If my legs were big enough to wear the shoes of our President, I will use the mandate given him to confront patriarchy. I will raise the larger issues of gender, class, and use my speech to breathe new life into the debate around gender equality.
I will speak about how we can all work together to truly empower women, to focus on emancipatory politics especially because we are in an election year and if we don’t take care there will be no improvement in the numbers so far as the representation of women in political and power spaces of government are concerned.
In Ghana, the major source of the disempowerment of women is religion and its heavy-handed constructions of womanhood centered on reproductive and care roles garnished with submission. In 2020, there are still some churches that forbid women from becoming pastors. This is symbolic right?
You cannot become a Pastor in your church where you spend most of your time, outside work and home, but you are expected to miraculously rise to become the President of the country one day? Well the church feels comfortable with obedient women cheerfully shouldering more burden and responsibilities so far as such responsibilities keep them far away from top leadership positions.
The patriarchy, just like a virus is mutating, it has an adaptive character. There are new and changing forms of subordination of women evident in Ghana at the individual and institutional levels. At the micro-level individual households, no one will tell you not to keep a job that earns you money but 99 percent of the time, you will come back from work and still do 99 percent of household chores as a married woman or as a female in your family.
At the institutional levels, they may see opportunities in espousing some of the ideas associated with gender equality for reasons of legitimacy. We all know that this is a hoax. It is no secret that presenting your organization as one that believes in a gender equal society brings some form of acceptability.
Truth be told a lot of women are resisting the patriarchy but in subtle ways such as subverting the norms, calculated conformity, dragging of feet when playing gender roles (reproductive and care giving roles), overt compliance but covert disobedience to social norms that disproportionately affect them.
These everyday forms of resistance, I understand, make no headlines; it can run aground your little household until your so-called male leaders are prompted to adapt when they ran out of steam. It can potentially result in sending your daughter to school, but will it result in an overhaul of the constraining structures that all women confront on daily basis?
Some people are quick to point to the gains that we have made as a country such as Gender Parity index at the primary and secondary school levels, equal rights to property, etc. but the struggle is not merely a one over whether women could work to earn a living or make their choices. Are they making the choices within the patriarchal boundaries? What belief systems sustain the practice of selecting all male presidents 63 years on, after independence?
I am reflecting on how I will choose to understand the role of women in the past and present. I believe that conscientious effort should be made to give meaning to history about who our women in Ghana were, what they contributed towards our progress and how women today continue to work for the country despite the dis-empowering structures which, ironically, we are told have been set up to empower us.
The gaps in our fight for gender equality are glaring but our governments, over the years, have had a truncated vision of what gender equality should mean in practice. The President, Nana Akuffo Addo, was right when he said our resistance was not dynamic in the infamous “we are not seeing enough dynamism and activism on the part of those who are seeking…,” at the Women Deliver Conference 2019.
Maybe, just maybe, what we need is the kind of resistance that can run the whole country aground, organized and obvious forms of resistance until our leaders are ready to mainstream gender or until we are all ready to rebuild our country based on equal respect and opportunity for my gender too.
>>>The writer is a Level 300 student of the Ghana Institute of Journalism, reading communication studies with speciality in Journalism. She can be reached on [email protected]