Update: Free Speech and Disagreement in Ghana

The other day I was writing a post about two Ghanaians getting (brief) prison sentences for disrespecting the Supreme Court. This issue has been the inspiraton for jokes mimicking the telecom companies’ advertising textmessages “Talk and Get Jailed Promotion!”,  Akosua’s satires in Daily Guide have covered the issue, see above, and of course there has also been plenty of serious debate, on- and off line. In that debate, it seems many (most?) Ghanaians disagree with my point.

They feel a line was passed and it up to the Supreme Court to make the call where that line is drawn. Freedom of speech means freedom to say what you want, but then it can be judged offensive and you then have to pay the price.

All comments I got on my first blog post belong to this category, here are some excerpts:

“The rules of court proceedings are clear and the restriction of discussion on a case in court is for specific reasons. Such discussions can lead one to make pre-judicial comments” – Elikplim

“This is not a gag on free speech, it is the stifling of loose talkers and irresponsible journalism.” – Roddy Adjei

“My understanding of free speech is that one is not prevented from making a speech. just that. It cannot mean one must fail responsibility.” – Novisi

“The SC in my candid opinion did the right thing. It’s time people stop abusing “freedom of speech”.” – Abban Budu

One of the few people who did agree with me, a Ghanaian journalist now in graduate school overseas, made the point that we need those willing to test the limits to know where we stand as a nation. But also his argument was met with disbelief.

I love disagreement. Generally, it is interesting and educative and so also in this case. What I have learned is that Ghanaians are seriously concerned about the Supreme Court ruling (the one on the 2012 election outcome), tired of the people trying to stir up emotions and ready to sacrifice for stability. 

Tune into Ghana Connect on Joy FM Friday 5 July at 6.30-7.00 PM and hear Ghanaians debate the issue live.

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My Blogging Year 2012

In September, my blog was hacked into and all my pics disappeared. Still today, all photos before September 8th, 2012 are missing. That is painful! But there were good times as well. Here is my Blogging Year 2012:

January

We had the first meeting of the year with BloggingGhana, I tried to launch the hashtag #GHhousing (and failed terribly) and BBC inaugurated their new debate program in Accra.

February

I found myself in the middle of a breastfeeding debate, and prepared for a presentation of my research so wrote about it and on using Google forms for research.

March

In this month, I went back to work at Ashesi University after my parental leave. Also the GhanaDecides initiative was launched together with our first campaign, iRegistered!

April

I started a series, Blogs I Read. First out was Holli’s new blog. I took my family to the Chale Wote festival organized by the AccraDotAlt crew and reported about our family addition: poultry!

May

In May, BloggingGhana held our first major event: BlogCamp. I wrote about it before it happened, then a report and then a post with pictures. And then I couldn’t help but compare it to a Swedish blog event! I also discussed the galloping inflation Ghana was experiencing.

June

A plane crash in Ghana was reported in social media before in traditional media channels – this was a tipping point for social media in Ghana! I had my first guest post and met with other people who were covering the elections online. Thanks to Google Ghana for hosting us!

July and August

I needed passport photos to travel and then I was off for vacations!

September

I came back from my vacation, revamped my blog, only to see it hacked as discussed above. I also launched a new career as a TV host!

October

With my new career, my blog readership increased big-time from around 50 on a good day to 1500! I was also chosen as the Blogger of the Week (BOW) by BloggingGhana and posted photos from my first TV interviews with Abu Sakara, Papa Kwesi Ndoum and others. This was a splendid month for my career, but luckily I also had time for some family fufu and for Sister Deborah’s hit video “Uncle Obama“.

November

The Melcom Disaster happened, killing 14, again a news that was carried by social media in Ghana. I also went to a social media and a humanist conference, both in Accra. At work, I was interviewing politicans and doing research…or rather watching the Azonto.

December

The last month of the year was dominated by the Ghanaian elections. I am proud to say that both online and on the TV-screen, I had taken part of informing the citizens of Ghana about their choices. Then the results were declared on Facebook (my post on it was read by 3000 in the first 24 hours) and soon after the opposition vowed to challenge them! On Friday, the opposition filed their complaint against the EC and the president-elect.

In conclusion, it has been a very eventful year, both for me personally and for Ghana. Specifically,  I think this is a year where social media in Ghana has really taken off and more and more people turn to the Internet for their news and communication needs. Next year, BloggingGhana will meet on how to sustain the debate we created with GhanaDecides, I will meet with TV3 to see how I can be involved in future political programming. I will of course teach, have some other projects on my mind and hope to collect data for my thesis. Recently, I met someone who presented herself as an “Academic Entrepreneur” and I humbly aspire to be just that in the next year!

