Somewhere along West Africa`s Gulf of Guinea and the Atlantic Ocean, lies the nation of Ghana,hailed as Africa`s Gold Child.Enshrined in a rich cultural diversity;the multi-colors of the Kente fabric,the flavor of exotic West African Cuisine and the hospitality of the people, make Ghana a unique destination for many. My love for Ghana is tied to the venerated Queen Mothers .I visited the Queens of the Fanti Kingdom,where matrilineal heritage is the cultural norm. Theyare beautiful images of who empowered African women are.
Meet Her Royal Majesty Nana Ama Amissah III, The brilliance of her ebony skin and beautiful full body, adorned in gold and carefully wrapped in a costly traditional Kente cloth tell of her uncommon status.Nana`s steps are always majestic and seem to be constantly calculated.The flapping of her golden slippers blend with the chiming of her anklets producing majestical notes that announce the arrival Royalty.Nana is a motherly figure in leadership and spares no opportunity to promote the positive side of the African culture like language,food,dressing and moral etiquettes.She is the Paramount Queen of Mankessim State, President of the Central Region Queen Mothers Association,an Ambassador for Fistula education and an Advocate for ending Child Labor and Child Trafficking in Ghana. She is surrounded by men who serve her with awe and immense dedication.While visiting her in her Mankessim palace,she talked to me about her passion for women`s empowerment and how she is uses her position as Queen Mother to make sure that every woman in her community is empowered.A King Maker and Chief Advisor to the King,Nana presides over major traditional ceremonies and is the only one who can rebuke the king in public.
I also visited Nana Ama Kweigua , another awe inspiring woman traditional leader in the Mankessim area.My first glance at Nana spoke of power and deep compassion.The marvel in my eyes pushed my Ghanaian sister,Mma Hassan, into hysteric laughter.I could not hide my astonishment as my eyes glided through Nana`s whole body examining the different pieces of gold plaited and beaded jewelry she had on.She welcomed me in her palace with a meal of boiled plantain and vegetable soup with palm oil and fish.She is a lover of organic food and eats only vegetables grown in her garden.As a custodian of tradition,she also raises her voice against the use of chemicals in growing food which has caused so many ailments and untimely deaths in her community.When she took a few steps towards me,I recalled that almost all of the Queens i had meet had the same walking style.In my curiosity,I sought to know why.She told me before becoming a Queen Mother,they are kept in a room for about a month where they are fattened and taught how to walk and talk like queens.
While visiting Nana Ama,about 4 women came to tell her their husbands had disappeared leaving them with babies to cater for.One of them was pregnant and was carrying a 2 year old girl!Nana told me she normally receives about 10 complaints a day from community members and has to find solutions to these complaints.She said the culture of Matrilineal inheritance is good and bad for women.Under matrilineal heritage,children are considered members of their mother`s family and not their father`s.The Fante male does not regard his children as his blood relatives but those of his wife.He considers his sister`s children as his own and will invest his resources for their up keep but not his born children.Because of this tradition,Nana Ama Kweigua says her community is a husbandless and fatherless one.The men are no where to be found!One of the women who came to seek help from Nana Kweigua told me her husband disappeared six months ago after telling her he was moving to another village to seek for a business opportunity.According to of Nana`s male aides, the men have become wanderers, without any permanent home.During my conversation with Nana,she vehemently declared her hatred for Harmful Traditional Practices."I hate any act of violence against women,none of such are permitted in my community.As a custodian of tradition,l say no to all harmful practices against women in the name of tradition "
While braiding my hair in one of these communities,I could sense clearly that the women and children have been abandoned to fend for themselves.Sitting in an uncompleted building that was raised by the 7 months pregnant hairdresser,I saw many women carrying loads and others hawking one item or the other.Most of them had babies on their backs.I could spot very few men but they were all sitting under a tree and drinking liquor.The stench of poverty and emotional pain was omnipresent in the air.Each of the women I spoke with complained of being abandoned by the father of their children and had to work extra hard to provide for their families.From the vegetable farmer who had developed a sliced disc due to hard work but must keep working though physically deformed,the teenage girl who hawked Pure water(Mineral water sold in sachets) in order to buy food for herself and her sick mother who was impregnated by a stranger due to prostitution,to the frail and hungry looking pregnant woman carrying a beautiful one year old girl whose father had disappeared,I could no longer hold my tears.The stories were endless and heart throbbing.
The Queen Mothers of these communities have the responsibility of coming to the rescue of these women and children.Unfortunately they cannot meet up with all of these needs due to limited resources.Women Relief Services funded the roofing of the uncompleted hair dressing salon to provide a shelter for more single mothers to gather and learn how to braid We are providing seed funds for four of these women to ameliorate their conditions.She (WRS)also launched a Digital Empowerment Training program for 50 Queen Mothers in the Central Region of Ghana.This will help the Queen Mothers connect and share their various community projects and hopefully gain support from the global community through the platform of World Pulse.A maiden workshop to this effect was held in the University of Cape Coast,Ghana on March 13 2017 with 32 Queen Mothers present.After attending the massively attended World Pulse Wave event under the theme”The Internet and Women`s Empowerment”,which took place on the same day, the Queens were fired up and ready to harness their digital skills in order to enhance their capacities as change makers in their various communities.Their contribution towards the eradication of Harmful Cultural Practices cannot be overemphasized.
In my journey towards the eradication of Harmful Cultural Practices against women in Africa,I have learned a lot of important lessons which have pushed my desire to alter the narratives and assumptions with regards to the status of the African woman.The second class -citizen and sub-human status of the woman has not always been part of the African tradition. This notion must be rectified!in pre-colonial days,women were highly respected in most African communities.This tradition of respect for women was wiped away with the coming of the European missionaries, as colonialism enforced patriarchy.
The discovery of this historic truth is to me the most potent weapon against the demon of silence and oppression that has kept us in bondage for years. We cannot afford to continue thinking that traditional African societies view women as fundamentally inferior beings who should be no where near positions of power and influence.The journey has justbegun.My eyes are next on Benin Republic and Sierra Leone!