Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Politics in Ghana: Female political phobia, male resistance?

Politics in Ghana: Female political phobia, male resistance?

Daily Graphic, Tuesday, April 29, 2008. Page 11 (Women’s World)

Nana Oye Lithur (Women and the Law)

I was disappointed when Prof. John Evans Atta Mills did not select Mrs. Betty Mould-Iddrisu as his running mate for the 2008 presidential elections in Ghana.

I have personally and publicly endorsed three women leaders for the 2008 elections; Mrs. Betty Mould-Iddrisu, Hajia Alima Mahama, as running maters for Prof Atta Mills and Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo respectively, and Gloria Ofori Boadu to contest on the ticket of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) for the Abuakwa South Constituency.

I have endorsed them because they have a lot to offer Ghana in terms of their leadership skills, values, vision and commitment to working to build a better Ghana. Failing to include them in out political leadership at the topmost level will be a missed opportunity for Ghana.

Notwithstanding my disappointment after Prof. Mill’s failure ton nominate Aunty Betty, as we all call her, I believe she has taken the Ghana women movement’s call for greater voice and a more visible participation of women in Ghana politics a notch higher by her campaign and bid for the running mate slot of the National Democratic Congress (NDC).

With the demise of Hawa Yakubu, who would have been a perfect presidential candidate for the NPP, I thought all was lost, but Betty Mould-Iddrisu proved that all was not lost. I also agree with Doris Dartey that we Ghanaian women should aspire to greater heights the mundane running mates of ‘male presidential candidates.’

I am sure the current situation of female political phobia, male and or society’s resistance to seeing a female presidential candidate or running mate has occasioned the frequently asked question as whether Ghanaians are ready to vote for a female president. I will not provide an answer; I would like you to provide your own answers.

I, for my part, have been interrogating the statement by Elizabeth Stanton in 1848, adopted at the Weslyan Chapel, Seneca falls, about the truth of men and women being created equal.

I have also debunked the social liberalism theory of citizenship in liberal democracies that says equal and full citizenship for all adults exists within a territory and that with the disappearance of feudalism and slavery, and the inclusion of all adults in suffrage, political inequality has been eliminated.

I will repeat what W. Brown said, that ‘more than any other kind of human activity, politics has historically borne an explicitly masculine identity, and has been more exclusively limited to men than any realm of endeavour.’

With the prevalence of neo-patrimonial rule in Africa, Ghana included, and the opening up of political space in Ghana, I wonder why the Ghana Women’s Movement has not been assertive at claiming their portion of the political space. Our women’s movement has failed to provide one strong voice to call for inclusion of women in our political structures across party lines.

Despite the fact that those women’s groups are independent and have not been politicised, or constrained by government, we have failed to take advantage of our political context to demand policy changes and fight for greater political equality.

We succeeded in adopting the Women’s Manifesto and have been given our support to the Ministry of Women and Children Affairs but have stopped short at the door of Ghanaian politics, and have decided to remain apolitical; we have marginalised our leadership and voice preferring to focus on the ‘more family oriented’ issues of family planning, domestic violence, abortion, health, child care, etc. Why have we done so?

Women’s interest in politics has obviously increased. This is evident in the numbers that stood for local government elections, and that number s that have filed nominations to be selected as parliamentary candidates for the various political parties.

The challenge is that all these prospective female candidates need the strong wave of a unified women’s movement to push them forward. The women’s movement should be mobilising for political reform in Ghana, to create that voice and visibility on our political landscape for us.

We have a huge women’s movement in the church, and the mosques, they have focused heavily on religion, especially the Christian Women’s Movement preferring to pray and seek God’s intervention, they have successfully prayed for oil, prayed for restoration of electricity and are praying and fasting for good leaders.

They are good leaders and we want them on board. I am praying that Jesus speaks to them and they see the political light soon and the need to participate in politics.

Are there biblical teachings against participation of women in politics? Why are Christian Women groups failing to interrogate our politicians, and why do they stick to prayers and family matters? Jesus Christ is the most political anti-establishment personality I have read about, so were Mary Magdalene and Mary, the Virgin Mother. They used their religion and faith to make the world better, what about our Ghanaian Christian and Moslem sisters?

Reading a publication by Ali Mari Tripp on women and politics in Uganda, it is obvious that the Uganda women’s movement was able to assert itself because of the autonomy of the women’s organisations.

They benefited from a populist government that encouraged women’s participation. They also built a movement across ethnicity, religion and class. What have we, in the movement in Ghana done with our autonomy?

Male and societal resistance against a greater voice for women in political in Ghana will exist, but can be dismantled. The greater challenge for us is rather female phobia for politics, which the women’s movement in Ghana has to confront and address. Politics is not dirty, a critical voice in politics for women will help lift Africa and indeed Ghana out of the crisis we find ourselves.

The challenge is being thrown to the Women’s Movement in Ghana to stand up to the challenge, and to support our courageous women who have offered themselves to serve Ghana.

Anyway, where is and who is the Women’s Movement?

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