Sunday, August 31, 2008

Changing Portrayal of Women in Popular Music

‘Let’s have more positive lyrics about women’

Akofa Anyidoho and Nana Dansowaa Kena-Amoah

Daily Graphic, Saturday, August 30, 2008

Page 20, Entertainment

A forum dubbed The Reflection Workshop with Popular Artistes, which brought together researchers, popular artistes, disk jockeys and radio presenters to reflect on the messages encoded in popular song texts about women, was held at the Ellking Hotel in Accra on July 30th. The forum also sought to brainstorm alternative ways that women could be presented in popular music.

In attendance at the workshop which was facilitated by Prof. Akosua Anyidoho, the Director of NYU in Ghana, were RPC colleagues from Nigeria, Drs Bibi Bakare Yusuf and Charmaine Pereira, colleagues from Egypt, Drs Mona Ali Ibrahim and Sofa Rafaat, and from Ghana Prof. Takyiwaa Manuh, Drs Nana Akua Anyidoho and Sika Ahadzie. The project has also been working with the veteran musicologist Prof. John Collins. The musicians and radio presenters who attended the workshop included Mr. Gyedu Blay Ambolley, Mrs. Diana Hopeson, WunLov, DJ Abio, Nana Adjei Denkyebuor, Mr. Nii A. Dagadu, and Mr. Dennis Abieku.

The workshop was part of the research project, Changing Representations of Women in Popular Music, led by Prof. Akosua Adomako Ampofo, Head, Centre for Gender and Advocacy (CEGENSA) and Dr. Awo Mana Asiedu, Theatre Arts, both of the University of Ghana. This project is, in turn, part of larger research endeavour called, Pathways of Women’s Empowerment, involving an international consortium of researchers from academic institutions networking with women’s organisations, women’s rights groups and policy makers to examine and influence policy changes that affect women’s conceptions of empowerment, creating the framework for women in the public sphere and work and changing narratives of women’s sexualities. The Convenor of the West Africa Hub of the project is Prof. Takyiwa Manuh, the Director of the Institute of African Studies, University of Ghana, Legon.

Through an examination of the lyrics of some songs composed mainly by Ghanaian artistes, the participants found that the messages conveyed about women are often negative and tended to reinforce stereotypical societal perceptions of women. For example, they found that some of the songs focused on women’s bodies and portrayed them as sex objects, while others tended to portray women as fickle minded, unfaithful, money lovers, exploitative, competitive, gossips, submissive, jealous, etc.

The participants also found texts that portrayed positive images about women. For example, some of the texts reflected women as keepers of tradition and history, educators, counsellors, hardworking, virtuous, physically beautiful, virtuous, or as selfless and caring mothers/partners. Some of the lyrics on sexuality also portrayed positive notions of desire and female-male physical love. However, these positive representations in the collection of songs were by far fewer.

Discussing the negative representation of women in popular music, the resource person for the workshop, Prof. Akosua Anyidoho, stressed that such images might cause some girls and women to believe that those portrayals are what society expects of them, and they may fail to develop their potentials. She noted that popular music is a very powerful medium for (re)enforcing and dictating what is in vogue/fashionable or acceptable to society. Both the youth and adults look to popular music for relaxation and entertainment. The songs are played on radio and television, and in the latter case typically accompanied by musical videos which often depict women’s bodies through dance (often quite provocative).

Daily we hear music, booming from shops, restaurants, taxis, buses, lorries, etc. Social gatherings such as marriage ceremonies, naming ceremonies, funerals, commissioning of projects, etc. are deemed dull without music. Thus, the whole society, both young and old, is exposed to the songs and the messages musicians convey. The lyrics are repeated in daily conversations, and even children are heard repeating them during their play time in the streets, at school, or at home.

Based on the foregoing, the participants considered alternative representations of women. The artistes and the radio presenters agreed they needed to expose the public to songs that do not stereotype women. According to Diana Hopeson, President of Musicians Union of Ghana (MUSIGA), most songs about women are composed by men. She suggested therefore that women needed to be encouraged and supported to sing about themselves. There were calls to involve female musicians in setting new standards: to write alternative songs texts about themselves.

