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Credit : Nyani Quarmyne

On Friday 13th December at 16:00 – 17:00 GMT, join @awdf01 the twitter handle for the African Women’s Development Fund, (AWDF) for a twitter conversation on African philanthropy with @TheoSowa , AWDF’s Chief Executive Officer and Chair of the African Grantmakers Network (AGN). Let’s talk about African philanthropy, how we give back, build communities, and strengthen institutions. Let’s talk about women in philanthropy. Let’s talk about African grant makers.

Join us in this conversation by tweeting your questions on Friday 13th December, 16:00-17:00 GMT to @awdf01.

Share your thoughts on African philanthropy with the hashtag #AWDFChat

 

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This post is part of Blu’s LiveBlu Forum, a social commentary on work-life balance in Ghana. Join the discussion at: http://blughana.wordpress.com/ #LiveBlu #BeLieveUme or sign up here to try turbo-charged internet powered by Blu.

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General Declaration
First of all I want to state that I admit there indeed are more men in influential positions than there are women. I admit some irresponsible men treat men as though they were second-class humans, and above all, I do admit history has not been fair to my great-grand mother and yes, the bible which happens to be the most influential book today, was written with a male-bias handwriting (due to the Jewish traditions and focus then). I side with many other women who push for a world which should be blind to gender and who put in effort to make sure there are EQUAL opportunities available to men and women. Am I a feminist if I believe in the above? No!! This is because many, if not all feminism groups have strayed away from the cause to create an equal playing field into what I now term as a neo-nepotistic agenda seeking group. Below are the reason why I do not support today’s feminist groups.

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The Elitist Advantage ;Interventions in the form of affirmative actions and quota systems have been instituted for years (surprisingly by learned authorities) to bridge the gap between men and women in academia, however the gap still exists. This is because some of these interventions are snatched by privileged women who with little effort could have gotten access to such resources anyways. Have you ever heard of a quota for Kayayes in University of Ghana for them to study IT or a course which will give them some economic advantage? No! It is still accessed by the class of ladies who attended advantaged schools in Ghana but fell below the qualification score by a point or two. Such candidates still get into Uni through affirmative action policies or some kind of intervention, leaving behind the lady who attended senior high school in a village with no lights and/or water. I see and hear some of these interventions every now and then, and do you know who goes on to apply for such programs? The very women who drive in their own cars, or are being driven, the women who own their own companies and are thinking about starting their third one. Such interventions keep going to the women who are still privileged. And they are the ones who will push for such interventions because they benefit more, and that is why some of them support feminism, not necessarily because they are interested in travelling to the country side to visit widows suffering from archaic cultural norms which prevent them from meeting their goals. They keep accessing the programs which will get them to fly first class to New York and speak in 5 star hotels. That will definitely not bridge the gap! It only makes sure the advantaged women stay advantaged!

Contradictions : Have a chat with two or more self-declared feminists and you will see contradictions echoing through their claims. One group claims Feminisms is not just a fight for women, but men as well. Oh really? FEMinism. Perhaps I missed some French lessons in school, but as far as I know, the word FEMME, is more feminine than Unisex, so why not change the name of the cause? Another group even claims other Feminist groups are NOT Feminists! For the love of God, is it too hard to get a clear definition for Feminism? It is not uncommon to see some of the supporters of feminism holding on to their own personal definition. With such definition difficulties, it is just hard to be part of such a group! It is just too hard! One main theme which runs through their seemingly contradictory explanations though is the push against a Patriarchy world. As I mentioned earlier, I agree with them when they demand a gender-blind world. And thus I go on to ask, who are the first people to point to us when a whole panel is full of males? If indeed they were blind to gender, how on earth would they be counting men/women rather than human beings on a panel. And this is the bigger contradiction I find it difficult to deal with. Feminist are usually the first people to point to the skew in gender ratio in membership, how could they do this if they were gender-blind? How can you ask the rest of the world to be gender blind if you are not willing/able to be gender blind yourselves? I always say, when I walk into a room, I don’t see men vrs women, I rather see human beings. However the Feminism microscope will force you to look with binary goggles ie. Men vrs Women!

