Saturday, April 12, 2008

No Woman Should be a running mate

There has been much debate, numerous discussions in the media by politicians, socio-political commentators and analysts about the issue of the running mates of the various flag-bearers being female. There are ethnic and religious implications in these discussions as well. Various women groups and individuals have also expressed their stance, most of which are advocating for female running mates. Doris Dartey fiercely goes against the tide in her article below:

No Woman Should be a running mate

The Spectator, Saturday, April 12, 2008, Page 24

Doris Dartey-The WatchWoman

True: you can enter a house either through the main/front door, if you are bold; or out of cowardice, sneak in through the side/back door or the window. In the matter of women and the presidency of Ghana, it appears that the entry point this year is shaping out to be the window or the side/back door; the running mate route. This sneaky strategy amounts to cheating the system by taking undue advantage of one’s gender, clearly, a non-occupational characteristic.

For that reason, no women should be running mate of any political party’s flag-bearer for election 2008! If no female was ready to run for president, then by extension, Ghana is not ready for a female vice president. The presidency of the country is too important to allow a member of any minority group, including women, to sneak in through the affirmative action door/window. Please hear me out because even a broken clock is right twice a day. I am pro-women, pro-man and especially, pro-human.

Without a doubt, there are women of substance in this country who are qualified, capable and visible to be President. Granted, there are very few of such but we do have some. However, in the past two years when flag-bearership campaigns gathered wild storm, females were no-shows. This country when through a period of high national drama of competitive bidding for the highest office of the land and women were conspicuously absent. We dodged, sat on the sidelines, chickened out.

Suddenly, after the fact, after the rough-and-tumble thunder and slashing lightning, after the hard-hitting tropical rain-after the competition has long died down-women a re now posturing and/or being courted as possible running mates of flag-bearers. It is as if we so badly need a goddess to decorate the presidency by giving it a touch of femininity. What kind of message does this strategy send to young women for whom our senior female leaders are role models? “Don’t aspire to the highest. Just wait around and you gender will earn you pity and opportunities,” we seem to be saying. This implies that good things will be delivered to females on a silver platter, just because…… For how long will this era of tokenism last?

Names including Oboshie Sai-Cofie, Hajia Alima Mahama and Agnes Chigabatia continue to float onto the surface foe consideration as running mates. Betty Mould-Iddrisu just lost her highly-publicized bid. Where were these women during the competitive flag-bearership campaigns?

The highest level of affirmative action arguments suggests that we are better off if we select a female Muslim from the north. On a lower level of interpretation, this implies that anyone in skirt who prays ‘Assalamu alaikum’ (peace be unto you) and who, through sheer accident of birth was born to parents from anywhere above the Ashanti Region qualifies the most to be vice president. Ridiculous! The pool to draw from in this category is rather small.

So by this warped logic of selection, Hajia Alima Mahama, a female Muslim from Walewale qualifies superbly! By virtue of her position as the Minister of Women and Children (perfecto), she is the recipient of lots of media mentions. This makes her a ready-made candidate for Vice-Presidents? Yea, right! Again, non-occupational characteristics seem to give her additional weighing.

Some of these women may be superbly (or even more) qualified like/than the male flag-bearers they are postured to mate-run with. Yet, the women seem to prefer to take the ‘lungu-lungu’ route to presidency by simply latching on to a man who has sweated for election as flag-bearer. If care is not taken, we would trivializes the vice-presidential candidacy at the glorious altar of estrogen via tired uterus and fully developed breasts.

Meanwhile, the lack of clarity in the functional role of the vice president in our body politic continues to rage on, unresolved. Why therefore would any women want to be a running mate and become a vice president? Ceremonial privileges?

I am for affirmative action that is aimed at encouraging females, regional minorities, physically challenged as well as other minorities and the disenfranchised in society to become all they can be. But I do not consider the position of the second highest office of the land as an affirmative action preserve. If we insist on extending this logic, then there are also people of substance in wheel chairs who could be running mate candidates. Shouldn’t we then argue for balance in physical handicap representation?

Such estrogen-laden logic pretends as if wee need a female running mate for the same reason a president needs a wife (or concubine!). If this is the way we desire to carry on, then the wife of the president-his mate (or concubine!) might just as well play the role of vice president. By default, woe unto us if anything (death) knocks on the door of the President. This country could by default end up in the tender bosoms and laps of a female president who is not material for the presidency and has never desired or even distantly dreamt of becoming a president.

The motives for campaigning for women as running mates are manipulative (but then politics is manipulative!). I just don’t want the female gender to be placed at the centre of this manipulative campaign because it weakens the cause of women by belittling us. It is as if some people are saying: ‘The presidency will look pretty with a lush touch of lipstick!’ I’ve heard comments like “oh, at least it will be a start for women to move up.”

Let the truth be told: One of the motives for desperately pushing women to the surface as running mates is clearly to win the votes of women and pro-women men. But then, who says as a woman, I’ll cast my vote for a certain political party in sheer estrogen solidarity? This argument is an insult to the intelligence of women and all those who loves us.

When Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf of Liberia wanted to be president, she campaigned for it. And now, Hilary Clinton is on her feet, day and night, campaigning and competing with men for the presidency of USA. Other women throughout history had risen to lead. In Ghana’s own history of yesteryears, Yaa Asantewaa emerged to lead men into war and her exemplary story is woven into the beautiful tapestry of Ghana’s history. These women used the main/front door. So come in Ghana 2008, some women want to sneak into presidency through the back/side door?

2012 and 2016 are just round the corner. Qualified women should brace themselves up with the firmest braziers, step high on some classy high-heeled shoes and spot fashionable kaba/slit to life up the female gender in Ghana by running for President. Women don’t have to wait on the sidelines so gender mainstreaming would get us into presidency of Ghana. I pray that a woman becomes the president of Ghana in my lifetime. But she must enter through the front door and not through a sorry affirmative action back/side door!

1 comment:

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