Ghana: Are we ready for a female president?
If women were to be presidents, we wouldn’t hear of any wars…just two or three countries not talking to each other. Ok, if you were to design a most “electable” female presidential candidate, what would she look like? I have played this game with myself for a long time. She is completely impossible. She would have served in the military, stayed home and raised her children full-time. She would be married to someone with money and she would also have some business experience. There is just no way she could exist. There are too many demands on this candidate.
But all jokes aside- she would be authentic, which would need to be true for a male or female presidential candidate. She would cross the credential threshold. She would have demonstrated that she is qualified and a good communicator. Those are the areas where women have sometimes struggled.
I had mixed feelings when I woke up to hear that, Nana Konadu Agyeman Rawlings, wife of ex-president Jerry John Rawlings ( I’m not a fan of titles) will be contesting for the position of presidential candidate of the National Democratic Party (NDC) in June this year. There have been a lot of rumors. Will she? Wont she? Everything has finally come to an end as intentions have been made known. Peradventure, it took her a long time to declare because she was still weighing the pros and cons of her decision. I have listened to so many Ghanaians talk about it but the question is, “Is Ghana ready for a female president?”
We have heard of great women like Margaret Thatcher, Angela Merkel, Golda Mier and Indira Gandhi. These women served as the Prime Ministers of their respective countries. The Prime Minister is often the counterpart of the President but the Prime Ministers are heads of parliament- the president is not the head of parliament (Depends on the country). For a woman to become president she has to be elected by the nation as a whole but Thatcher and the rest were not elected by their nation. They worked their way up through their parliaments and when their party became the majority, they became Prime Ministers. Liberia has a female president. Yes, she is Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf. Brazil, Argentina, India and Switzerland all have female presidents.
We should not look at this topic on party lines. Let us take Ghana into perspective. When I was listening to opinions of people, I came across two different ideologies. “Ghana is ready since female presidents have compassion and are not corrupt” most people said. It is a general notion that women are compassionate. They are because they carry babies in their wombs for nine months. They have experienced pain and know how it feels when someone is struggling. That is very true but have you ever met a mother who hates her own child? If you have, you will know that it isn’t always true. Nonetheless, it is people’s opinion and that must be respected. Women are not corrupt because there is an iota of fear in their DNA. “It is going to be really difficult for a woman to embezzle millions of cedis” one man said on NET2 TV yesterday. Oh yes, that could be true but do you remember the Beijing Conference? Women can do better than embezzling millions. They can go a notch higher and stick to billions.
The other group also thinks, “There is no way a woman can be president. No woman can be Commander-In-Chief of the Ghana Armed Forces.” Yeah we heard you. We are hostile to women’s rights. We are fundamentalists who think women are unfit for anything outside the home; we only look at women as sex objects. Anyways, these people think that when a woman is giving a position of power, she becomes so proud, she doesn’t listen to anyone and she turns her back on the very people who placed her at the top. It could be true because I had encounters with headmistresses when I was a senior prefect at Prempeh College. Some could be mean but most of them are adorable. The way we just conclude on things is sometimes strange. If A did that, it means B will do the same. That has been a problem for Ghana for so long. Women are making strides in the world. They are doing wonders in areas that some men would score zero.
Gender is probably the most restricting force in Ghanaian life, whether the question is who must be in the kitchen or who could be in the castle. This country is way down the list of countries electing women. It polarizes gender roles more than the average democracy. How many members of parliament are women? Oh my and yet women are more than 50% of Ghana’s population. So why is the sex barrier not taken as seriously as the tribal/ethnic one? The reasons are pervasive as the air we breathe: because sexism is still confused with nature as tribalism once was; because anything that affects males is seen as more serious than anything that affects “only” the female half of the human race; because children are still raised mostly by women (to put it mildly) so men especially tend to feel they are regressing to childhood when dealing with a powerful woman and because there is still no “right” way to be a woman in public power without being considered as you-know-what.
I’m not advocating a competition for who has it toughest. The caste systems of sex and tribalism are interdependent and can only be uprooted together. Are women voters harder on female candidates? They are definitely hard. You can’t go into an election with the presumption that women will vote for a woman. My days at University of Ghana, Legon taught me so. The ladies tend to vote for the “fresh’ guys. If you are ugly (male or female), count yourself out. That’s the Legon-style. They look at how the woman is dressed, and may say, you look too perfect; it doesn’t look right.
Nana Konadu faces a herculean task if she is to beat President J.E. Atta-Mills and win the NDC candidature. Yeah, it is not going to be easy at all. Until then, let’s keep on debating. Let’s share ideas. Is Ghana ready for a female president? Your guess is as good as mine. Long live Ghana….. Long live our women!!!