She is a feminist, founder of an NGO which is making waves in Ghana by pushing young girls into leadership roles, she is brave, elegant, outspoken, intelligent and bright. Our guest post is none other than Hikmat Baba Dua.
AMOAFOWAA: You are welcome to Amoafowaa.com
HIKMAT: Thanks. It’s an honour to be featured and I must say you are doing an awesome job, keep it up and tight.
AMOAFOWAA: Thank you very much. Please tell us about Hikmat Baba Dua
HIKMAT: I am a young feminist in my mid 20s born in Tamale but trace my roots to Kumbungu and Yendi in the Northern Region of Ghana. I had my high school education at the Ghana Senior High School (Ghanasco) and proceeded to the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) where I studied a combined major in Sociology and Social Work and also took Political Science as a minor course. I do have a lot on my plate because I do not want to spend a day being irrelevant. Aside running my own organization, I also work with LitWorld International and Global G.L.O.W as a Local Coordinator in Tamale for the HerStory Initiative (a partnership initiative with my organization), a Global Youth Ambassador at A World at School and serves on a couple of boards. But most importantly, I act locally and circulate globally earning me awesome opportunities such as being recognized as one of Africa’s most promising women leaders by the Moremi Initiative for Women’s Leadership in Africa, representing Ghana as a domain expert in women’s empowerment at the Global Start-up Youth, selected among the 2015 cohorts of Vital Voices Leadership Program, named among 200 young leaders by Women’s Deliver and being honoured as a Mandela Washington Fellow for Young African Leaders by President Obama.
AMOAFOWAA: What do you do as a profession at the moment?
HIKMAT: I am a non-profit Executive. I run and manage a non-profit.
AMOAFOWAA: Who did you grow up reading, as in your favourite author?
HIKMAT: I still remember how I struggled through the pages of Chinua Achebe’s “Things fall apart” in Primary 5. It was one of the literature books my sister was studying at Tamale Secondary School (now Tamale Senior High School). But I repeatedly read this book and later became acquainted with the story Achebe portrays. I wanted more of Achebe and my search landed me another awesome read “No longer at ease”. So before the ‘thee’s’ and ‘thy’s’ of Shakespearean Literature which I later came to comprehend and love as well, Achebe’s thoughts helped mould my appreciation of literature from cradle.
AMOAFOWAA: A good writer he is. What is your passion in life Hikmat?
HIKMAT: The one thing that puts me on my toes; brings me joy and happiness; and keeps my mind buzzing with ideas and thoughts every day of my life is service to my community. The most valuable resource on the face of earth is the human resource. That’s why I believe with genuine service to our communities we could write a different story; a story of progress, social justice, equality, and self-sufficiency. Rendering my genuine service to my community spirited in belief that this will contribute to re-shaping and re-defining this space I call home is the wheel that drives my life.
AMOAFOWAA: So you are engaged in many advocacy programmes for women empowerment. How do you think Ghana is faring in women empowerment in the 21st century?
HIKMAT: Ghana has made some progress in this century such as ratifying the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa as well as the Beijing Platform for Action. However, domesticating and implementing these instruments remain a great challenge. The gender, children and social protection Ministry formerly the Ministry of Women and Children’s Affairs has contributed immensely to this progress since its inception especially in the area of affirmative action policies in crucial areas such as education and health. But there is more to be done especially in the areas of capacity building towards political empowerment and resourcing women adequately to economically empower them.
AMOAFOWAA: I have been hearing something about some young female leaders. I hear you are involved somehow. Tell us more about the League of Young Female Leaders.
HIKMAT: I am the Founder and Executive Director of League of Young Female Leaders (THE LEAGUE). THE LEAGUE is a non-profit organization focused on advancing the status of girls and women through mentorship and advocacy coupled with a charity module. Our mentoring program is delivered in established League Clubs in some selected high schools. Mentors are recruited from High Institutions of Learning as well as professionals working in diverse fields. The mentoring curriculum used fills both the education gap in providing mentorship for girls as well as the role model vacuum facing our society with the aim of nurturing the next generation of women leaders. With our partner organization LITWORLD INTERNATIONAL, we run litclubs as safe learning and mentorship environments for girls between the ages of 10 and 15. THE LEAGUE utilizes both social media and traditional media to advocate against child marriage (and other forms of violence against girls and women) and encourages girls’ education. THE LEAGUE’s charity work is centered on giving and nurturing the less privileged in society especially orphans.
AMOAFOWAA: You are a Muslim. Correct?
HIKMAT: Totally and completely!
AMOAFOWAA: Maybe I am paranoid but I need to ask this: Is it easy to be a woman and a leader in Islam? I ask this because I personally see so many Muslim girls subdued in preparation for marriage here in Ghana.