*** Editorial changes have been made to the original publication that was made in the Daily Graphic, as boldened in the article.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Making aid relevant to gender-equality

Making aid relevant to gender-equality
-The EC/UN Partnership
Daily Graphic, Tuesday, August 19, 2008. Page 11 (Gender and Children)
Salome Donkor

Between September 2 and 4 this year, ministers from over 100 countries and heads of bilateral and multilateral development agencies, donor organisations, and civil society organisations from around the world will assemble in Accra for the third High-Level Forum on aid effectiveness.

The conference is being held in recognition of the need to reform the process of development assistance to make it more responsive to the needs of developing countries and marginalised people in their fight against poverty by making aid more transparent, accountable and results-oriented.

The move towards a more equitable and gender responsiveness in the aid agenda over the years resulted in a conscious effort by the international community to reform the ways through which aid is delivered and managed.

They recognised that while the volumes of aid and other development resources must increase to achieve these goals, aid effectiveness must increase significantly, as well as support partner country efforts to strengthen governance and improve development performance. This is aimed at increasing the impact of aid in reducing poverty and inequality, increasing growth, building capacity and accelerating the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

The commitment to achieve improved aid effectiveness and results was concretised in the late 1990s, when donors/aid agencies, in particular, began working with each other, and with partner countries, to harmonise these approaches and requirements.

The movement picked up steam in 2002 at the International Conference on Financing for Development in Monterrey, Mexico, and the last five years have been marked by a number of initiatives towards establishing a new aid architecture.

This culminated in a High-Level Forum on Harmonisation in Paris in March 2005, attended by heads of multilateral and bilateral development institutions, who resolved to take positive steps to reform ways to aid delivery and management.

The High-Level Forum followed up on the adoption of a Declaration that has come to be known as the Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness. The declaration is grounded on five mutually reinforcing principles: Ownership, alignment, harmonisation, managing for results and mutual accountability.

As part of a programme to enhance the knowledge of the media in understanding the issues concerned with aid effectiveness, the European Commission (EC), the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), and the International Training Centre of the International Labour Organisation (ITC-ILO) have launched the EC/UN Partnership on Gender Equality for Development and Peace. The partnership is to support stronger action on gender equality and women’s human rights in national development process and in co-operation programmes supported by the EC.

Consequently, a one-day training workshop was organised for journalists in Accra, to provide the opportunity for participants to interact and share ideas on international aid and development issues and to break down the technical terms of the Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness.

The participants, made up of representatives from both the print and electronic media, maintained that no country could attain accelerated development if a segment of the population was not involved in the planning and implementation of the development process. They said it was necessary to ensure that women, who constitute more than half of the population of a number of countries, were involved in development plans, while aid was implemented to meet the different needs of men, women, children and people with special needs.

Ms Afua B. Ansere, the National Programme Co-ordinator UNIFEM said aid effectiveness would be attained if monies flowing into a country as aid were more co-ordinated and used for the intended purpose, while recipients were more accountable for the aid received.

She said for Ghana to attain a middle-income status by 2015, and to make aid effectiveness more relevance to the country, it was important to link the international aid received by the country to gender equality and women empowerment, while looking at the proportion of money that was channeled into health, education and youth training, as well as reproductive health and maternal health care, water and sanitation and the provision of other social services.

Mrs Charity Binka, a member of the EC/UN Partnership, who made a presentation on the concepts of gender equality and women empowerment, said basically women were seen to perform reproductive roles, while men performed productive roles. She, however, indicated that gender was not a consequence of sex and did not mean that one group was better than the other, adding that “it involves the roles that we play in our homes, the society, the church and in our communities”. She said gender equality meant that men and women had the same rights, status and fair treatment regardless of their sex.

The Accra forum will among others review progress in improving aid effectiveness, broaden the dialogue to newer actors and chart a course for continuing international action on aid effectiveness.

