Mental Health in Ghana: Autistic Workers at Obama Biscuits


Through a comment on my recent post on mental health in Ghana, I was informed about this initiative where the organization Autistic Awareness Care and Training Centre (AACT) in Accra have organized a training program for grown ups with autism with the biscuit factory Obama (!) biscuits.

Read Robin Pierro’s informative text in full here from the Canadian organization Journalists for Human Rights and see the video she put together above.

This private initiative provides hope for the mental health situation in Ghana, but where is the Ghanaian state?

Thanks Wim for the link!

Swedish Nostalgia

I must be missing my native country Sweden, because yesterday I heard myself say this:

“Yes, successful socialism…”

“When I miss home, I read an IKEA catalog”

“From a Swedish perspective, how can you not like Obama’s health care bill?”

>Nobel Prize in Ghana

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Front side of an award medal in physiology or ...Image via Wikipedia

The 10th December every year is the day when the Nobel Prize is awarded. In my native Sweden, this is a festive day – “everybody” talks about the prize and follow the gala on TV. The medias are full of information about the laureates, their ground-breaking research – but also about the guests and their fashion, the Nobel menu and flower arrangements and the world class entertainment program. Also, students in Stockholm prepare, as they have a crucial role in the evening gala following the award ceremony.

I am proud to say the Nobel Prize was founded by a Swedish businessman, Alfred Nobel, and has become one of the most well known and respected academic prizes in the world. The Nobel Peace Prize is awarded in Oslo, the other five (Physics, Chemistry, Physiology or Medicine, Literature and Economics) in Stockholm as Norway and Sweden were in a union at the time of the establishment of the prize. Although it is a Swedish/Norwegian prize, prominent researchers and personalities all over the world are awarded every year. A prominent example is Kofi Annan who shared the Nobel Peace Price in 2001. Other African and diasporan laureates can be found here.

The full list of this year’s laureates – among them Barack Obama (Peace Prize) and Ellinor Ostrom (Economics) can be found here. The touching lecture by this year’s Literature laureate Herta Muller about the symbolic meaning of handkerchiefs and other things can be read here.

Jusr now, I will cook something very nice and complicated for myself – maybe even open a small bottle of bubbly I have on cooling and enjoy the festivities from behind my computer screen. Geographically far away from the Blue Hall, but in my imagination right, right there.

Skål!

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>"The Birthplace of Cool" – Bono on Ghana

> I had totally missed that U2 singer, cum activist Bono wrote a column on Ghana and Africa in the New York Times just before Obama’s visit.

After reading the article I think to myself that something about Bono’s efforts is somehow so…arrogant and at the same time wonderfully naive. It talks about important things like the G8 meeting and how Africa is the birthplace of humanity. I guess it can’t be summarized, but here is a sneak peak to show you what I mean:

On a visit there (Ghana in May 2006), I met the minister for tourism and pitched the idea of marketing the country as the “birthplace of cool.” Just think, the music of Miles, the conversation of Kofi. He demurred … too cool, I guess.

Haha, pitched (haha, that word alone!) a marketing idea to a Minister of Tourism after having spent a few days in a country, how arrogant is not that?…but on the other hand, if now Bono says Ghana is cool, then why not take his word for it?! I guess we thought about marketing our chocolate, our gold, but we never really thought of marketing our ability to be cool.

And now three year after Bono’s visit, does Ghana even have a tourism marketing strategy?

The column can be found here.

Pic: Bono in Ghana 2006 borrowed from U2station.com

>The Economist’s Analysis of Obama’s Visit

> See weekly news magazine The Economist’s levelheaded article on Obama’s visit “How Different is His Policy” here.

They are probably right in principal: the American policy on Africa might not see too many changes even under Obama’s administration, but clearly no Economist reporter got the on-the-ground energy from Obama’s visit to Ghana – “well received” does not start to cover the euforia!

President Obama made a point to visit Africa within his first year as president and by so doing shared the enormous attention he still carries with the continent. In respectfully and boldly delivering some well-known truths like “development depends on good governance” to an African parliament Obama did something to us living in Africa that cannot be measured in monetary policy.

The “tone shifting a bit” makes the whole difference.

Pic borrowed from the above discussed article in The Economist.

>Update: I Saw Obama!

