Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Launch of Winning Songs: Changing Representations of Women in Popular Music

Launch of Winning Songs: Changing Representations of Women in Popular Music
Alison Roadburg*

On Saturday, 21st November 2009 the Launch of Winning Songs: Changing Representations of Women in Popular Music event was held at Alisa Hotel, Accra. This event was sponsored by the Pathways of Women’s Empowerment Research Project Consortium (RPC), West Africa Hub of the Center for Gender Studies and Advocacy (CEGENSA), and the University of Ghana. The purpose of the event was to share the three winning songs from a contest launched in April with the public. The competition looked for song entries that counter the stereotypical roles in which women are seen in the popular music industry. (Left to right: Dr Awo Asiedu, Kwabena Quaku and Prof. Akosua Adomako Ampofo. Photo Credits: Akofa A. Anyidoho)

Today, there are many songs that objectify women sexually, and that reinforce the need to be submissive, or that place them solely in the domestic sphere. The reality is that women have many characteristics, talents and responsibilities that are often ignored. Since the media and popular culture play such a large and influential role in our lives, we need to use these vehicles to transform the negative images and depictions of women. The Women in Popular Music project of the West Africa RPC launched the contest to catalyze such transformation.

After assessing the 26 submissions including 2 by women, a judging committee of 9 people from varying backgrounds and expertise chose the winning three songs based on a set of criteria that captured the lyrical strength, musical quality and innovation. Kwabena Quaku’s ‘As Long As You Are a Woman’, won the first place prize, Osei Korankye’s song, ‘Emmaa Mmo’ came in second and Born Africans, ‘Equal Rights’ was adjudged third. All artists were awarded a recording of their song, and the winner, Kwabena Quaku was also granted a music video.

The launch was informative, moving and inspiring. Ms. Jessica Opare-Saforo, from Citi FM was the MC for the event and she eloquently introduced the performers and various speakers.

(Jessica Opare-Saforo introduces Bibi Brew; Photo Credits- Geoffrey Buta)

The Pro-Vice Chancellor of the University of Ghana, Professor Kwesi Yankah made some comments about the way in which women are represented in popular culture and noted the importance of the University coming into town and linking up with those on the ground in their research.

Professor Takyiwaa Manuh, the Convener of the West Africa Hub of Pathways of Women’s Empowerment RPC, introduced project to the gathering. She explained that it is a under a five year contract sponsored by the UK Department for International Development and the Norwegian Foreign Affairs ministry which seeks to explore the complex pathways that women around the world have traveled to empower themselves. (Prof. Takyiwaa Manuh, speaking about Pathways WE RPC at the event the Photo Creidts: Kwabena Danso)

Professor Akosua Adomako Ampofo, the head of CEGENSA introduced the Centre, explaining its mandate, areas of specialty and functions at the University of Ghana. She explained the purpose of the Popular Music Project highlighting the importance of the song competition. She drew on some artists, such as Miriam Makeba and Bono from U2 as socially conscious messages, as well as successful musicians.

Two students from the University of Ghana recited poetry on women’s empowerment and another student from SOS Hermann Gmeiner International College sang a song titled, “Amazing.” Ms. Bibie Brew, a veteran musician, excited the audience with strong rendition of some popular old tunes.

The evening continued with the performance of all three songs as well as Kwabena Quaku’s song video. ‘As Long As You Are a Woman’ highlights influential and prominent female figures who are appreciated members of society because of their work and expertise--not their bodies. The audience surely felt the energy from all of the performances, and many left their seats to dance!

(Kwabena Quaku singing "As Long as You are a Woman" at the Event)
(Photo Credits: Geoffrey Buta)

Pathways and CEGENSA is bringing about change. The time has come to look at the messages that are being spread in today’s popular music and to look closely at how these differ from reality!! ‘The Launch of Winning Songs: Changing Representations of Women in popular Music’, was a gateway to this change, but it should not stop there. We need to facilitate the composition of songs that positively reflect women and their diverse roles in society.