The conference will conclude high-level discussions and negotiations around key issues, culminating in the endorsement of a ministerial statement — The Accra Agenda for Action — that aims to deepen implementation of the Paris Declaration.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Enhancing the status of Women

Enhancing the status of Women
-Ghana’s efforts over the years
Daily Graphic, Thursday, August 7, 2008. Page 11 (Gender and Children)
Salome Donkor

THE launch of the 3rd, 4th and 5th Combined Reports on Convention for the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), in Accra, recently provided a forum for the enumeration of measures taken over the years to eliminate all forms of discrimination against women in the country.

The reports cover the period 1993 to 2003 and highlight progress made over the decade in achieving gender equality, as well as challenges and efforts being made by the government towards the realisation of women’s empowerment, equality, equity and sustainable development. It is being disseminated to all stakeholders who have a role in the implementation of the Convention.

The first section of the reports provides an update on Ghana’s socio-economic and political environment. It also discusses the position and status of women in Ghana since the submission of the first and second reports in 1991 and 1992, respectively.

The reports further evaluates what was achieved with regards to the implementation of the “ Nairobi Forward Looking Strategies for Promoting the Advancement of Women”, and “ The Platform For Action” adopted after the Beijing Conference.

The Ministry of Women and Children’s Affairs (MOWAC) submitted the combined report, which was considered by the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of all forms of discrimination against women in August 2006.

State parties are enjoined under provisions of CEDAW to submit periodic reports to the committee on the elimination of discrimination against women and the three reports provided additional information on questions and issues raised in the report and offers a lot of issues for discussion.

The compilation of the report and other related documents of Ghana’s implementation of CEDAW has been made possible through the support and inputs from ministries, departments and agencies and civil society organisations in conjunction with development partners namely, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), United Nations Fund for Population Activities (UNFPA) and United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) which provided financial and administrative support.

The 1992 Constitution of Ghana provides a framework for equality of all persons and outlaws discrimination on the basis of gender/sex. It promises to protect and promote all human rights and also prohibits all harmful customary practices.

Chapter 5 of the constitution deals with fundamental human rights and freedoms which conform to the international human rights framework. In addition, to the rights accorded to all persons, articles 22 and 27 deal specifically with women’s rights.

The Minister for Women and Children Affairs (MOWAC), Hajia Alima Mahama rightly pointed out during the launch of the reports that Ghana has made giant strides in the fulfilment of its national, regional and international commitment adding that Ghana demonstrated its commitment and political will by not only signing the convention, but also through the implementation of various strategies with the view of empowering women.

She was reported to have observed that the government and the people of Ghana had demonstrated their commitment to the tenets of the convention by ensuring that the Constitution and other policies and legislation were consistent with CEDAW.

She said sections of the 1992 Constitution, which guaranteed the fundamental human rights of every Ghanaian irrespective of race, place of origin, gender and freedom from discrimination, which she said were conformity with provisions of CEDAW.

In addition to these, the setting up of the National Council on Women and Development, now the Department of Women, after the 1975 Conference on Women, as a national machinery for women, the Ministry of Women and Children’s Affairs in 2001 with a cabinet status, the passage of the Domestic Violence Bill and the setting up of the Women and Juvenile Unit, now the Domestic Violence and victims Support Unit of the Ghana Police Service, are all positive steps adopted over the past decade to enhance the status of women.

The report points to progress made in women’s health, education and economic empowerment, covering the period under review during which Ghana has seen three consecutive terms of constitutional rule. Despite these achievements the reports assert that some challenges remain in the area of politics, administration and medium and large-scale industrial development, while the percentage of illiterate women remains high, as compared to men.

Although some harmful traditional practices, such as widowhood rites and female genital mutilation have been criminalised under the Criminal Code Amendment Act 1998 (Act 554), women are still a long way from achieving equality and these practices persist in some communities due to existing stereotyped conceptions of women caused by socio-cultural factors which perpetuate discrimination based on sex.

For instance the reports mention that one of the thorny issues that needs to be dealt with is polygamy, which it said was an entrenched socio-cultural and religious practice that remained a big challenge to legislators and policy makers.

