The Struggle Continues But Victory Is Assured: Inspiring Women and Girls to Leadership in Africa by Josephine Ashia
Leadership is a globally acknowledged avenue that affects life skills, talents, and knowledge from individuals to the larger society. The community usually benefits from the exceptional individuals who have excelled in their respective fields, having had the opportunity to develop themselves through education and training on the job, and professional experience. Leadership is also a necessary resource to harness in order to actualize development in both the developed and developing countries.
Africa has produced some great leaders, including Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, Nelson Mandela, Haile Selassie, among others. Interesting that the continent and Ghana, where I live, can boast of many great male leaders but very few female leaders. Growing up in Ghana in primary school, I only heard of the great Yaa Asantewaa, the Ashanti female warrior, who fought the British Army thus delaying the annexation of the then Ashanti kingdom, now Ashanti Region. In modern times however, very few females have stood in the leadership space – Madam Joyce Aryee and Gifty Afenyo Dadzie to name a few.
There are many reasons for the scarcity of female leaders. Between the ages of six and thirteen, the reaction from my close friends anytime I expressed strong opinions on any subject, was to take it easy. They would tell me that being opinionated and passionate about societal issues would make men afraid of me, even as girls wearing braces and corn roll hairstyles.
Many girls and boys have been oriented to believe that being a female leader equals a life of singleness, and this sure scared the hell out of many girls who wanted to have the best of both worlds.
Indeed this advice was not a peculiar one, as many fathers and mothers took the time to drum the same into the ears of young girls to curb their aspirations. The agenda to dissuade many young girls stemmed from examples of females around us who had to choose between marriage and careers.
Leadership in Africa is not an easy endeavor, especially in places where the percentage of the illiterate population is higher than the educated or literate. In fact, the first people to discourage any female aspiring leadership at any level in the community are the members of her family. The autocratic African father will usually say no and advise their daughters to stay away from politics and leadership roles. The loving mothers usually persuade their daughters to pursue other interests that will give them enough time to be wives and mothers, as opposed to being a head of a school, CEO, or a head of a marketing team, which will take too much time away from fulfilling domestic responsibilities. The reason being that most men in Africa want stay-at-home wives while they pursue their dreams, a norm which remains popular in the 21st Century.
A few women like me whose parents supported their aspirations have had to contend with condescending males, determined to undermine every effort of women’s’ aspirations in the workplace. In December 2017 I competed for the position of Chairperson of Welfare Association in my office. I was not selected, not because of my lack of qualifications, but due to a few influential staff members who were convinced I might get pregnant and be unavailable to sign applications forms for them to access their loans. A flawed thinking but this mindset discredited my candidature.
This unfairness starts from the primary school level, where many ignorant boys taunt and are cruel to female students who become interested in becoming leaders. These boys tagged us as “Man-Woman” to wit, a girl who behaves as a boy. All these derogatory comments were attempts to discourage females from building confidence in order to pursue any meaningful endeavors.
Those of us who defied these mischievous boys had to eventually deal with some of them as grown men, many of whom are found in every sphere of the Ghanaian society and always ready to frustrate female employees, leaders or bosses. They are the first to gang up against females who dare to aspire or become leaders by spreading rumors that a successful corporate female leader is giving out sexual favors; the reason for their success. These men derail and discount the hours and efforts a woman puts into her job to merit a promotion. Very unfortunate but common issues female leaders have to deal with in this part of the world.
Additionally they sometimes gang up with like-minded colleagues to disrespect women at every opportunity to enable fear. This has resulted in some females leaving their jobs. These obstacles have ultimately reduced the number of female leaders in the public and private space as many of them fear having to deal with such challenges.
Having surmounted many of these challenges, I am determined to mentor young females in my community in order to boost their confidence. I am continually motivated and inspired to encourage females to develop a resilient mindset in order to overcome this significant adversity. In a country like Ghana, where the female population is over fifty percent, it is imperative to encourage more females to get involved in decision making at the Executive and Legislative arms of government as well as the private sector to harness the talents left to trust.
Indeed, it is a clarion call to fathers, uncles, nephews and husbands to support their female family members and friends to succeed. They should join the crusade to change the mindsets that an ambitious woman cannot be an amazing mum or wife.
Our collective efforts must reach every nook and cranny of the Ghanaian society.
I will do what I must to make sure the dreams of my little girls Nukunu Aniima and Abrafi are realized, despite some people in society cannot who accept the concept of female leadership. “Aluta Continua, Victoria Acerta”, which means The struggle continues but victory is assured.
About the Author
Josephine Ashia has served in the Government of Ghana (GoG) in various agencies and capacities since 2007, where she currently works as Administrator of the Security Governance Initiative (SGI) Secretariat, as an analyst in the first National Border Fusion Center in Sub-Saharan Africa. As Administrator she contributes to the drafting of Communication and Implementation plans for GoG public policies and has also participated in groundbreaking training in support of the Fusion Center and the GoG’s security mission. She started her government service in the Communication Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and then the passport office. In addition, she has worked at the operations office within the Bureau of National Communications where her duties included strategic communication and public affairs engagements. She has also served as a Trainer of Trainees, training Analysts at the Analysis Department under the Office of the President. Josephine holds a Masters Degree from the University of Ghana, a certificate for Training and Leadership from the Sanderlous African Training Institute, and a degree in Political Science from the University of Ghana. She is a published author of When Men Fell Asleep (2011), with the focus, “to encourage the ladies and women in the Ghanaian society to take up leadership roles.
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