(Dancing to old tune renditions by Bibi Brew; Photo Credits; Geoffrey Buta)

(The Ghana Dance Ensemble dancing 'Adowa,' a local dance of the Akans.)

*Alison Roadburg is a recent graduate of McGill University, Canada and is research intern at The Center for Gender Studies and Advocacy (CEGENSA) at the University of Ghana, Legon.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009


Following the horrid news report on the alleged rape of girls in Nalerigu, in the northern parts of Ghana by some soldiers, NETRIGHT issued a statement to the press about these atrocities. Permission has been sought to share the press statement on this blog. Please read below:


C/O Third World Network-Africa
P. O. Box 19452, Accra-North
Tel: 233 21 511189/500419/503669
Fax: 233 21 511188
Mobilising for Women’s Rights in Ghana


The Network for Women’s Rights in Ghana (NETRIGHT) is deeply disturbed by the alleged gang rape of four girls, aged between 15 and 17 at Nalerigu in the Northern Region by a number of solders and policemen who are said to have been deployed there to quell a public disorder. The story as reported on Joy FM on November 25, 2009 and also in the Daily Guide of November 26, 2009 comes in the wake of several other stories in the media about women and girls who have been subjected to a wide range of sexual violence including gang rape, beatings, torture with the possible threat of HIV infection. Such victims have sustained severe physical and emotional trauma and humiliation. Clearly we are living through a plague of brutal violence directed at women and girls with rape being used as a weapon of intimidation to instill fear in women and girls, in our families and our communities.

NETRIGHT is therefore using this platform to condemn this pattern of horrendous rape because violence is a wrong choice and as the evidence shows, sexual violence can transmit the AIDS virus. Thus for the girls who have suffered this brutal and unacceptable treatment, there is a double jeopardy: first they have been raped, and then there is the possibility of their contracting HIV/AIDS. What this pattern of behaviour shows is that violence against women and girls continue unabated in our country as we hear a story of rape or defilement almost every day. In this latest wave of violence, what is even more worrying is the link of rape with torture. In this particular story, one of the girls has alleged that she was tortured while being raped. Thus, the reality of this situation is that the girls – the victims – are definitely terrified, in tears, with broken relationships, liable to be stigmatized in their communities, and the attendant ill- health and psychological damage to them is extensive and irreparable.
The men who have committed this crime belong in prison. But NETRIGHT is concerned that vested interests will once again ensure the denial of justice to these young girls in the attempt to protect the perpetrators who are alleged to belong to powerful institutions such as the military and the police. We therefore urge civil society and women’s groups to condemn this rape and to demand justice.

We therefore demand:
* The safety and security of the girls and their families to be ensured;
* The victims and their families be allowed to exercise their fundamental rights of legal counsel of their own choosing in all proceedings related to the case;
* To be provided all medical care required for their well-being
* To interact freely with women’s rights and human rights organisations
* An inquiry to be held to establish why the military and the police went to that particular house where the girls live
* All proceedings to be made transparent, allowing observers from women’s rights and human rights organisations and doctors’ associations;
* The names of the perpetrators be made public and those of the victims protected;
* Those who obstruct justice to be apprehended and prosecuted under the law.

NETRIGHT insists that the military and the police are supposed to protect women and men in the society. However in many situations such as this, gender-based violence is overlooked, often due to the lack of implementation of existing legislation or by its being seen as a private matter. Implementation and enforcement of legislation is vital but it is also necessary to put a stop to laws that emphasise family reunification over the rights of women and girls. The government has a responsibility to intervene when there is systematic and widespread gender-based violence. By identifying violence against women as a national security threat, it increases the chances of preventing wider conflicts at an early stage.

NETRIGHT also has the conviction that gender-equal participation at all levels of society is key in order to assure women and girls’ security. We would therefore like to reaffirm our support for the United Nations Security Council Resolutions 1325 and 1820 on Women, Peace and Security, and Ghana’s Domestic Violence Law (Act 732) and call for their full and immediate implementation to benefit women and girls.

Issued this day, November 27, 2009 at Accra.

Dr Rose Mensah-Kutin