Humans are known to be political animals. The saying did not exclude women from this saying but in Africa, reality speaks volumes of backing the notion that “men are the real political animals”, talking about men, not the Biblical ‘men’ where women are included, just the men in the gender state. It is sad to strike a percentage of women to men in the political system in Africa. Liberia’s Johnson is a rare find in what seems to be the ‘gravels to hold the mud’; the gravels- few educated women, mud; the many semi-literate and uneducated women. Felicitations to Uganda efforts in this matter but is it enough? For a continent whose women suffer in all aspects than men, it is a big shame.
Men have many choices which women do not have. The less said about derogatory utterances by some prominent people of the land, the better. Need I mention Nigeria’s leading man’s famous statement of his wife’s foremost responsibilities being to take care of all his rooms with the exception of a board room? A man can have as many wives as he wants, thanks to polygamy. When men take on more wives, they are at liberty to shed their responsibilities; they could care less about what the children will eat, their school fees, shelter, to mention but a few. It would be up to the woman to fend for the children. For such beings who everything affect, from educational policies to inflation to increment in utility bills to legislative laws, it does not make sense that only few are involved in governance. Now let me narrow down to my country Ghana.
It is on record that, of the 275 parliamentarians, only 29 are women, that is, 21.8% representation of women, who constitute 49.1% of the country’s population according to http://countrymeters.info/en/Ghana, as of the time of this writing. Remember, women might be more considering many are born without proper documentation and censuses always have their flaws. As of January 2016, http://www.ghananewsagency.org/features/election-2016-is-ghana-missing-the-gender-equity-boat–99943 reported that out of the 18,938 slots for the District Assembly seats, 17, 783 men contested as against 1,155 and less than half of the 1,155 women were elected.
What are the problems hindering the participation of women in the political system? Surely it is not a matter of competence. I believe the first factor is lack of confidence. Many women are bred on the proverb that “if a woman buys a gun, it lies on the chest of a man” and “no matter how high a woman rises, her place is in the kitchen of man”. Most women grow to accept these proverbs and live by them, making sure they kill their ambitions before they acquire the necessary qualifications to aspire higher. I will say, if a woman buys a gun which automatically becomes the property of a man, there are so many interpretations to it, the man can either be a guard to protect her from harm as she lives to bless him with prestige or the man can use it to kill her ambitions. It is sad to know that most men choose the latter on this African Continent. For the second proverb, I admire the bravery of men, men who know those who hold their stomachs and still enslave them! Can’t food be medicine and at the same time poison? Will it not be better, if better informed heads and hands grace your kitchen to prepare you the best foods there are? Why do men always seek the difficult ways out?
There is also the matter of ego in political parties and electorate. Most political parties believe women are only good for the position of “Women’s Organisers”. How sad! A woman cannot dare to compete with men even through the primaries, let alone get through to stand to be elected. I believe affirmative action helped women to get to the 21.8% mark but is it not embarrassing? When there are competent women who can go against men, matching them in debates and all that are needed to call for votes of electorate? Funny enough, Hillary Clinton’s loss might even destroy the little hope we have of women getting equal representation in politics in Ghana. The many tongues wagging “if even the United States of America failed to vote for Hillary, knowing fully well that she was a better option, partly based on the fact that she is female, why will a Ghanaian man, who is a man, vote for a woman?” What is more painful is the addition “stop deceiving yourselves, women can never and will never be at par with men where politics and for that matter, important decisions of the world is concerned”. Personally, I have heard so many of these statements from my peers, educated as they are, that I feel it is fast becoming a “men anthem”
Can corruption be left out? It is a fact that women, when given the chance to govern, do so with little or no corruption, but politics even at the grass root needs a corrupt person. A person who has political ambition needs to win the trust of foot soldiers, chiefs, party members and finally the electorate. All these people need favours ranging from financial (paying upfront) to contractual (future payment mostly through MOUs), rumours have it. So only the rich can afford to venture into politics, and let us face facts, how many women in Ghana have the wealth to challenge? Let us not forget that for most, the fact that your husband is rich does not make you rich, he might choose to buy anything you need to make you the trophy he needs as a decoration but will not help you grow higher than he is (chance mostly taught of as grounds for disrespect). What is a woman to do?
Is the media helping? Little mistakes by women in power are made ‘gargantuan’ for lack of a better word, working further to destroy the little thoughts which support women in power. Statements like “leave them, you know how women are, they become unbearable immediately they are pushed into high positions” also do not help. Six months ago, I had the opportunity of joining a friend in a gathering in one of the small villages in the Upper West. They called it a community meeting. Apart from three facilitators, including myself, who were ladies, all the people who were supposedly the representation of the village were men. The complaints of their failing educational system were blamed mostly on women who they claimed “left their positions because of pregnancies and births, are lazy and could not teach properly and are gossips so leave their jobs for the activity during classes hours” I specifically asked them if only women were the teacher of the village school and they were able to tell me less than 20% of the teachers were women. Asked to whether they have tried cautioning and querying them, silence was the answer. I could see most of the eyes of the men moving round and round as I spoke without fear and intimidation. My advice was clear, stop blaming women for the problems of this community, childbirth is natural and there are measures for them in the Ghana Education Service. If community leaders do not give women the vote of confidence and go on to always pour their negative thoughts on them, which woman will have the confidence to aspire for political power?
Believe it or not, there are women in Ghana who believe women are not fit to be in power, talk less of they aspiring. Some women do not know their rights let alone fight for them. As a woman who was told by some men in my current station (Northern Region) when I first came here to teach six years ago, that “a woman’s voice must not be heard by men except her husband” and was advised to transfer to a girl’s school so as to “stop causing some big boys in some classes to sin”, I believe I need not say more. If these men have women, and yes they do, of course, will they not have the same opinion or be made to believe it considering the fact that a quotation from a holy book backed the claim?
I could go on and on and on, the bottom line is, I call on the world to see women as the powerful beings they are, that is not to say that men are powerless. I call on women to learn to support their fellow women; “single brooms break easily”. I call on fellow educated women to educate their uneducated peers on their rights and low representation of women in key positions and its effects, I call on Ghanaians to vote for their competent women candidates. A journey of a billion miles, even a ‘zillion’ miles, still starts with a step.
(Photo Credit: Zaa Radio 99.3 FM)