In the last week, we have witnessed a conversation about the place of women in our society that has done us an injustice.
It all started with some remarks at the "WOMEN DELIVER 2019 CONFERENCE " by President Akufo-Addo. In his contribution to the conference, the President said, amongst other things, that "I am talking about dynamism where it matters-- electing people to Parliament, controlling political parties because they are the instruments by which our societies make decisions". He was encouraging women to be more involved. During the discussion as well as in the days that followed, the President was attacked and defended by a number of Ghanaian women. Most of the noise was unnecessary. While he could have made his-- and our case better, neither he nor we-- as Ghanaians, have much to apologize for.
Our nation was founded with women as equal partners-- in the legal and constitutional sense-- our women voted from the get-go. We had female judges right away-- indeed Canadian women owe their entry into the Canadian judiciary partly to the advocacy of Ghanaian female judges like Mrs. Annie Jiagge. We have had 2 female Chief Justices and 2 female Heads of the Electoral Commission-- and we have a female Chief of Staff to the President.
The President too has nothing to apologize for on his attitude to the advancement of women. In 2008, his desire to choose a female running mate put him at odds with many in his party, including a significant percentage of women. The surprising thing is that Westerners on the panel had the confidence to question his commitment and he was unable to make the very strong case that could be made.
But this whole brouhaha misses the point.
Do increases in the number of female MPs and or Executives correlate with the advancement of women in society? Writing in US News and World Report recently, Sintia Radu stated, "However, countries reporting high levels of gender representation are often not the best ones for women overall such as Rwanda and Bolivia". Using the UN's "Global Gender Gap Index", based on health outcomes, educational attainment, economic participation, and political participation, the countries with high gender representation are not the best. Rwanda ranks first but their women are nowhere near where American women are. America, by the way, ranks 102 with 19.5% of Legislators being women, while Rwanda boasts an impressive 61.3%. When Diane Rwigara challenged President Kagame as an independent candidate in 2017, nude pictures of her were circulated and she was charged with tax-related offenses that many believed were retributions for daring to challenge President Kagame. Indeed, countries like India, Isreal, and Malawi that have had female heads of government are not any more advanced in gender equity than many others.
America, despite never electing a female President, has far stronger protections for women than many other countries. It seems that too often, in our environment, many who claim to be gender activists are actually trying to advance themselves rather than women. Indeed, on the face of it, Nana Konadu Agyemang Rawlings, through her 31st December Women's Movement, helped to lift up more women than many who held or hold office. Indeed, the very notion that women can best be represented by women demeans women. That is why significant numbers of women rejected Hillary Clinton's candidacy. Sharing female-- or male organs should not automatically equate to shared interest on everything.
Ultimately, empowerment of women will always come down to helping them access healthcare, education, and business opportunities while securing their property rights and protecting them from sexual or physical violence.
Unfortunately, in the last week, amidst the cacophony about the President and decimal points and appointments, we heard little about these important issues that are important to all of us-- as siblings, parents, and spouses of the women being discussed.
God bless our women and Ghana.
Arthur Kobina Kennedy ( 14th June, 2019)
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