Nana Oye Lithur, the African Regional Co-ordinator of the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHI) said polygamy was still an issue and explained that sometimes it was difficult to determine who was the wife in a polygamous marriage after the husband with multiple wives, died intestate. She said that also raised a lot of issues in relation to property rights. Nana Oye also said although there had been a lot of interventions since 2006 when the reports were submitted, to address issues of maternal health, mentioning, the National Health Insurance Scheme and the recent introduction of free medical care for pregnant women, the issue of unsafe abortion was still outstanding.

She said people needed to be informed and provided with a comprehensive care to ensure that those who qualified under the law, had safe abortion.

She also mentioned the issue of witch camps in some parts of the country and explained that although it had traditional ramifications, efforts must be made to ensure that women perceived as witches, enjoyed their fundamental human rights, stipulated under the constitution.

Ms Gloria Ofori Boadu, President of the Women Assistance and Business Association (WABA) pointed out that women must be sensitised to encourage and support fellow women who aspire for positions in decision-making.

Ms Ofori Boadu, who contested and lost the Abuakwa South Constituency primaries on the ticket of the New Patriotic Party, indicated that although there were no laws in Ghana that bar women from participating in politics or in other areas of economic and social life;the cultural perception of women as inferior to men has been a major hinderance to women in politics and public life.

She said after all these years of advocacy, it was unfortunate for some people to think that women who got to decision-making positions would relegate their traditional roles to the background.She said there was still the need for increased women’s participation in decision-making at the district level, ministries, department and agencies since they formed about 52 per cent of the country’s population.

The reports also mentioned financial constraints to ensure wide publicity of the convention, for example, translation of articles of the convention into local dialects and incorporation of articles on the convention into the laws of Ghana.

They therefore stressed on the need for all stakeholders, as well as the international community to do more to support the implementation of all articles of the convention to enable the nation achieve the aspirations of gender equality, development and peace.

Promote Women’s role in Politics

Promote Women’s role in Politics
Daily Graphic, Thursday, August 7, 2008. Page 23
Daniel Nkrumah

The Director of the West Africa Regional Office of ABANTUA for Development, Dr Rose Mensah-Kutin, has urged political parties to play an active role to promote affirmative action policies to increase women’s involvement in politics.

She said by virtue of the fact that political parties had control over nomination processes, it was critical that such a request was put on their doorstep.

In a presentation at the Third Daily Graphic Governance Dialogue, Dr. Mensah-Kutin noted the low level of women representation in Parliament had been identifies as having implications for their well being and their ability to change the culture, practices and outcomes of politics of the country.

“The evidence seems to suggest that even tough civil society organisations are pushing the political parties to focus on the real issues confronting this nation, it does not seem that a gender responsive politics of inclusion, with all the complexities is emerging,” she stated.

She added that in as much as there had been enhanced awareness and discussions of issues of women participation in politics, the political landscape still does not seem to be moving in the direction where concrete actions were being put in place to guarantee that “critical mass” in the political space.

“It is a fact that active presence in terms of numbers may not necessarily transform national politics. But evidence from other countries shows that it can enhance the visibility of women as a minimum condition for addressing gender-power relations within the public decision-making processes over a period of time,” she noted.

She added that the move towards a more equitable and gender responsive governance system had to consciously involved women at all levels.

Dr. Mensah-Kutin stated that the continuous engagement with social, political and economic decision making was critical in deepening the direct link between gender and democratic governance.

She noted that although there had been significant changes in family relations, education, work and status, the lot of women had not changed.

She said women in the country continued to face discriminatory practices, in sufficient access to land, and control of resource such as land, capital and technology.

She added that other issues of concern were the treatment of women by the media in terms of ideology, representation and participation; the negative impacts of conflicts on their well being; the incidence of gender violence and the lack of sufficient financial support and commitment for the promotion of gender equality.

“We therefore need to commit to looking at our governance system and how it can be transformed to benefit both women and men on an equitable basis,” she stated.

She said there was also the need to support women who were active in politics and work with political parties “to promote a transformatory agenda that questions patriarchal authority, promotes women’s rights and moves toward the vision that builds solidarity and also mobilises and advances a gender responsive and inclusive democratic system.”