In Ghana, when a female politician says anything unpalatable, you can almost predict the backlash...
‘’Go home and cook for your husband!’’
‘’That's why your husband divorced you!’’
‘’You can't even save your marriage and you want to save Ghana’’
‘’Show us your husband!’’
It’s the second quarter of 2019 but this is how we silence women in a middle income country that many call the gateway to Africa. Yet, many men and women will step up to challenge anyone who leads the cause to advance gender parity.
Why am I FEMINIST?
Because you, you believe calling me ashawo should shut me up.
Because you had rather have me at home, minding a husband and babies than speaking my truth out loud.
Because you ask me ‘’WHO WILL OPEN THE DOOR?’
My colleague in the newsroom asked me why we need to ‘amplify’ women when many women in power have corrupt records. I said to him, corrupting has no gender, the fact that you expect a woman to be comparatively pious is in itself the reason we are here, navigating this slippery slope of gender parity.
Countless men in government have been dragged through the legal system for abusing their office and privilege, no one has mentioned that as an excuse to deny men of the high offices in Ghana, but here you come to me, using the corruption of some women as another excuse to keep women away from power. That alone should tell you women have to deal with a higher, harsher standard of judgment by the simple reason of gender.
Now more than ever, we need to critically examine the status of women in Ghana. Especially after we have shown the world that we have no idea who will open the ‘door’. When all-men panels turn up to discuss the status of women in Ghana, we know we are missing a critical approach to the discussion and possibly further fomenting the structures that separate us.
Instead of telling women how to think and feel about what positions you offer them, can we step back and let women tell us what positions they had rather occupy and work with women to peel back the years of prejudice and discrimination that has pushed them back? Can we step back from telling women about their supposed ‘status’ in society and allow women to speak for themselves?
Question: Where is a woman’s place?
Answer: WHEREVER SHE WANTS TO BE.
What is the status of women in Ghana?
Well what is the status of the Affirmative Action Bill?
What is the sexual harassment policy at YOUR workplace?
Do you know Ghana’s Gender Policy?
Do you know what the African Union’s policy on Gender says? (Side eye)
Your knowledge of all that or lack of it thereof IS THE STATUS OF WOMEN
Women are not asking for handouts, but a deliberate correction of a systemic problem.
I do not need you to tell me that every woman you know is empowered and hence the gender dialogue is needless.
No, Nuong Faalong may have a voice but what is the use of that voice if Nantiere in Damongo has no access to education, is jobless and saddled with nine children because she has neither the agency nor access to family planning and has to scratch out a living because her 3 baby fathers are under no structural obligations to contribute to the wellbeing of the children they fathered, what is the point if Nantiere cannot advance her life because the system does not enable her to step out of her situation to advance her life?
How is my voice relevant if I fail to understand that majority are the opposite of me? Because while we debate the relevance of this dialogue, there are girls enslaved in trokosi and young victims of obstetric fistula in Tamale, Fuseina the Kayayo will get raped in the corners of Madina market because she has neither shelter nor autonomous state protection. Of what use is your voice if you cannot speak for silent Rahma in cheriponi who is not going to school because she has to work at home and on her father’s farm to help finance her brother’s education?
When women the world over are still used as spoils of war and sexual abuse is a weapon primarily used against women.
When structures push competent women out because they struggle to navigate between social responsibilities and professional excellence, you cannot ask me WHO WILL OPEN THE DOOR.
Systems often inform behavior and when you have privileged men leading the parity dialogue, men who hold the keys to systemic change asking the Ghanaian woman WHO WILL OPEN THE DOOR? Of course the issues will remain.
It is okay to have questions but to deny the activism, dynamism and competence of the Ghanaian woman is unacceptable.
By now you may have watched Mr. President’s submission at #WomenDecide, seen your friends disagree over it on Facebook, read statuses chastising him or read the many foot-soldier submissions that see absolutely nothing wrong, followed by the very political ‘AMPLIFIED CAMPAIGN’.
Wherever you fall, I will attempt to break it down.
Who will open the door? YOU WILL OPEN THE DOOR.
You will open the door not because your mother, sister or wife is a woman but because we are dealing with a human rights situation. And you will open the door to equality because all humans are equal. So equal that if you agree to racial barriers being broken, you must agree to gender barriers being torn apart and all structural limitations that thrive on gender differences, quashed.
Beyond the abrasive denial of the years of activism, what good charge can we take away from Mr. President’s faux pas? I say until the women who care and can effect change are counted at the tables of power, our work is undone.
I am also by this calling out to fellow activists in the push for equality, it is time to seek more than our voices, IT IS TIME TO BE POWER. Let’s mix activism with power. Let’s take the power that we require to actualize our causes and do it ourselves.
No, we cannot trust the men we elect to do it for us; evidently they have other priorities, we ought to begin electing ourselves.
When you get to the ballot box and you see the face of a woman who qualifies, CHOOSE HER.
Let the failure of politics and policy be your inspiration, channel the anger from the misrepresentation of your favorite politician and get deeply involved. So when the man who created the office of the special prosecutor in a minute by putting pen to paper is asking WHO WILL OPEN THE DOOR, you are not sitting helplessly aghast wondering why a man who can change the system, legislations and policies to advance parity is asking you rhetorical questions.
Women who care about parity and sustainable inclusion, this is our call to push now more than ever.
Be relentless until women around the table of power ARE many and relevant.