Nana Konadu Agyeman Rawlings is today named amongst one of the most influencial female politicians in Ghana
Ghana has a socio-cultural setting in which the views and contributions of women are not of much importance and any woman who dares to be outspoken is condemned by the men and surprisingly, some of their female colleagues.
Women are fundamentally considered as home makers and are expected to do the bidding of men. Women in the pre-modern Ghanaian society were seen as bearers of children, retailers of fish, and farmers and the transition into the modern world has been slow for them.
However, due to education, a considerable number of women in Ghana have found their voice and are contributing to governance while others are serving in influential positions in the various sectors of the economy.
Some women groups and other civil society organizations in recent times have been advocating for an increment in the number of women in politics and such calls reached their peak during the 2012 general elections.
Organizations such as the Gender Studies and Human Rights Documentation Centre, Women in Law and Development in Africa (WiLDAF), the International Federation of Women Lawyers all made the same call. Some gender activists like Angela Dwamena-Aboagye seriously lobbied and advocated for more women’s participation and representation in both local and national government structures in Ghana.
Their efforts yielded positive results as a lot of women partook in the 2012 Parliamentary elections. Three women were also named as Vice Presidential candidates to three of the political parties contesting the Presidential elections. They included Ms Eva Lokko of the Progressive People’s Party, Sherita Frimpomaa Kumakuma of the Convention People’s Party and Helen Senorita Dzatugbe Matervi of the People’s National Conventions.
Their election gave women hope that finally and possibly, a woman will become a Vice President in Ghana. Lest I forget, former First Lady, Nana Konadu Agyeman Rawlings launched her campaign to contest the 2012 Presidential elections. But she did not make it to the polls due to her inability to file her Presidential nomination on time at the Electoral Commission and was therefore disqualified. Nonetheless, there were widespread perceptions that Ghana was not ready for a female President.
During their Vice Presidential debate ahead of the elections in December, these women were criticized for non-performance and were described as not being on top of issues happening in the country.
The elections took place but majority of the women contesting Parliamentary elections lost while a few made it to Parliament. Sadly, the three political parties with female Vice Presidential candidates also did not make it to the Presidency.
Then came the appointment of Ministers and Deputy Ministers to serve in government; WiLDAF petitioned President John Mahama to make 40% of his appointee women.
The President appointed women including Hannah Tetteh who is Minister for Foreign Affairs, Professor Naana Opoku Agyeman for the Education Ministry, Nana Oye Lithur for the Gender, Children and Social Protection Ministry, Marietta Brew-Oppong as the Attorney General, Dzifa Attivor, Ministry of Transport, Hanny-Sherry Ayittey, Ministry of Health, Dr. Bernice Adiku Heloo, Deputy Minister of Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation, Joyce Bawa-Mogtari, Deputy Minister of Transport, Victoria Hammah for the Ministry of Communication, Benita Okity Duah for the Gender, Children and Social Protection Ministry, Dzifa Gomashie -Ministry of Tourism, Culture & Creative Arts and a few others.
The nomination of Victoria Hammah was highly criticized and she was ridiculed by social and political critics and a large section of the general public. An MP who pleaded anonymity was reported as saying; Ms Hammah could not help the President’s agenda. “It is as if we don’t have the men and women… This is a lady who… does not have any real public service experience, has not held any proper job except a late night sex talk show and you put her in a ministry as crucial as Communications?” he criticized.
Pictures of her popped up on social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter with harsh and demeaning descriptions. Being a full figured woman, her body shape was also ridiculed and was described as beauty with no brains. But during her vetting session, Ms Hammah said her appointment as Deputy Minister was a “clear show of confidence in women and in the youth.”
Although some women were able to make it into Parliament, they were outraged for being excluded from key Parliamentary committees by their male MPs. They argued that the presence of women in the Committees will help generate more ideas to improve the effectiveness of their work.
Oye Lithur faced similar criticism for her stance on gay rights. Religious groups and sections of the general public were strongly against her nomination.
These are but a few examples of women who have been victimized and criticized for having opinions and attempting to help in the governance of their country.
In Ghana, women in politics are perceived as trespassers, decoration, or as supporters of the actions of men who sit higher up in the political establishment (often brought out to win votes for them during campaigning.)
As cultural inhibitions continue to be a major obstacle for women in the political sphere, these other perception deters other women who may want to serve from taking the bold step to partake in politics and governance.
They would rather stay in their ‘little corners’ and serve the country in their own little way out of the public eye.
I believe that for women to make the necessary impact in their societies on a larger scale, they should be given the opportunity; if the opportunity doesn’t exist, it should be created by us. We should endeavour to get the needed education and expertise, be well informed of policies and projects you want to see accomplished, have an opinion and stick to it if you believe it is right. With these tactfully in place, no man and even no fellow woman will win the battle of running you down.
Challenges will certainly come, harsh and constructive criticisms will be given but be strong to overcome it not with emotions but with tact and skill. Let your passion drive you to achieve the dream of contributing to the shaping the future of your country.
We can do it, we have the numbers, we all cannot go into politics, but if you have the passion to lead and a ‘thing’ for politics, do not let anyone stop you. Know your worth and your efforts will surely reap the needed benefits.
By: Efua Idan Osam/citifmonline.com/Ghana