HIKMAT: Frankly speaking, it is supposed to be but it is not. Imagine a claim such as women cannot be wise in a mixed gender context and thus cannot be leaders. Very ridiculous! But not every practising Muslim subscribes to the notion that women cannot lead in contexts where men exist. Evidence points to Muslim Countries such as Pakistan under the leadership of Benazir Bhutto, Bangladesh under Khaleda Zia and Sheihk Hasina and in Senegal under Mama Madior Baye. These women served as Prime Ministers of their countries; and you can be sure their leadership did not emasculate men. So what’s the point? A Muslim woman nearly became a running mate to a flagbearer in the round up to the 2008 elections but this highly endorsed woman was turned down by the Muslim community in a place where she considers home. Generally, Muslim girls are opinionated through socialization which is also influenced by our culture to believe that they cannot be the essential gender because they are just the other gender. In the end, their only source of hope, happiness, and all in all success are defined by their attachment to a man called a husband. So even before she turns 18, she is thinking marriage as her success yard stick and her family cheers her on and the society accords her respect for completing half her deen (Religion). Well, I am yet to come across a verse in the Qur’an that says single women will not and cannot inherit paradise.
AMOAFOWAA: Wow! You are such a realist in my books Hikmat. Now let’s zoom down to the struggle for empowerment. As a woman myself, sometimes I think we are overdoing it, are we not overpowering the girls to women and neglecting the boys to men, so to speak?
HIKMAT: Well, you cannot be tired if you have not reached your destination. If Kwame Nkrumah had not acted promptly seeking ‘independence now’ as against ‘independence within the shortest possible time’, Ghana would probably not be the first sub Saharan country to gain independence. Even in the 21st century we are still preaching against racial discrimination, yet no one is saying we are over doing it. A black man is shot today in a Western Country, and there is a world cry. Because that is injustice and that is not right. How about the injustice women face? Women’s rights are genuine human rights too.
Girls are forced into marriage, and that is overdoing it! Teenage pregnancies, that is overdoing it! Unequal pay for the same work done, that is over doing! Maternal Mortality, that is over doing it! Women as the world’s poorest of the poor, that is overdoing it! Women occupying lower status job positions, that is overdoing it!
Have we asked ourselves how much of the world’s wealth is in the hands of women?
Have we asked ourselves how many girls are missing out on education worldwide?
Have we asked ourselves how many women are Presidents, Law makers, Board Members, Corporate Heads among others?
Have we asked ourselves how many women are infected with HIV/AIDS and other STIs?
When we begin to appreciate some of these issues, we will tell ourselves we are not even doing enough for girls and women. Women are better off today because of the struggles of other women who stood up for womanhood centuries back. The last thing I want to bequeath to my daughter is an unequal society.
AMOAFOWAA: That brings me to my next question, what does a girl or woman need to feel or be empowered?
HIKMAT: There is no watertight approach to empowering a girl or a woman. But essentially, a girl will feel empowered if she discovers herself, finds her voice to tell her story, define her future and be a success story. It all starts from within but the society must be ready to give her equal rights and equal opportunities to ultimately feel empowered both from within and without.
AMOAFOWAA: Girls getting pregnant in senior high schools in Ghana, I have been a witness to many of such happenings. Do you see this as part of your struggle to empowering girls?
HIKMAT: We have an incomplete education curriculum with the absence of Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) leaving young people especially girls to a free range system on issues related to sexuality. As they explore the possibilities of this free range system, they become submerged in its deficiencies ending up as victims. I do not remember having a pregnant colleague when I was writing my Basic Education Certificate Examination (BECE); not even when I was writing my West African Senior Secondary Certificate Examinations (WASSCE). Today, we live in an era of technology; mobile phones, social media etc. yet no one regulates how these tools are used by young people. Young people are more exposed today than ever before yet in the pages of our education curriculum; CSE remains a taboo to our inks. Until we eliminate the idea of sacrilege from the face of CSE and teach our young people what is right and what is not; a bigger battle awaits us. It’s high time we scrap off the sexuality ignorance in our young minds.
AMOAFOWAA: How do you teach a girl to be empowered and respectful at the same time?
HIKMAT: Regardless of one’s achievements, character defines who you really are. Girls need mentors and positive role models who will help shape their lives empowering them and nurturing them to become virtuous women. They need not just be told, they have to see it manifested in the person they look up to.
AMOAFOWAA: What are you doing about forced marriages in Ghana? Mostly rumoured to happen in the North.
HIKMAT: Not one organization can solve the issue of child/force marriage and that’s why partnerships and collaborations are necessary to adopt a more holistic and integrated approach. We are currently in touch with other organizations both locally and internationally to adopt best practices in our fight against child marriage especially in the three (3) northern regions where prevalent rates are very high. There is the need for a coalition of NGO’s and individuals working to end child/force marriage, and I believe through that, we can alter the situation.