The Statistical Flaw : Most feminists will be quick to remind you of the need for different unisex societies and leadership groups to reflect the 51:49 female to male ratio (*The ratio is not totally accurate but any ratio with more women is close to the correct figure). Let me break it down for you. They claim because there are more women than men in Ghana/the world, it makes sense for there to be as many men as there are women in parliament, on different boards , in the Executive. They simply don’t understand why out of the many Presidents in the world, only 19 are women. On the surface, this sounds logical, but once you scrutinize this claim to some more rigid statistics, you find this theory crumble into pieces.

First of all, the above claim completely ignores QUALIFICATION and INTEREST as important factors. If there are 6 women and 4 men in the world. Out of which 2 women were qualified for University education and showed interest by applying, and on the other hand 3 men were qualified and applied for university education, the sample is not longer THE NUMBER OF MEN AND WOMEN IN THE WORLD, but rather the number of qualified and interested applicants. So at this point it is not fair for one to expect a 50:50 ratio.

If there is a ballot sheet and there is no female candidate on it, how do you expect the country to have a chance of producing a Female President? What Feminists should be doing is rather to focus on increasing the number of qualified and interested persons rather than expecting society to yield to their “we want more Female Presidents” theory. I presume a bottom-up approach will yield better results. In any case, who cares about what gender a professional is? Seriously, does the world need good female engineers or do we need good engineers? Does the world need knowledgeable parliamentarians or do we need knowledgeable female parliamentarians? Except in rare cases when I’d prefer to be seen by a male doctor to a female doctor for personal reasons, in most other cases, I don’t really care about what is the gender of my lawyer or tv presenter or banker!

In Ghana’s 1st parliament, did you know Kwame Nkrumah reserved 30% seats for ONLY women? Cruel huh? That meant that in our very first parliament, it was possible to have a parliament full of women, but it was NOT POSSIBLE to have a parliament full of men. And guess what happened. The 30% quota was not event reached! All one needed to do was to show interest as a female MP, and she was in! Yet, we still did not have the 30% quota fully subscribed.

And why on earth are they not pushing for a 50:50 representation in our Prisons? Are women only worthy to be in good positions and not in the bad?

The Biological Truth: From Day 1, our biological make-up makes us different. Of course, our differences do not make either one superior to the other, but we are DIFFERENT nonetheless. These differences push us to react to circumstances differently. Men are more aggressive than women, sometimes the aggression ends up getting us in the wrong place. When not channelled well, it sees more men committing suicide (and I don’t see any feminist acknowledging that), it also sees more men dying before age 12, and gets more men in Prison. These are some of the negative by-products of our aggression. There are good sides of our aggression though. More men stepping up to be part of every group they can handle, more men taking initiatives despite the consequences. Such outcomes may or may not be as a result of socialisation. They are just an exhibition of the inner hormones burning in us. Ever wondered why the fastest man did 9.58 sec whiles the fastest women did 10.49? When it gets us into trouble, we accept it, when it gets us into leadership positions, we are told it is not fair!!!

Blaming the wrong man : If I went to No.10 Downing Street and I knocked on David Cameron’s door asking him to give me back the many ounces of gold his great grandparents took away from the Gold Coast, do you know what he would say? He would say HE owes me NOTHING. I cannot blame the wrong white man for my or his great-grand parent’s actions or inaction. He is an innocent man, although he is benefiting from the end-results. It is for this same reason I think it is not fair for feminists to tell the 11th man that he cannot be President just because there have been 10 male Presidents before him. It is just not fair to tell a man that his grandparents created a man’s world and thus you are visiting the punishments on him, by making things easier for the ladies he is competing with. As a black entrepreneur, I feel there are more opportunities in the west than there are down here is sub-saharan Africa, but do I have to sulk and blame the white man for the 4 centuries of slave trade? No! I pick myself up and build capacity and train myself and find out how I can compete despite the differences in opportunities. The white entrepreneurs that exist currently cannot be blamed for the slave trade. Most of them don’t even know what used to be Gold Coast. It is the same way I do not think it is fair to blame today’s man for the patriarchal world created years ago. Today’s man has nothing to do with it. If anyone has to suffer for it, it should be our grand daddies who are obviously dead and gone. Let today’s man go through his education without being told ‘he is the cause of the woman’s predicaments’, because he is not. He deserves to get into school with the same grades his female counterparts will get in with.

