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09.07.2004 Feature Article

Letter From The Presdent: One for the gals

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Countrymen and women, loyalists and opponents, Nothing impresses me more than seeing a woman paying more than lip service to the popular saying that “what a man can do, a woman can do better.”

I was very happy when I heard that the talkative Betty had been appointed head of the Legal Division of the Commonwealth Secretariat. I was equally elated and pleasantly surprised when I was told that Mrs. Blair is one of the most brilliant lawyers in the whole of Europe and that she earns even more than her husband. Some years ago, I rejoiced with the Sukarno family when their daughter, Megawati was elected president of Indonesia. I really want to meet that woman and shake hands with her. I only hope that she invites me to visit her before she gets out of office – which could be anytime soon, judging by her poor showing in the elections of the last weekend. I have a long list of women I admire and respect. These are women who challenge me to be better in whatever I do.

I have heard so much talk in recent times about the necessity to increase women's participation in politics and decision-making in Sikaman. I agree that this is very important. I will be one of the first men this country to concede that women tend to make better leaders than men. I will like to see a woman sitting on the Black Star Stool. I can bet my last pesewa that the first woman who sits on this stool will, at least, do much better than Jerry Boom did. Unfortunately, so far, I have not seen any woman angling for the most important and lucrative job in the land. Few of them are vying to be mere assembly members and even fewer numbers are seeking to enter parliament.

You don't need to be a mind reader to know why our womenfolk are so reluctant to participate in politics. Politics is too dirty for them – they think it's better, at least for now, to leave the dirty politicking to men. A lot of cultural pressures are keeping our women out of the political arena. For example, most Ghanaian men think that women are better at mounting beds than platforms. These are the men who would rather throw themselves in a crocodile infested river than see their wives successful and basking in the limelight – they are suffering from what I call the Prince Charles syndrome. In our society, women who tend to be a little bit more vocal are given all sorts of tags – from “too known” to “witch”. These are but a few reasons why, our women don't want to partake in politics.

I therefore appreciate the efforts being made by several groups and individuals to get women to vie for political office. At least, if they don't want to sit on the Black Star Stool, it is good that they are being encouraged to contest for parliamentary seats. But a couple of things alarm me.

I have seen (and heard) very intelligent and eloquent women campaigning for their sisters to contest for political offices. These women belong to organizations with different acronyms but their mission and message are the same – women should get into politics. One of my worries that it seems to me that most of the women who speak eloquently and intelligently have decided to be campaigning for their sisters to go to parliament but they (the campaigners) have no intention whatsoever of entering the legislature themselves. One striking feature about these campaigners is that they are lawyers (and other professionals) who have formed NGOs ostensibly to encourage their sisters to take part in decision-making. As lawyers, one would have thought that, perhaps, they could be more versed in lawmaking and so they would first put themselves up before asking their colleagues to join in the decision-making processes of our land. As it is now, some of the most intelligent of our womenfolk are going about from village to village asking kenkey sellers, fishmongers and 'broni-wawu' dealers to become MPs. I say this is nonsense. I tell you, if all the women who are campaigning to get more women in parliament were to contest the elections in December, going by the law of probabilities, I wouldn't be surprised if women fill half the seats in our legislative assembly from January next year. But they won't. You know why? It has become more lucrative for our 'learned' women to form NGOs to campaign for women's participation in politics than for them to offer themselves as examples to show that women can actually make a difference in politics. I am challenging the likes of Nana Onye and Angie Dwa to offer themselves as parliamentary candidates in December. I believe they will show themselves to be more credible and the fishmongers and kenkey sellers will not hesitate but follow their example.

My other worry is that, I have heard it being suggested in some quarters that a certain number of parliamentary seats should be set aside for women to contest for. With this system, we could say for example, that out of the 230 seats in the next parliament, 40 can only be contested for by women. This would mean that come what may, we would have not less than 40 female MPs in the next parliament. This idea seems good at first hearing. But it fails to hold water when you subject it to strict analysis under the medulla. In my opinion, it doesn't serve the feminist cause. Those who are bandying this idea about are saying, in other words, that our women can only excel if they are 'favoured' and given some sort of preferential treatment. This is a fallacy from hell.

Given women a quota iin parliament will only consolidate the chauvinistic thinking that women are the weaker sex and they can only shine in the reflection of the successes of men. There are some strong women out there. They can talk, they can debate, they can persuade and they can lie (all politicians lie) their way to power. They don't need pity. They don't need preferential treatment. What they need is for society to break its prejudices and destroy all those cultural barriers that stop them from digging deep into the recesses of their potential. I see them everyday. They are very radioactive (meaning, they've been talking a lot on radio). If only they will stop talking too much (in the name of campaigning for women's participation) and start campaigning to have themselves elected, politics will be a totally different ballgame in Sikaman.

A Male Feminist,

J. A. Fukuor [email protected]

J. A. Fukuor
J. A. Fukuor, © 2004

The author has 204 publications published on Modern Ghana. Column Page: JAFukuor

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