Why Hillary’s win mattered to me, a young African woman from Ghana
On Wednesday November 9, 2016, like the rest of the world, I was shocked by the outcome of the US election. Looking back a few weeks later, I guess I cried because Hillary Clinton’s defeat to Republican candidate Donald Trump felt personal to me. I was driving to work when the BBC radio broke the news, I was trembling and my hands were shaking on the steering wheel. I had to take a moment to park the car and gather myself.
From the moment she announced that she was going to run for President, I found myself once again drawn to the US Presidential race. I felt the same in 2007 when Barack Obama announced he was going to run. For all the obvious reasons, I was proud and excited that in my lifetime, I had seen a black man become President of the most powerful country on earth and could be succeeded by a woman.
And it was so easy to support Hillary from Ghana: she was a woman and was also qualified for the job. For me, the difference between her and Donald Trump was night and day. And it was very exciting to watch the debates as she provided a sense of direction and policy alternatives on various issues. Donald Trump on the other hand, said some of the most outrageous things and often picked through her answers like a copycat to either agree or disagree with her; but he offered no alternatives to the things he disagreed with her on. I found his remarks throughout the campaign to be misogynistic, racist and insulting to the world.
But why did this election matter so much to me, a young woman from a small country off the coast in West Africa?
It was important to me because the United States is the most powerful country in the world and by making history in electing its first woman President, it would have been sending the right message to the world about gender equality and diversity. It was also important to me because this was not just a conversation about affirmative action for women, neither was Hillary a compromise candidate or filling a quota for women. She was very qualified and competent to lead.
Again her standing against a candidate with the characteristics of Trump was more of the reason why I wanted her to win. To shut up like-minded men who are misogynistic, bullies and racist. And Trump throughout the campaign said a lot about women, immigration and even mocked a disabled person.
As a young woman growing up in Ghana where women’s rights are not as entrenched as the United States, I find men like Trump all over. They are the reason why many women in my beloved Ghana shy away from politics and public office. They dare not stand up lest they are hammered by such men. They are called all sorts of names, just because they dare to come forward. Some get physically assaulted for standing up to men.
The two major political parties in Ghana, the National Democratic Congress (NDC) and the New Patriotic Party (NPP), in their campaign speeches and manifestos detail increased representation for women in public office and yet they are the same people who bare their teeth at women from the opposite sides who do step forward.
So you see, Trump is not alone. There are men like him all over the world and in my beloved Ghana they get away with far worse because we do not have the systems and structures to protect women. They provoke women and the least response the women put up, they are characterized as being ‘emotional’. Hillary did a brilliant job ignoring Trump at the final debate when Trump called her “nasty woman”.
I wanted Hillary to win, for all the women that have to put up with men like Donald Trump in public office, corporate and even at home. I was hoping to see women’s issues tabled at the highest level. I wanted issues like the gender wage gap, inadequate infant and maternal care, poverty and hunger and violence against women to get attention and the much needed commitment from the world. Because when the US takes a stand on issues, it affects global policy and commitment.
Women have a right to sit at the table and we certainly have a right to be whoever or whatever we want. And it’s ok to be a mother, wife, daughter, niece, aunt, and grandmother and still excel at your professional career. Hillary has created several cracks in the glass ceiling and I hope in my lifetime I will get the opportunity to see a woman being sworn in as President of the most powerful country in the world.