It is a human problem, let’s treat it as such : When a man beats his wife, it is one man who has beaten his wife. It is unfortunate when it goes on to be captured as a ‘men beat women’. It needs to be made clear, that man does not represent all the men in Ghana/the world. So we need to be united as humans and address the issue where a few men treat their counterparts aggressively. If it is captioned that way I will join the fight and help fight against these irresponsible men as well. However they make it seem as though it is a ‘men vrs women’ problem and all men are bad and all women are victims, which usually is not the case. Humans have faced several problems in their quest to create a healthy world. Do you remember Polio? It was handled as the human race vrs Polio. Do you remember bird flu? It was also handled as a human problem, why are we handling this one as a ‘women’s problem’ and not a human problem? It needs to be a ‘humans vrs irresponsible partners’ battle and not a ‘men vrs women’ battle. The latter won’t get them much support.

Let them count their blessings, men are cursed too : You know about maternity leave right? Ever heard of paternity leave? (I know there are a few forward-thinking organizations which are introducing paternity leaves, but is not common, so I will not assume it exists). You know about mother’s day right? It went viral in the media, whiles father’s day went unnoticed. At 11pm, on a any day, a lady stands a higher chance of getting a lift from a driver who plies that route than a man does. Yes, true. Because black young men at midnight are very risky! So there are many other instances where women rank higher on the benefit scale than men do. Yet, they do not highlight those blessings. If I applied for a job as a receptionist, the woman stands a higher chance of being selected. You know why? Because she will give the organization a welcoming feel, and I won’t. They’d rather use me for a Black Horse energy drink ad. Every aphrodisiac has a display of a black man’s muscular physique. Is that all I am good for? Sex? Both sexes suffer in one way or the other, and that is why I think it is best it is treated as a human problem. There are many instances where a woman would use her glamour and sensitivity to beat a man, in such situations they do not admit their gender helped. But when their gender gets them elsewhere, it is the man’s fault all of a sudden!

A woman with a begging bowl is not a nice scene : How would you feel as a woman if you were told you are currently occupying a high position in society as a women only because there was an intervention or because men were prevented from applying for that position. How would you feel if you turned out to be the best student as a lady just because the board had acknowledged there had been too many best students who are males and now want a woman? I am not a woman, but I assume such persons would feel some low self-esteem. If you are occupying a position you need to occupy it as one who is qualified as a competitive candidate and not as one who got there because the world was tired of seeing men in that position. I have had the chance to work with some amazing women, and these are women determined to make a difference despite their challenges. It was not difficult for me to believe these women currently occupy their positions not because of their gender, but rather because they know their trade. We need to train the new generation of women to become the kind which will not use their gender as a weapon, but will rather use their brains, skills, interest and experience as their advantage.

Will there be a day when we will see a man occupy the seat of the Ministry of Women and Social Protection?

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Every woman and every man should be a feminist – especially if they believe that Africans should take charge of our land, its wealth, our lives and the burden of our own development” Ama Ata Aidoo

 

I was a feminist probably by the age of 10; I just didn’t know the F word.

In 2008 my colleague Sarah Mukasa told us about an inspiring meeting she attended in Freetown, Sierra Leone, with women from local communities living positively, and working on issues of HIV and AIDS. At that meeting the facilitators brought up the subject of feminism.

“Are you a feminist?” the facilitators asked.

We are the women answered. “If you are working to support women, you are a feminist. What’s the fuss?”

There were some that didn’t know what the meaning of feminism was, and so they asked, and their response was, “This is ‘boku gramma’. This is what we do and who we are – feminists.”

‘Boku gramma’ translates as ‘Big English’, ‘fancy words’, and sometimes I think the word ‘feminism’ itself is ‘boku gramma’. But then I think again, and I remember the power of words.

