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Opinions of Wednesday, 4 April 2018

Columnist: Kwaku Badu

Is the NDC General Secretary an ignominious misogynist?

The ugly nature of Ghanaian politics manifested in the General Secretary of the National Democratic Congress, Johnson Asiedu Nketia’s recent isolated thinker’s assertion that President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo has reduced the presidency to a family and friends affair to the extent of appointing ex-girlfriends to important positions (See: ‘Akufo-Addo appointed ex-girlfriends to key positions – Asiedu Nketia alleges; 3news.com/ghanaweb.com, 02/04/2018).

Asiedu Nketia unblushingly pontificated: “There is a current Deputy Governor of Bank of Ghana, that fair lady, ask her history with Nana Addo that is his ex-girlfriend. This is a fact, put the blame on me, and let people sue me for telling them this.”

If a whole General Secretary of the largest opposition party can harbour such an idiosyncratic view on highly-qualified, knowledgeable, talented and hardworking women, then I am afraid, Ghana has a long way to go.

It is quite unfortunate that people who think like Asiedu Nketia would only expect a typical woman to restrict herself to kitchen, to devote herself virtually to the care of a man, her children and parents in their old age.

IN Ghana today, most women are believed to be discriminated against in all walks of life, including jobs, pay, education and welfare.

It used to be said that women must do twice as well as men to be seen half as good, and yet young women are often encouraged to see marriage and the family as their only viable means in life and are therefore routinely dissuaded from learning most skills or studying the same subjects as boys.

In career options, women are mostly pointed in the direction of jobs such as selling petty goods, dressmaking, and hair dressing to pass off time till they get married and have babies. Then they get married with high hopes of a perfect family life—but it doesn't often work out like the ideal family of the millionaire’s world, especially when money is insufficient and a partner’s job is casual or menial.

It is also an acceptable fact that a sizeable number of women are financially dependent on a man, and without meaningful help, they Often cumbrously look after children and care for the infirm and the aged.

Unsurprisingly, therefore, the feminists groups hold a view that society's opinion formers’-- ranging from judges to journalists, politicians to technocrats, view women as second class citizens who often fail to utilise their perceptual powers of the mind to good effect.

It is also true that society unabashedly gives oxygen to the damning assertion of women natural role to look after home and children and men role as bread winners.

Inevitably, in order to keep up with these domestic duties, women are often expected to give up everything else; education, work (or at least decent, well-paid work), and outside interests of all kinds, including political activity.

In practice, the vast majority of women do what is expected of them, and, devote a great deal of love and care to their families, often in very difficult circumstances, thus, society somehow assumes that women are narrow-minded, or at least simple-minded, --unable to comprehend what goes on outside the home.

It is also a common belief that most women are economically dependent on men because they cannot carry the burden of household tasks and hold on to a decently paid full-time job as well, and that makes society to assume that women are dependent on men because they are invariably feeble and helpless without them.

Even when women are busily engaged in other gainful activities alongside their domestic duties, society still cynically sees them as domestic servants. No matter how hard they try, the odds remain stacked against them, and their relentless strides to keep up with men are often ignored.

There is also a contending schools of thought who fret that if women ‘swamp’ the labour force rather than look after their children, this will boost GDP but create negative social externalities such as a lower birth rate. And yet developed countries where more women work, such as Sweden and America, their birth rates are higher than Japan and Italy, where women stay at home (the economist print edition, April 2006).

Some contending schools of thought however argue that the influx of women in the paid labour force can come at the expense of children. And yet the available evidence does not support such a notion. For what is manifestly clear is that in countries such as Japan, Germany and Italy, which are all harshly faced by the demographics of shrinking populations, far fewer women work than in America (Economist 2006).

The worldview, however, is that in developing countries where girls are less likely to go to school than boys, investing prudently in education would deliver huge economic and social returns, for not only will educated women be more productive, but they will also bring up better educated and healthier children.

The general believe, therefore, is that more women in government could also boost economic growth, for studies show that women are more likely to spend money on improving health, education, and infrastructure and poverty and less likely to waste it on tanks and bombs (Economist 2006).

Nevertheless, most women are mostly held up in the family circles. For however much they love their husbands’ and children, they know they have little choice about it. For it is harder for a woman than for a man to get out of a marriage that has gone wrong, and most women whose marriages break down are often left to bring up children on their own with little or no support.

More worryingly, many women are ‘stuck’ in their homes by violence or the threat of it. For some men end up harming the woman they live with because they are ground down at work or don't have enough money to meet their family's needs--they make women scape goats for what isn't their fault, and most women have no way of fighting back and nowhere to turn to when this happens.

What kind of society is it that puts women in this position? It is only a society that insists that the family is 'private', and that women somehow belong to the men they marry as if they were pieces of personal property.

“In rape, women are exposed to a kind of violence which men don't face, perhaps the most humiliating of all. Women are encouraged to look sexy and attractive to men, and to feel as free as men to enjoy themselves--a freedom long overdue after centuries of a double standard for men and women--but when an attractive woman is raped most men think she must have been 'asking for it”. How can women feel free when this unfairness is going on under their noses?

For in our society, it appears that women don't have equality, they don't have freedom, and they don't even have respect and dignity in any meaningful sense. If that was not the case the NDC General Secretary, Asiedu Nketia, won’t disgustingly look down on accomplished individuals who only happen to be women.

Well, our dearest women have to remain resolute and be prepared to face the likes of Asiedu Nketia, and fight back for themselves and for the future of all women. This doesn't mean an out-and-out conflict with all men all of the time. For separatism--the view that women can battle for liberation only on their own and against men--is an admission of despair and a way of keeping apart women and men still further.

Whatever the case, our dearest women have a right to organise with men to fight against the society that keeps women down, to make men see that the world has to be changed. This, however, doesn’t mean that women can't organise their own meetings, demonstrations, pickets or whatever, when necessary-- we have that right too—but we should be trying to reunite women and men in the struggle for peace and equality.

Apparently, the discrimination against women is a disturbing situation which requires the attention of the wider society. The big question though is: how do we convince the likes of Asiedu Nketia to get involve in the fight for women's liberation?