Wednesday happened to be International Women’s Day and women all over the world were celebrated. It is an open secret that women have been maligned, denigrated and suppressed for a long time. Women have always been seen as weaklings thus their abilities and relevance are judged based on this woeful misconception.
I’ve always asked myself why it has been that way and sometimes I’m referred to verses in the Bible such as 1 Timothy 2:11-14, and the famous creation story in Genesis where God used the rib of a man to form a woman. Based on this, women are usually seen as lesser to men.
Society as a whole also continues this narrative. There is this famous quote that says “Behind every successful man, there is a woman”. This statement is usually made when a married man is being eulogized for an achievement and his wife is being recognized or acknowledged but I realized that it has traversed into the echelons of leadership in organizations and our educational institutions.
I was at La wireless school in Osu recently, where the Managing Director of Airtel Ghana Lucy Quist was demonstrating to students how technology makes communication easier. This is part of their corporate social responsibility called, “Evolve with STEM”. During the session, she asked why the president of one of the STEM clubs was male and the vice, female. A boy innocently got up and said it’s because “Behind every successful man, there is a woman”. Lucy had to mentally liberate this little boy by making him understand it is not so and that a female is equally capable of being the president. I’m sure if Lucy hadn’t done this, the boy would have grown up with this mindset and end up rating men above women in everything he does.
It then dawned on me for the first time that, this phrase has always been a tool to restrict women from being at the pinnacle of affairs. From my primary school days to Senior High School, the boy’s prefect is usually referred to as the senior prefect or school prefect even though his position was “Senior Boys Prefect”. The assistant senior boy’s prefect is also referred to as assistant school prefect but when it comes to the girl’s prefect, her position is clearly defined “Senior Girl’s Prefect”. Why can’t a female be the overall prefect of the school? I do not know who came up with this “Behind every successful man there is a woman” cliché but why behind a man and not beside a man?
Before civilization, the value of women was equated to their ability to cook, fully satisfy a man sexually, and ability to bear and raise children. A woman wasn’t deemed fit or competent to take part in decision making. No wonder a woman was never found among the council of elders in a traditional system of governance.
Our family systems also haven’t been fair to women over the years. A man is regarded as the head of the family. As a result, women are not allowed to have a say in the administration of the family. The woman is supposed to be submissive to the husband and isn’t given room to express her sentiments or views about most issues. Therefore the man’s voice or opinion supersedes whatever the woman thinks or says.The man is always right in everything he does.
While growing up, I observed that girls were made to do most of the household chores even though it didn’t pertain in my home because it was never allowed. Boys are the ones qualified to go and have fun while the girls were restricted to the kitchen to help with chores and when the boys came back from their fun expeditions, they are served by the girls.
No wonder when education was first introduced to the Gold Coast, it was the males that were initially made to partake in it while the females were made to stay at home to religiously continue playing their roles as cooks and servants. After attaining puberty, their given off to men to marry. Most of these marriages are child marriages.
It had to take a visionary like James Emman Kwegyir Aggrey to emancipate people from this primitive ideology. While delivering a lecture that persuaded Governor Guggisberg that Achimota College should be co-educational he made a poignant and famous statement that
“The surest way to keep people down is to educate the men and neglect the women. If you educate a man you simply educate an individual, but if you educate a woman, you educate a whole nation”
One would have thought with the advent of education and civilization, this crass perception about women would come to an end. Unfortunately, the seeds that have been planted by the past generation has found its way into the current generation and bearing its ugly fruits. There are men who still ride on the man being the head of the family mantra and oppress their wives. There are some men who ask their wives to leave their jobs and become housewives and this beats my imagination. Out of their egoistic tendencies, they perceive career women as a competition instead of as a complement. Women are still physically abused in marriages for expressing their views. Sadly, most of these women can’t speak up and fight for their freedoms because they were mentally imprisoned with the notion that, wives are to be submissive to their husbands. Since when did submission become slavery? I salute my dad for demonstrating to me through his relationship with my mom that, a woman is not a punching bag to be beaten but a fellow human like me that needs my love and support.
After some women go through the herculean task of breaking free from the shackles of oppression and acceding a high pedestal in their career, their efforts are still questioned and discredited. They are usually accused of using sexual favors to get to the pinnacle of their career.
One would have thought if our culture failed women, religion would provide respite for them but unfortunately, the narrative still continues. I used to wonder why women do not head churches or are not at the forefront just male pastors. They are usually given subordinate roles such as being in charge of Sunday school children and other minor positions.
Thankfully, the narrative is now changing for the better. It gives me joy when I see the likes of Dr. Jasmin Sculark, Pastor Paula White, Juanita Bynum and Bishop Corletta .J. Vaughn walking in God’s great power and doing exploits with the body of Christ.
The menace of witch camps still exist in some cultures in Ghana today. In Ghana, any old woman can pass as a witchcraft suspect. Misfortunes that exist in some families are still being attributed to old women. These innocent women are accused of witchcraft and seen as bad omens to their families and society as a whole. As a result, they are segregated into witch-camps and subjected to inhumane treatments.
This ignominious and inhumane practice has also found its way into our churches lately. Some so-called prophets also attribute some misfortunes in the lives of their church members to mothers. It is now common for a husband to call his mother a witch because a prophet said so. Some wives accuse their mothers of being behind their barrenness just because their pastor said so. Can’t a man also possess witchcraft powers? Or a man is not capable of harboring evil?
A friend of mine lost his sister just because a prophet accused the innocent girl of being the mastermind behind their mom’s crippling business. Their mom also believed it maltreated the little girl until she had to give up the ghost.
How can I forget inhumane cultural practices such as Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) that has been perpetrated against girls in times past? I’m happy FMG is now outmoded and frowned on in most societies.
It is my hope and wish that women are treated for who they are and not what we perceive them to be. The fact that a woman was formed out of a man doesn’t make her inferior. When the first man (Adam) first saw the first woman (Eve) he said: “This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh” (Genesis 2:23). Adam gave a perfect picture of how women should be treated by men. It’s time men start treating women as bones of their bones and flesh of their flesh. Women are an integral part of our society and should be accorded the respect that they deserve just like men. Women do not need to be rubbing shoulders with men because in rubbing shoulders with them, men’s shoulder becomes the yardstick. I don’t believe women should be rubbing shoulders with men because the shoulder of men then becomes their yardstick. Women were created to do what men cannot exceptionally.
I celebrate the woman who had to go through caesarean section just to bring me into this world. On this day I salute the house help who fed me and changed my diapers when my mom was busy at work. I celebrate my late kindergarten teacher who always bought me cookies just to make me stay in class and learn. On this day, I celebrate the likes of Lucy Quist (M.D. Airtel Ghana, Ethel Cofie (C.E.O EDEL Technology consulting and the Electoral Commissioner of Ghana Charlotte Osei for defying the odds and proving to Ghanaians and the world at large that for our nation to move forward, women have an integral role to play and shouldn’t be seen as an auxiliary force.
WRITER- DESMOND PAPPY TAWIAH- threesixtyGh writer/contributor.