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Okyeame Kwame writes: What about the Founding Mothers?

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Last week, we marked Founders’ Day and celebrated it as a national holiday. Many well-intentioned Ghanaians paraded a popular picture of the prominent people who helped to found Ghana. There were six males – not a single female. The inscription that accompanied this picture was “founding fathers.” That made me feel an immediate surge of disappointment.

That was when I decided against celebrating the occasion on social media. I was so confused by the inscription ‘founding fathers’ that I started to question why there was not a single female named among those who struggled for independence.

That led to my next series of questions: Didn’t any woman participate in the legislation of pre Ghana Gold-Coast to create the laws that will set Ghana free? Didn’t any woman go to jail for her stance on the truth in the fight against colonialism?

The answers are obvious that women participated in the independence struggle directly and indirectly. But hold for now; we will come back to this point.

The term “founding fathers” is not only discriminatory but also a perpetration of an idea that deprives us of tapping the full potential of women in our society. Consciously and unconsciously, we dismiss the capacity and contributions of women to our society, and most of us carry on not seeing anything wrong with these practices.

Founding fathers? Really? Where are the founding mothers? Did women not play any significant role during the struggle for independence? Were women just sitting aloof on the sidelines and just watching these amazing men found the nation? I guess not.

Why then have we allowed this injustice to continue all these years, and ignore the contributions of our Founding Mothers on such an important commemoration?

Religion and tradition have done a lot of good for our society. However, one area these two prominent forces have woefully failed our society is how we value or recognize our females. As a group, we have employed socio-cultural, religious and physical tactics to perpetuate the misconception surrounding masculine superiority.

In Akan societies, it is very common to hear the phrase “Mmaa y3 mmoa” (meaning women are animals). Such words are sometimes uttered publicly by elderly and influential males in the society.

In African Traditional Religion, a menstruating woman is considered unfit to pray to the Gods. In Christianity, 1 Cor 14 : 34 , women are instructed to keep quiet in the church. In Islam, the Holy Quran 2:282 says the witness of one male is worth that of two females. In Buddhism, women are restricted from entering the Holy Pagoda in some temples in Thailand. Before you think these are just quotations, let me remind you that key doctrines have been built on these scriptures. In some churches, for example, women are not allowed to be pastors – they can only be deaconesses.

Religion and tradition have done a lot of good for our society. However, one area these two prominent forces have woefully failed our society is how we value or recognize our females. As a group, we have employed socio-cultural, religious and physical tactics to perpetuate the misconception surrounding masculine superiority.

This problem is more disturbing when you consider how many women have accepted their discounted place in society. You probably know a woman who will defend this discriminatory practice that is hurting our society and diminishing the self esteem of many of our young females.

In many of our communities, the woman is confined to reproductive functions like mating, nurturing and protecting her offspring while the man is associated with creativity, exploring and amassing wealth and fame. A female child is often raised to become an obedient wife while a son is taught how to dominate his world. Therefore, when we talk about our nation’s founders, we don’t see any need to acknowledge the contribution of our female counterparts. That’s troubling and we need to do better than that.

Mabel Dove Danquah was a journalist, political activist and one of the unsung heroes who offered support to the C.P.P. after its formation. She entered politics in 1950 before Ghana’s independence and became the first woman to be an elected woman of the African legislative assembly. Not only did she contribute to the laws that would set Ghana free from colonialism but also for the entire continent of Africa.about:blank

So, can we have a do-over and take a moment to honour our Founding Mothers and not only the fathers? Could we do better in acknowledging women in our society and national life? I firmly believe we can. I firmly believe so, that is why I’m raising this issue.

Respectfully question your religious leaders about doctrines that relegate women into the background. Speak up when your peers at work use disparaging words to dismiss women. Actively affirm young girls you know and help them believe that they are no less than their male counterparts just because of their gender.

Now my questions:

1. Which other women who contributed to the fight for independence would you like to celebrate? It’s OK to Google your answer.

2. Do you think men who discount women are generally afraid of the strength of a woman or just ignorant?

#YUNPLUGGED

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