Words such as:

Feminist

Feminism

Feminists

Feminisms

 

I was always one of those children who asked 101 questions. Questions like:

“Mummy why do you have to cook Daddy’s food?”

In secondary school I was the student who would get into trouble for questioning a teacher in front of the whole assembly.

In my 6th form college I was the compound prefect and extremely tough (in hindsight a tad too firm) with the junior boys because I knew I needed to act extra tough to get them to obey me. In the very early days of my prefectship I had seen them gravitate to my male deputy and recognized that I needed to put a stop to it quickly.

But up until the age of 19 I hadn’t really reflected on why I had always resisted certain things – helping in the kitchen when I would rather read, obeying a teacher without questioning, allowing the junior boys to ignore my leadership.

 

And then I turned 19 and enrolled to study ‘Communications and Cultural Studies’. At the time I had no real interest in Cultural Studies. I even had no idea what that meant. You could say it was boku gramma to me. One of the modules I studied was ‘Feminist Theory’, and on our reading list was bell hook’s ‘Ain’t I a Woman’. The book blew me away, here was bell hooks explaining in very simple language things I instinctively knew. The unfairness of being asked to cook only because I was a girl, and a growing understanding of why my Mum was worried that I showed no interest in cooking. Even more mind blowing for me was how bell hooks explained the connections between different types of oppression. I had just moved to the U.K. and I had no real conception of race. I was struggling to deal with comments like “Why am I speaking to a bloody African?” when I would ask the customers who had called into the Pizza Hut delivery where I worked to spell their address because I simply couldn’t understand their accent. At the same time I was recognizing that I wasn’t oppressed on every level and in every space in exactly the same way. These issues of race and being part of an underclass that I was now grappling with in the U.K. had not been issues for me at all in my home country Ghana. I then began to think of the class issues in my home country. About the fact that growing up we had always had house helps, and so I could get away with not cooking or cleaning and hide myself away in my room to read. I began to feel a sense of responsibility. That I couldn’t have this new knowledge and do nothing about it. I could see that the world is not fair. The world is not fair on so many levels. The issues you grapple with will depend on where you are (your geographical location) and who you are (your economic and social status, sexual orientation, able bodied or physically challenged).

I began to read more. Not just academic texts by the likes of Michelle Wallace but also fiction by African women writers such as Ama Ata Aidoo and Buchi Emecheta which showed me in a language I could understand the unique challenges that African women face.

 

In this digital day and age it has become even easier for me to continue learning about feminisms. I check out the African Feminist Forum’s website. I go to OurSpaceIsLove for inspiration. I read Ms Afropolitan’s blog, and of course I encourage open and honest conversations about sexualities on my own blog inspired by my own feminist politics.

I identify as an African feminist, which simply means the issues I primarily concern myself with are those that affect my continent. I seek to address these issues holistically – to recognize that individuals do not live single-issue lives, and that all forms of discrimination must be dismantled. This in my view is what feminism is about.  I am hoping that, if you’re not already a feminist, your own ‘Aha, this is why everybody should be a feminist’ moment is fast approaching. And yes I said EVERYBODY. Men can be feminists too.

 

A selection of staff from the African Women's Development Fund at the 3rd African Feminist Forum in Dakar, Senegal. From left to right are: Rose, Sophia, Rissi, Zeytuna, Mavis and Gertrude. Photography by Nyani Quarmyne

A selection of staff from the African Women’s Development Fund at the 3rd African Feminist Forum in Dakar, Senegal. From left to right are: Rose, Sophia, Rissi, Zeytuna, Mavis and Gertrude.
Photography by Nyani Quarmyne

Professor Ama Ata Aidoo speaking at an event 'outdooring' Nneka as AWDF's Ambassador for the Arts. Photography by Bob Pixel

Professor Ama Ata Aidoo speaking at an event ‘outdooring’ Nneka as AWDF’s Ambassador for the Arts.
Photography by Bob Pixel

 

This post is part of Blu’s BelieveUme Forum, a social commentary on work-life balance in Ghana. Join the discussion at: http://blughana.wordpress.com/  #BeLieveUme or sign up here to try turbo-charged internet powered by Blu.

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