman. Now, she tells me, the assemblyman respects her. That is the spirit we need from our women. Stand up and speak up, Woman! Our Ghanaian Society needs you to bring back the traditional shame on bad ethics and stop the rampant corruption, societal negligence, and the social injustices that have taken place without comment in the last few decades, and for far too long!
All Power to the Women!