What does having a female president or vice president mean to the girl-child in Ghana?
It means a lot.
Generally, it means the same thing that the male presidents and vice presidents have meant and still mean to our boy-children: a role-model they can identify with through gender and physique, a source of hope and inspiration that they can also become top leaders when they work hard and are diligent, and a symbol of possibility that a dream to lead Ghana or an organisation is not just a series of thoughts recurring in their sleep but something that can become real.
This is partly why the appointment of Prof. Naana Jane Opoku-Agyemang as running-mate to the National Democratic Congress’s (NDC) flagbearer, John Dramani Mahama, for the 2020 December polls should mean more than just another historic feat in our democratic and human capital development journey.
Despite our unparalleled feats in the area of democracy and socio-political stability, Ghana is yet to break the proverbial glass-ceiling so as to allow a woman occupy the highest or second-highest positions of the land – as president or the vice president of the Republic of Ghana.
Until Prof. Opoku-Agyemang’s selection this year, the most basic of the requirements to become a president or a vice president – which is by merely attempting to occupy that seat – had not been potently made by the female gender.
The female presidential or vice presidential candidates before her were and are either from parties that had (have) never won political power, and/or had (have) failed to make their way onto the ballot box since 1992.
This is not good for gender equality and equity – the two words that may mean less in theory but everything in reality.
From research to practice, it is abundantly clear that having more women leaders at the top of political decision-making increases the amount of women participation in politics at the base, and nation-building as a whole.
It also enables more inclusive decisions from the top – something that is needed to help bridge the economic gap and other sources of disparities between the male and female genders, the north and the south divide, and the haves and the have-nots in the country.
Many feminist theorists also argue forcefully, and rightfully so, that having more women in leadership reduces the likelihood of conflicts, political witch-hunting and human rights abuses in a society.
Given the acidic and vengeful nature of our socio-political environment currently, and its implications on the economy, there’s no gainsaying that the country needs the stabilising influence of a woman leader now more than ever.
It will not only refocus our energies on the things that matter most – reducing child mortality, ensuring safe pregnancy and delivery, eliminating childhood killer diseases, finding decent shelters and jobs for the aged and the young respectfully, and generally equalising opportunities for all; it will also help to dowse the unnecessarily hot temperatures in our political space.
The case for a female president or a vice president is even more forceful when one examines the population’s structure.
Beyond 57 percent of the population being under currently 25 years, more than half of Ghanaians are female. This underscores the overwhelming majority of the country’s population.
With democracy referring basically to rule of the people, by the people and for the people, one wonders why a nation that has more females than males would allow the minority gender to continue leading.
How democratic can we claim to be when we have failed to allow the gender equation, which is as important in the numbers as it is in catalysing development, to manifest at the apex of political leadership for almost three decades?
What’s even more disturbing is the abundance of talent and leadership qualities in the female gender – as is the case, too, with the male gender.
The findings of a study published in the Harvard Business Review (HBR) on June 25, 2019, showed that women possess and exhibit better leadership qualities than their male counterparts. The study said women were rated as excelling in taking initiative, acting with resilience, practicing self-development, driving for results, and displaying high integrity and honesty. “In fact, they were thought to be more effective in 84 percent of the competencies that we most frequently measure,” the study revealed.
Here in Ghana women with talent abound, with Prof. Opoku-Agyemang and her impeccable record of being a lecturer, the first Vice Chancellor of a public university in Ghana and the Minister of Education, among others, being one of them.
Because of years of sustained positive activism, the creation of equal opportunities and the deliberate albeit insufficient empowerment of females, the country is blessed with a variety of female talent that can make great presidents and vice presidents when given the same support their male counterparts have been getting all this while.
What we now need is a psychological reorientation that will open our eyes to the many benefits there are in having a woman president or a vice president. We have done well by having a female Chief Justice on two occasions, and a Speaker of Parliament on one occasion. But, is that all that there is available for the female gender to contribute in development?
While Prof. Opoku-Agyemang’s appointment as a running-mate may be unprecedented, it has been long in coming – in essence and for the wider purpose that it serves, outside of the 2020 political campaign season. The country, especially persons committed to us having presidential role-models for the girl-child, must now fight together to actualise it for the gains to be realised.
At a time when women representation in decision-making is rising globally, as evidenced by reports from the United Nations and World Bank Group, Ghana has another opportunity to emerge as a great contributor to equality through a female vice president. As she herself has said before, what matters is not being the first to walk through the door: what matters is leaving that door open for many others to pass through – and her track-record in public service speaks to this.
But we cannot have our girl-children walk through an attempt-to-open door. They can only walk through an opened door; one whose opening means more than just an opportunity for gender equality and women empowerment.
>>>The author is a businessman and philanthropist, with special interest in women, children and the underprivileged. He’s the founder of the collapsed Heritage Bank Ghana Limited. Email address: [email protected]