> To update you on my three places to spot Obama, this is what happened:

1. Kotoka Airport

Airforce One came in about three hours after leaving Rome and the G8 meeting, we never knew Europe was so close! I was hanging out with some friends in a bar and when we heard he had landed with Michelle, their daughters and Michelle’s mother (I believe the fact that the whole Obama Family visited Ghana might change the image of Africa in some small way, i.e. Africa is suitable for family vacation) and we headed to the airport area…which was completely closed down. Rumors said they were staying in newest hotel in town Holiday Inn, which was in complete darkness exept for the penthouse…hm.

2. La Polyclinic

BINGO! At about 11.20 am the entourage with numerous shining cars in its motorcade swooshed by. My friend and I had been standing in front of the clinic since about 9. Although it was hot, crowded and the opportunity to view the American president very limited it was so worth it when he finally came by and we were in the smiling, waving and roaring crowd.

3. Viewing the speech with AAAG

Due to traffic out of the city we never made it. In stead we listened to the speech with the taxidriver on his radio on a channel that filled every breathing pause of president Obama with a deep voice saying “Peace FM”. Kind of killed the rhetorics.

I am so pleased! Finished my Obama weekend by dancing to MUSIGA’s “After Party”. I hope your Obama-weekend was fine too!

Pic: Obama family at the Cape Coast Castle, borrowed from lexpress.fr

>Obama’s Visit – A View out of Ghana

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Why has Obama chosen to come to Ghana as his first stop in Africa? Does it mean he chose not to come to the regional big brother Nigeria and his paternal home country of Kenya? Will he give a policy speech on Africa whilst in Ghana? How are Ghanaians preparing? Are they happy to host the first black American president?

These are questions that have already been debated thoroughly (see Ghanablogging.com’s Abena being quoted here for example), hence I’d like to write on an issue much less discussed.

How can we living in Ghana at this time take part of the visit?

It has been made clear that president Obama will not address the general public directly, nor will there will be any parade in which we can see the Obamas, wave or take photos. Weather has been blamed for this decision, and yes, it has been raining extensively lately, but maybe it is more a security issue?

So here I give you the 3 places one will get the Obama fever up close:

1. Airforce One will land at Kotoka Airport at 8 pm tonight, at least one can see his plane there.

2. La Polyclinic is his second stop tomorrow morning after meeting the recent presidents of Ghana for breakfast (Rawlings, Kuffuor and Mills). I’m guessing they will convene at the Osu Castle and then drive (??) to La Polyclinic just 5 minutes away on the beach road.

3. The African-American Association in Ghana (AAAG) will watch Obama’s speech together at the Mensvic Grande Hotel in East Legon Saturday morning (starting 10 am). I think that will be a good place to get the Obama vibe for us who sadly were not invited to the International Conference Centre in Accra where he will give his address.

And on Saturday evening 7 pm at the Dubois Centre in Labone, Accra there will be a concert (Featuring among others wonderful singer Bibie Brew) saluting the popular visitor who at that point will have left beautiful, and rainy, Ghana.

Ill update you on how it all went on Sunday.

This is is a shared blogpost for ghanablogging.com.

>Obama to Ghana!

> Hurray! American president Obama is due to visit Ghana on the 10-11 of July, according to Ghanaian news.

When I heard, I was a bit surprised this visit comes so soon in the presidency, Bush Jr waited to his very last 6 months, for instance. But I guess it corresponds to the different foreign policy pushed by the new president. When I discussed the upcoming visit with some Ghanaian friends it was joy and laughter all around:

Yeah, that will really be a party/It will be bigger than Clinton’s visit/I have never been to any event at Independence Square, but Chaley, for that one…

Pic borrowed from whitehouse.gov. Obama in Mexico earlier this week.

>"Happy and Hopeful"

> I had my 15 seconds of fame yesterday when I ran in to BBC World Service’s David Amanor at the event in Accra celebrating the Inauguration of Barack Hussein Obama. Among popcorn, fresh bottled juices, Obama souvenirs and a crowd exceeding 500 people we found a quiet(er) corner.

Just minutes before he was sworn in, my African-American friend Janet talked about how emotional she felt, my Ghanaian friend Mankye analyzed Obama’s popularity in Ghana and to finish the Ghanaian segment off, Amanor suggested this is not only an event that had importance for African-Americans and Africans, introduced me and let me say a few words on how I felt. “Happy and Hopeful” I rejoiced.

Unfortunately, I haven’t found the program as a podcast, so you just have to trust me on this one, and see the photographic evidence above.

