By Daniel Dugan
“We are not seeing enough dynamism and activism on the part of those who are seeking. 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. We are talking about decisions, not wishes and hopes, we are talking about decisions that are going to make the difference”
These were the words of President Nana Akufo-Addo at a Women Conference recently.And a lady sitting by him invited him to dinner where she could expressively “educate” him on what women’s empowerment was all about.
Then the bubble burst in Ghana with many people rallying in opposition to what the president said and with those in the largest party in opposition, the NDC, calling for him to make public apology to all women for remarks they felt was below the belt.
So what exactly did the president mean to say on the matter of women dynamism and activism and why did he not get it right, in an international event of all places?
What are the meanings of the two root words in his statement, dynamism and activism? Dynamism from the Greek dunamis(power) can also mean, the quality of being characterized by vigorous activity and progress; the quality of being dynamic and positive in attitude. Looking for the meaning of dynamic as pertaining in humans,it is positive in attitude and full of energy and new ideas.
Activism, borrowed from the German, aktivismus, from aktiv (active) plus -ismus (-ism) means a doctrine or practice that emphasizes direct vigorous action especially in support of or opposition to one side of a controversial issue. Wikipedia says activism consists of efforts to promote, impede, direct or intervene in society, political, economic or environmental reform with the desire to make changes in society.
Well, with the results of the researches I just conducted into the president’s statement, all he wants to say, no I should rather use the word allegedly since I am dealing with a lawyer… he allegedly wants to say that generally women in Ghana are not positive in attitude and full of energy and new ideas to promote reforms that will make desire changes in society.It is alleged!
Honestly if the president wants to say that all women are not full of dynamism and activism to be handed over task in governance and society then there is a little trouble. However looking critically at the meaning of what he said, Ghanaians must critically ask themselves, was President Akufo-Addo right in making those statements?
In whatever role available in society, the key overall advantage one should have is ability to perform. And this must show in deeds more than in words. Here I will recall what Hon. Gloria Akuffo, and here too, allegedly said in an interview during President Kufuor’s first term when she was appointed deputy minister of Justice and Attorney-General. She said or I think she said, that she did not believe in women been appointed into positions because they are women, but they should earn such appointments on merit.
Such a statement may not sound good in the ears of women activists who will praise any appointments given to women and tap themselves in the back as good work done.
Not in any way suggesting that generally women in Ghana do not make it up to the level of occupying political and social positions of power, it is fundamentally true that most of those who can perform even better than the men are always hiding in the dark, not showing their faces to seen and called up. I believe this is what the president is saying and this is where we must all understand him.
Politics and activism is where people get noticed and so if generally women in Ghana will not show their faces when and where it matters most then they are to blame for ranking low in appointments. And we are talking here not about academic excellence, because if one gets the first class, masters and doctrine degrees but cannot be seen rising up to standard at work to show her worth, she cannot be considered for any appointment.
Ghanaians must understand the problem for women in this context especially in politics. This vocation has been so much demonised with the expression that politics is a dirty game, so only women who are very bold dare to enter into it.
I do acknowledge that expression, but my problem is if the good ones stay clear out of politics the bad ones will dominate. We use clean water to wash clean, not dirty water; so if the clean water will not come and wash politics clean, no one should blame that vocation; and mind you be it multi-party democracy or military dictatorship, it is politics for it is all about managingpeople and public goods.
The New Patriotic Party of which the president belongs to is the only party which makes more efforts to put more women in Parliament. In that party, there is a concession given to encourage women to stand as parliamentary candidates and so even in opposition there are more NPP women in parliament. Having entered Parliament does not however guarantee one’s entry into government. In this area, ability to perform high is what is demanded.
Having stated this, I am so amused at the large number of women condemning the president. We never saw even a tenth of a fraction of women not even mention the likes of Dr. Hannah Bissiw of the NDC coming out to condemn the Ghanaian Moesha Boduong, when in an interview conducted by CNN Christiane Amanpour, stated that because of the economy all women in Ghana have to go after men to satisfy them sexually so that they get cash and resources to afford to live properly. In a nutshell Moesha was telling the largest news network in the world that all Ghanaian women chase after multiple men to be able to earn their livelihood.
Seriously in view of what she said, it can mean that any woman given political or social appointment got that position by first warming the bed of a man with power or connections. And she was not made to apologise for this untruth.
Many women have held and are holding high offices and coming out with credits, however what about Madam LaurettaLamptey, the CHRAJ boss who was dismissed for abuse of office during the Mahama administration? Was she appointed based on merit or just to satisfy gender balance?
Then we have Madam Charlotte Osei who headed the Electoral Commission. The terrifying acts of her abuses of office may suggest that she was appointed not on merit but to satisfy gender balance. She lacked the dynamism and activism, the president talked about.
One area which women in Ghana have shown some laxity in championing the course of women is standing up against outmoded cultural practices which debase womanhood and lock them in cages of primitive conditions. We have Early Marriage which can hinder the academic growth of the girl-child, FGM which makes them lose an important organ that makes them real women and trokosi, where the future of young girls snuffed off when they are “jailed for life” to serve sentences of crimes they never committed. Serving such life sentences as sex slaves until the day they die and are buried with no dignity but like a dog.
Incidentally women play a leading role in these dehumanizing practices and yet we have women libs in Ghana who are doing nothing to put unrelenting pressure on all forms of leadership to halt such practices. Because of this, women who could have taken up top jobs and be leading politicians, end up as girls in marriages forever “enslaved” to men who are more dictators than loving husbands.
Those who escape from their homes to seek refuge and jobs in urban areas face equally worse conditions under what is called streetism. Where is the dynamism and activism in our liberated women to find ways to tackle this problem to help these poor girls out?
We could probably be having a female vice president by now. However instead of women dynamism and activism supporting then Candidate Akufo-Addo’s choice of HajiaAlimaMahama’s choice as running mate, it was rather something like an intra-conflict in feminine quarters as strong and powerful women groups in the Party kicked against this.
So I want to believe that what the president is saying should be a wake-up call to all women to direct women dynamism and activismto a productive course and encourage those who can and have the right qualifications and attitude to enter into politics, governance and public service.
I believe that President Nana AddoDankwa Akufo-Addo does not owe any body an apology; rather women activists owe Ghanaians an apology. Holding conferences and coming out with very good resolutions but not seeing them through and meeting again to discuss these unimplemented decisions under matters arising cannot solve the problems.
As for the woman who invited the president to dinner, perhaps just to enrich her CV, she should have asked for clarifications. I hope the president honoured the invitation so that he could use that opportunity to educate her.
Female dynamism and activism should make women build that confidence to be part of leadership and change things for the better so that they can be considered based on merit and not on gender parity. Andby their positive performance they can surely encourage others to strive to and do the same.
“We are talking about decisions (to be fully implemented), not wishes and hopes, we are talking about decisions that are going to make the difference (and not left to gather dust on shelves and in drawers)” –An adaptation of the President’s comments.