Thanks for reading my blog and happy new year!

For more of this, here is My Blogging Year 2011.

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New Semester, New Look, New Gravatar

Here I am again (after a splendid summer, but that is another post).  As I am returning to this space, I decided to renew the look slightly on the blog. How I did it?

1. I opened Pixlr Express.

2.Played around with the photo I took of my recent passport photos.

3. To match the new look on my blog, I also changed my gravatar.

Now it is left with the small avatar called favicon that sits on the URL line, I just can’t remember how I got it there!

I guess that means I really have relaxed my brain during the summer…

 

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Bloggforum 2012 : Swedish Blog Event

After just having posted photos from last week’s BlogCamp 2012 in Ghana, I thought this was pretty interesting. Came across this photo from a blog conference in Sweden, Bloggforum 2012. So this is what blogging events looks like in Sweden where blogging seems to predominantly be a female thing!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is a photo of the speakers. One of my favorite Swedish bloggers Underbaraclara spoke about Blogs and Business, she is the tall brunette second from left. Pic borrowed from Underbaraclaras blogpost on the event.

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An Enjoyable Read, You Say?

 As an adfree and *ahem* somewhat popular blogger you sometimes get emails from people hoping to do business with you. However when the email starts like this, I feel like they haven’t really read my work…

Hi Kajsa,

I just finished reading your post , ‘Bus Mass Rape in Kintampo Never Happened’ and thoroughly enjoyed it!

Or what say you?

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Achebe, Szymborska and Kindle: My 2012 Readings

Inspired by one of my newly discovered favorite blogs, Kinna Reads, I will hereby attempt to answer the question “What are your reading plans for 2012”?

Overall, I just hope to read a novel a month, because really this is looking like a very busy year, professionally. When reading is part of your work, I have come to realize that “relaxing with a book” does not have the same allure. Then add a nursing baby as the cherry on top!

Still, what self-respecting writer-wannabe can live without reading?

Right now, I am reading Achebe‘s Anthills of the Savannah, slowly, slowly. I like it, especially the idea of capturing a corrupt government from the inside, but stylistically the constant switch in persons telling the story confuses me. Plus I want to know if any part of this book can be used for understanding dictatorship, say in a classroom. Hence, I need time. I am also reading the collected works of Wieslawa Szymborska with the same non-speed. Now, this slow reading is for a completely different purpose. I read slowly to create my own images and because I like to think about that these are all the poetry we will ever have by her as she passed away earlier this month.

Then I am trying to get used to my Kindle. See pic! The reason I since October 2011 own a Kindle is all due to book-bloggers Accra Books and Things and Fiona Leonard. They convinced me that reading off a Kindle is just like reading from a book, only better. As ordering books to Ghana is a lil’bit of a nightmare, I normally fill my suitcases with literature. BUT STILL, if in Ghana when one hears of a new book, waiting is included. Enter the Kindle. In seconds one can get books of interest. Seconds! I am not even exaggerating! It is amazing really.

So far, I have read Fiona Leonard‘s book the Chicken Thief in full and many samples of books (they are free). Right now, I am “involved in” two non-fiction books on my Kindle. One is book on teaching critical thinking by bell hooks. I find it extremely relevant and am happy to finally be reading “the author without capital letters”. The other book by Ester Perel is called Mating in Captivity and is about long-term relationships. Interesting topic and great, flowy prose. My friends were right, by the way. Reading off a Kindle is better than reading from a physical book.

As I am bilingual, my reading habits are as well. I have read a collection of shorter texts Avig Maria, by Mia Skäringer. I have a few softbacks I might turn to, and my cook books, but maybe there will be less reading in Swedish now that I have a Kindle? The reason is the Kindle only carries English titles as you have to buy them off a big American chain store…

Kinna has promised to report monthly on her reading progress. Let me not make any promise of that sort, I would rather like to know about your plans!

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Breastfeeding, Part 2

After posting on my experiences of breastfeeding in Ghana, I got many comments. Most of them were long and very informative, so I thought I’d share with you some of the issues that came up. Here is Breastfeeding in Ghana and elsewhere, Part 2.

Nsoromma described breastfeeding as something very natural when growing up in a Ghanaian community in London:

As common as drinking water, women would whip out their breasts and feed a baby that needed feeding. There was no shame and it was not sexualised. When I grew up slightly and saw more White English families I realised it was Not The Done Thing. I remember being surprised to hear quite openly negative remarks about how disgusting it was for women to breastfeed…particularly outside of the home! This view pervades British society to such an extent that in my current job I often hear that raising breastfeeding rates (initiation, through to 6 months) is a massive public health priority.