>Behind the Obama-Mania

> I recommend to anyone living in this time and age to pick up a copy of Barack Obama‘s “The Audacity of Hope”.

Reading this book is like opening the back door to the Obama inauguration frenzy, including colorful pop-art posters, music galas and celebrity worship, and coming out on the other side of the stage and see that the sky is really blue.

Yes, his election really signifies change due to who he is, but there is more.

It becomes clear that this man is a calm, reflecting but determined do-gooder (funny fact: according to wikipedia Michelle and Barack’s first date was to see the movie “Do The Right Thing”) who has a dream of letting complexity back into politics. The book is about many other things (chapters are called Values, Our constitution, Race, etc.), but to me the message of complex decision-making resonates. Not every issue can be answered with “Aye” or “Nay”, there are trade offs in policy-making and most issues need a bit of explanation before we can take a stand. He also comes down on the polarization between Republicans and Democrats, itself a simplification, in the American political system, but adds that the media thrives off of it:

Your quote doesn’t run if you say, “I see the other guy’s point of view” or “The issue is really complicated”.

I can’t help but think that the current economic crises might be just what Obama needs to create a less partisan, less simplistic and more constructive political arena. What we can do, wherever we are in the world, is to accept his challenge of complexity and ourselves get more involved in politics, and maybe also give less meaning to abbreviated news clippings.

The book also has a couple of funny incidents from the (senate) campaign trail, like the one about the guy from Obama’s opponent’s office who followed him everywhere with a hand-held film camera. After he refused to give Obama even the smallest personal space, Obama introduced him to the press during a briefing. Later he got a apology from the opponent, who by then had been hurt by the story of the persistent and rude filmer.

The New York Times called Obama “level-headed” in their review of The Audacity of Hope. To me, that is a excellent attribute for a world leader to possess.

In Ghana, I am going to view the inaguration ceremony at the Du Bois Center in Labone, Accra and in the evening I have been invited to a celebration arranged by the Africa-American Association of Ghana (AAAG) at Sweeties Night Club in Airport Hills.

>Obama in Africa

> Sorry for my absence here on the blog. It’s been a busy week. Anyways, no one (hopefully) hold any grudges today, not towards a lazy blogger nor towards a fellow human with a different opinion, today, the feeling is united.

America has elected a person bigger than a national politician for their next president. Barack Obama is the first African-American to be elected president of the United States, but he is so much more. A politician who speaks about hope in a way that tears people’s eyes and about change that people can believe in. It’s been a long time since politicians were met with such massive cheer, almost religious devotion anywhere in the world.

For me personally, I am of course happy a man with Caucasian and African parents (just like my future children) can become president of the world’s super power. However, I believe the aspect of bringing politics “back on track”, suggesting a politician is a role model and an inspiration is even more important.

In Africa as a whole the hopes for Obama’s presidency is high. South Africa’s President Kgalema Motlanthe said in a statement:

“Your election to this high office of the American people carries with it hope for millions of your country men and women as much as it is for millions of people of particularly of the African descent both in the continent of Africa as well as those in the diaspora.”

Kenya’s president declared tomorrow a public holiday.

Here in Ghana, the election has been the big topic for discussion of the week and several “Obama parties” were organized yesterday night (I sadly fell asleep on my couch). One more is due tonight at the Accra night club The Office. Most my Facebook friends had written something on the election as their “status”. In the office this morning we talked about the election with smiling faces.

I believe my husband summarized the joyous feeling well as he was getting ready to go to work this morning:

“Today, I’m wearing white!”

Pic from Chicago Sun and Obama’s trip to Kenya in 2006.

>Obama Mania in Ghana

> “Have you seen the debate?”

In Ghana, the campaign is on. I heard from a friend you can’t buy billboard space in this country until after elections. But what election are we talking about again?

The debate in question was not between Akufo-Addo and Mills but instead between McCain and Obama. Discussions on the upcoming American presidential election is as vibrant here as the domestic. Of course the American election affects the entire world and I am positive that Obama with his Kenyan heritage is creating a buzz in all of Africa, therefore also in Ghana. Another explanation is that Ghana has it’s eye to the world to a much larger extent than other nation states, say France or the US. We learn about all news from the outside world. And debate it too.

But back to the elections. I have seen street vendors selling a (pirated?) copy of Obama’s biography, at a function last week a young man was sporting a T-shirt with this text “Obama is my homeboy” and yesterday when going to work, this driver showed her support for Obama (see pic).

What election are we talking about again?