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Opinions of Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Columnist: Sodzi-Tettey, Sodzi

Where are President Mills’ women?

Whoever counseled the President to target measurable objectives did us all a world of good. Without measures and in an atmosphere of who screams loudest, we stand at risk of the Vice President’s “recipe for mediocrity.” Typically however, the President would score himself loud plaudits in his second major press encounter to mark the end of year one.

Subsequently, the post-conference analysis would be swallowed by Muntaka-isms with the President proving savvy and snaky in drawing the fine lines between corruption, indiscretion, fraud and misrepresentation.

On ensuring that 40% of his appointees are women however, semantics have no place and the numbers tell their own story. Critics put the current women appointees at a miserable 20%. I would think that on this score of President Mills’ refusal/inability to appoint more capable women to run affairs, we have indeed treated his Excellency with kid gloves (apologies to Mrs. Rawlings).

Is it really the case that the President cannot find capable women to fill the slots? If this is the thinking, then he sure needs help to dispel what is merely an inexcusable excuse. I cannot appreciate that not enough women can be found in this Ghana to meet the 40% target. And I am not talking about jobs for the girls. There are so many professionally qualified and competent women in this land in whom I have great confidence and for whom I hold great respect.

Looking back, I believe that this confidence stems from the example of Daavi Julie, my mother. At the time, Daavi was headmistress of a public school housed in private premises. As soon as the facility owner saw Daavi’s remarkable work rate, the soaring enrolment and the academic integrity of her ‘children’, she requested for her school back. The choice was between scattering the students in nearby public schools or building a totally new school. Daavi Julie opted for the latter, working hard among the movers and shakers to get a whole new school built. Her children reciprocated the gesture with fantastic results in that first BECE exam. There were those who said Daavi Julie efficiently run the public school like her own private school for over ten years.

So how come the President is struggling to find capable women? I can’t believe this.

Let’s help His Excellency find the women: all highly educated, all greatly accomplished and all competent beyond measure. I will start the nominations and then urge each one to identify a capable woman in your community to help the President achieve his 40% pledge. I don’t like broken promises. For starters, I deduce that President Mills adores young women. O! I don’t mean it in a romantically evil way. If the President appreciates his young Ministers as he says and if he is committed to the cause of women as he professes, then couldn’t we safely conclude that he likes young women? Why take me on then for having a mischievous mind?

Let’s start with Shamima Muslim. A rising media star if the Mirror is to be trusted. But that is not why I am nominating her. You see, Shamima is not merely a breath of sweet fragrance. Her student politics days unambiguously portray her as a woman with fire in her belly. Bold, principled and articulate, she was always on top of the issues as Volta Hall’s representative at the General Assembly. She gave many a student leader sleepless nights, ending up as the local NUGS President. Today, she is on the wrong side of the microphone if the views of her former associate student politician are anything to go by. According to him, Shamima is far more knowledgeable than some of the pretenders she interviews! I can also tell you on authority that she is an excellent facilitator having partnered her in the crime of raising affirmatively disruptive leaders.

Step up, Esi Ansah: Ashesi University don and daughter of the celebrated PAVA. Young, sharp, over loaded with work, afro-conscious with a passion and in too much of a hurry for Africa’s renaissance. O! And she has a small consultancy on the side. Give her the job, Sir. Just ensure that you ban her from doing anything but your job. She does carry this multi-tasking thing to extremes and you are the only one who can put some sense into her crazy schedule.

Esther Cobbah. Never mind that she is Mrs. Tsatsu Tsikata. Focus on her time tested and proven strategic communications skills and her winning company. Slide in her charisma, beauty, confidence and flawless diction and you have a winner. Employ Mrs. Tsikata to sell your story and the media would love her so much they would be eating out of her palm. They would love her to bits. It would make Tsatsu jealous. So jealous in fact that he would set up a Free Mrs Tsatsu Movement in a reverse order. In other words, he would call for her immediate incarceration. If the government is perceived to be slow, she would run so fast we may need to pause to catch our breath.

Ever heard of Prof Irene Agyepong, Sir? She has a petite physique that belies the size of her brain. She is good. Infact she is brutal. There is very little that escapes her eyes. And I say this not just because the Danes recognize her fine mental prowess having appointed her Professor of the Prince Claus Chair to spearhead health systems research work in Africa. She is deep into health financing and was involved in the early beginnings of the NHIS. Of course she currently runs the Greater Accra Regional Health Directorate. O yes! Tap her unbelievable brain power Mr. President and your life will never be the same again.

I like Joana Ansong, a nursing tutor at Health Concern, an NGO. She is sharp and she knows it although she pretends not to. Tough as nuts, she puts the fear of God into the timid. Not one to swallow any dithering, she would sooner question the wisdom underlying our actions than tag along for the ride. She would then align policy to programmes and outcomes.

I remember Dr Alexandra Graham of La Gray pharmaceuticals. Assertive and with deep insight into the pharmaceutical world, she knows all too well the strategic direction behind foreign help that all too often cripples local initiative and capacity. She has been instrumental in the rise of La Gray as the first West African company to manufacture active pharmaceutical ingredients for drugs that treat HIV, opportunistic infections and tuberculosis right here at Nsawam. She will do the President’s work well without brooking any nonsense.

Suffice it to say that Dorothy Gordon has over 20 years experience in international development work. Her current focus is to build African capacity to own ICT to power its development needs. At our last meeting, she was overflowing with great plans for making expensive medical textbooks available for Ghanaian medical students online. I tell you, she will light us up and make us do great things we never thought ourselves capable.

Did you know Sir that many Ghanaian girls aspire not to be lawyers but Nana Oye Lithur? In other places, her name constitutes sanctions, which is why an old man playing the buffoonery with girls his grand-daughters’s age would be cautioned, “You continue with the tomfoolery. Nana Oye will get you!” So massive is her impact following from her work as a lawyer, gender and human rights advocate that I believe she should be given the chance to roll out some of the things she is so passionate about.

I reserve special last mention for Mrs Janet Adama Mohammed: peace builder of local and international repute and a passionate engineer of African leadership capacity across the African continent. Afflicted with Pan Africanist zeal and deep into development work, she has strong faith in Africa’s ability to lose the begging bowl continent label. If you doubt me, you can ask the US Embassy that is awarding her the 2010 Luther King Jr. Award for Peace and Social Justice. For “mobilizing the youth, women, farmers, elders and chiefs to create sustainable peace through dialogue and mutual understanding”, Auntie Janet, we love you! Soon, His Excellency will too.

I have caused confusion. I apologize profusely. I have written about these great women without their permission. They certainly are not lobbying for jobs. I don’t know their political ideology. They‘d rather do without the predictable public controversy their appointment will raise: either not NDC- at all or not NDC- enough, issues of regional balance and Parliamentary quotas etc.

I know, I know, but you know what? I don’t care about these latter sentiments. All I know is that these are capable and incorruptible women who can do the Ghana project a world of good. The ball is now squarely in the President’s court. Let him court all these women, influence and inspire them to accept a higher national call and lead them to achieve his better Ghana agenda. My list is only the tip of the ice berg. I have more women…both home and abroad. Surely, President Mills can run but he certainly cannot hide.

How can you pretend you cannot find the women?

Sodzi Sodzi-Tettey 20th January, 2010