AMOAFOWAA: Sex sells so musicians and most movies make it a point to sell in order to be rich. Is this impeding your progress in empowering girls in any way?
HIKMAT: Obviously! Girls are influenced by so many negative factors and that’s why I believe we need to do more. We need to start speaking up; we have allowed men dominated industries like the entertainment industry to spell out the rules and they treat women as instruments they can manipulate for their consumption.
AMOAFOWAA: What has been your worst encounter in the struggle to empower so far?
HIKMAT: To be rejected by a girl who needed a sense of direction. She is married now with 2 children and she needs help to educate these children because her husband, she says, does not look after them. I could have helped her previously but now I doubt I can because there are other girls who are ready to make use of what I am offering them and I would rather invest in them. Even though I feel bad about this, I have limited resources to help. Trust me, not every girl or woman is ready to be empowered.
AMOAFOWAA: True. Enough of the empowerment issue. Hikmat what is your favourite meal?
HIKMAT: I love my local dishes and my all-time favourites are Tuo Zaafi (T.Z) with Ayoyo soup and Banku with Hot pepper and Tilapia.
AMOAFOWAA: Yummy. Any hobbies?
HIKMAT: I love reading and dancing to my favourite tunes while I am all alone.
AMOAFOWAA: Who can gain your respect?
HIKMAT: People who are true to themselves and live upright lives.
AMOAFOWAA: Hikmat, do you have political ambitions?
HIKMAT: Interesting! I believe I will serve in Ghana’s political space but at the appropriate time when my nation calls on me to serve and when Allah endorses that call. When I get to the Rubicon, I shall cross.
AMOAFOWAA: I can’t wait to see you there. Who is your favourite female politician in Ghana currently?
HIKMAT: I have great respect for our female politicians. It takes an X factor to be up and out there. I would not specifically point to one person. Let me just say, they are all my favourites.
AMOAFOWAA: If you are to sum Ghanaian politics in three sentences, what will it be?
HIKMAT: We have really produced more politicians than servant leaders for our political arena. I used to think people go into politics to serve but Ghana’s politics has taught me otherwise, it is a gold mine for people to enrich themselves. Every development effort has a political undertone and we progressively dance two steps forward and one step backward else we should have been like the Malaysia’s and the Singapore’s.
AMOAFOWAA: If you are to exchange the economy of Ghana with any other country, which country will it be and why?
HIKMAT: I love the rise of the Chinese economy especially from a more closed economy to a vibrant export driven economy. When a country begins to appreciate what it has and builds on it with a focus of being the best, nothing stops it. China has a combined strength in both manufacturing and services. Imagine Ghana developing our agricultural sector and being best at it. We would not only claim sufficiency, we will as well become an agriculture exporting hub.
AMOAFOWAA: Are you an NDC or NPP sympathiser?
HIKMAT: I am an issue based and politically expedient personality voter. But I simple cannot sympathize with a comic relief party. Ghana deserves a breed of serious politicians, let’s give it that respect. I hope that answers your question.
AMOAFOWAA: Hahahahhaha. It does, it so does. If you are to choose between “dumsor” and “no water” which will you choose and why?
HIKMAT: I will opt for “dumsor”. I cannot imagine my life with the hustle for water but I can live some days without electricity.
AMOAFOWAA: If I say marriage is a thin line between slavery for one side and partnership on the other, what will you say?
HIKMAT: Absolutely! There is cooperation like we do in partnerships but there is also inequality and sometimes one must just obey and we can all guess who that would be. In the end, someone has to be the owner of another unless they view each other as equals.
AMOAFOWAA: Who is your favourite singer in Ghana?
HIKMAT: The all in all talented and energetic WIYAALA. She is simply my Tina Turner.
AMOAFOWAA: Yes, she is great! How many Ghanaian languages do you speak?
HIKMAT: I speak two (2) native languages; Dagbani and Twi.
AMOAFOWAA: How many Northern dances can you perform?
HIKMAT: Hahahaaaaa…this is the point I definitely take a bow. But I can do some steps for some dances.
AMOAFOWAA: Any celebrity crushes?
HIKMAT: Yes oooooo but he is so long gone, MALCOM X.
AMOAFOWAA: Wow! He should have lived to see the hot, intelligent and world changing you. Too bad. Anyway, if you are to choose between queenship and presidency, which will you choose and why?
HIKMAT: I love the grace that comes along with queenship but I believe anyone can ascend to that height if you are in a royal line but with Presidency, you have to work hard for it and as a go-getter, I always place myself in a position of working hard to earn something. Thus, I will definitely go for Presidency.
AMOAFOWAA: What is your favourite television show in Ghana and why?
HIKMAT: “The StandPoint” because it highlights on critical issues previously shut by tradition, religion and culture. Thus, it gives both men and women that voice to speak out on previously tagged taboo subjects.
AMOAFOWAA: Are you single, attached or married?
HIKMAT: I am very much attached!!!
AMOAFOWAA: Who is the ideal man of Hikmat?
HIKMAT: A man, who loves, respects and reveres me. I am not seeking a perfect man so I am not after 10 on 10 but I will not settle on anything less either. And I must emphasize that, I do not entertain cheaters in my world; I will show you the exit.
AMOAFOWAA: You so share my thoughts. Now I want to go farming with you. The environment gives us a lot. We depend on it. But now you see beauty pageants, fashion shows, hailing of singers and stardom as few people struggle to farm. What is your impression on this?
HIKMAT: Popular entertainment is cool but not essential in a developing context. We complain of unemployment especially among young people because we have succeeded as a country in painting a picture not befitting our status. We portray a flashy lifestyle especially on T.V with more than necessary pageants and fashion shows, intoxicated music videos and lifestyles and we rarely focus on real development indicators such as agriculture. Observe how young people troop from northern Ghana in the name of seeking greener pastures down south while we are blessed with such abundant land we can utilize for farming. One of my Professors hinted that comparatively, what he earns from farming outweighs what he earns as a Professor. This land we are leaving untapped, this land we are running away from, this land we have become strangers to, needs us; we need to caress our land with our own hands.
AMOAFOWAA: So on point. Between your parents and lover, who will you die for? Who will you kill for? Who will you cry for and why?
HIKMAT: I could die for either a parent or my partner; if I am the one to save a life and I am in a situation of hardly living the next moment, I will gladly give my life to either of them needing it.
I do not think I will kill for anyone; I am not that brave. Seriously speaking, if I cannot create a life, why should I kill one?
I hardly cry but I believe I will cry for my Mama; only God knows the reason why I will cry for her and that’s our little secret.
AMOAFOWAA: Cool As a therapy in advice, who will you hug, slap, hold hands with, leave to be among these people and why:
- One crying over a cheating lover
- One crying over the death of a parent
- One who is crying because of a terminal illness?
- One who is crying because he or she was caught stealing?
I will slap the one crying over a cheating lover; what’s the point in crying over spilt milk, move on.
I will hold, hug the one crying over the death of a parent; everyone in that situation needs empathy.
I will hold hands with the one crying because of a terminal illness; there should always be that one person who cares and that’s a great sign of care.
I will leave the one crying because he or she was caught stealing; I have no business there. He/she is not guilty until proven otherwise. I will let the law deicide that.
AMOAFOWAA: Hikmat, you truly are a great thinker. Your advice to girls struggling to make it in life:
HIKMAT: Girls, no matter how things can get low, you have to keep moving. Let not being a girl deter you from achieving your dreams; let it be your motivation to rise. Create positive relationships, grow your network and let that little light of yours shine. It will amaze you to see the number of people sharing in the brightness of your light. Be strong and appreciate every individual in a positive sense. And always remember; you have more than a cooking gene.
AMOAFOWAA: Your advice to boys struggling to make it in life:
HIKMAT: As you are struggling, let it be genuine, positive, and fulfilling in the end. Patriarchy has not only offended girls; it has enslaved your egos as well; break free from it. Yearn to be successful but let that success be defined by dint of hard work and not through dubious means. And when you finally chose a partner, treat her as an equal, not a subordinate.
AMOAFOWAA: Now your final words to followers on amoafowaa.com
HIKMAT: I wake up every day asking myself one question; what is life’s value? Imagine you return to your maker today, what testimony would you have at hand? We are each blessed with an innate unique gift, find yours, utilize it and fill in that gap to make our world a better place. Life is too short to live not fulfilling what God sent you to do on earth. Return to him with hands empty of what he gave you but with hands full of what you gave to others because he sent you to fill a space in this world in order to make it complete so that He too can leave a space for you in His abode to make it complete.
AMOAFOWAA: Thank you for your time.
HIKMAT: A pleasure it was.
There is none I have seen
So free in a veil
None I have heard
So clear from a veil
None I have felt
So strong from a veil
Hikmat Baba Dua
Intelligence she flows
Illiteracy she blows
Unfairness she lows
As her light many tow
It is Hikmat
Hikmat Baba Dua
I call for blessing
Like a touch to lead in delight
To dress her like good clothes
To aid her in her quest
For hearts like hers
Rare in the bosom of mother Ghana
Whose females are wrapped in doomed taboos
Amoafowaa Sefa Cecilia © 2015