So going back to Ghanaian women (at least in th UK), I think its a misguided case of copying what the ‘West’ do.

I think Nsoromma’s story is a good illustration of that attitudes vary and that they matter. Maybe sexualizing babies’ food/ breastfeeding has much more to do with the issue than I first thought…

Fiona Leonard stressed that pumping and bottle-feeding is possible, but that your workplace needs to be supportive.

Going back to work certainly makes it hard. I went back to work at four months and was exclusively breast feeding which meant I had to express, including at work. To be able to do that you need a very accommodating workplace. It’s not impossible though. I continued breast feeding (not exclusively) through to twelve months.

I can imagine expressing/pumping daily is a chore! I invested in a simple but high-end pump and have used it a total of three times…many parts to wash, pumping for 10-15 minutes (now I know why baby is sweating while eating) and I have been lucky to be able to stay at home until now which means I just bring baby with me instead of the pump!

My Intercultural Communication’s professor Pam wrote a long comment that I am too proud to cut down in any way. She also shared a link to a historic so-called usenet group FAQ that she had put together on the topic back in 1996! Still worth a read, though!

This is a fascinating article not only on cross-cultural attitudes about breastfeeding but also about how these attitudes are changing (and not always in good ways). Here in the US when I was breastfeeding nearly 20 years ago, I would discreetly breastfeed in public (restaurants, benches), and although many people found it odd, few if any people criticized me for it. However, now, I cannot remember the last time I saw a breastfeeding mother in public. And apparently there has been much controversy about it: see this article: http://abcnews.go.com/Health/kasey-kahne-target-nurse-ins-public-breast-feeding/story.

Where I found much more dissension was in breastfeeding my child after he was a year old. Very few American mothers continue to breastfeed older infants and toddlers and tend to wean them rather young. I continued until my son naturally weaned himself, which happened about 18-20 months. This was back in the very early days of the internet (before the WorldWide Web and I was a participant in a great support group called misc.kids via usenet groups. In fact, I just located the archives of the FAQ I compiled on this topic at http://www.faqs.org/faqs/misc-kids/breastfeeding/toddlers/. Enjoy!

I find it interesting that when breastfeeding in public is “breaking the norm” – actually nothing much happens if one does!

Maya Mame suggested that the comments I have gotten when breastfeeding in Ghana are more class related than anything else:

  I was going to raise a point, but realised mentioned it later in your piece. I doubt the surprise at you breastfeeding has to do with your colour, I think it is mainly something that you don’t see “affluent” people doing in Ghana. (I too received many “you’ve done well” comments and there’s nothing white about me! ;-)

The same commenter also shared some particulars for Ghanaian mothers that makes breastfeeding more difficult that it need to be:

In addition to that, as you and Fiona mentioned, going back to work (and here, let’s remember, as I was harshly informed, there are extremely limited part time jobs in Ghana, so going back to work means full time, with approximately 45 minutes journey in and out) means most women will be away from home for 10-12 hours a day. It is practically impossible to pump enough to feed a baby for those hours.

In addition, what I noticed we lack in Ghana is advice on breastfeeding and stimulating milk production. Unless you get traditional tips from aunties (eat groundnuts with their skin on, or drink palm nut soup, there’s not much advice or places to go to for advice if your milk production were to slow down. I, who’ve somehow become the breast milk guru among friends, managed to help two friend who would most likely have stopped completely, if not given the tips I learned at the Swedish child care centre.

It is so common that milk production slows down, whether due to lack of sleep, stress or change in diet, and it is sad that something that can easily be increased would completely end, because people don’t know where to get advice from. Looking at those around me, ALL the mothers I know had the intention to breastfeed, but sadly, probably more than half stopped by three months, due to slow production or work commitments.

When I read the comment, I thought of Amningshjälpen, a Swedish breastfeeding support organization, and how it might be much needed globally.

Kinnatold her story of breastfeeding in Ghana and concluded that motivation to breastfeed might be lacking in Ghana.

Having lived most of my adult life in the US where breastfeeding is a problem for working mothers, I took full advantage of being back home to breastfeed my second son well past 12 months. Yeah, I got the “you’ve done well” and “isn’t it time to wean” talk but I just refused to do it any other way except the way that I had chosen. Of course, I have an accommodating workplace but nonetheless, I pumped and all that to make it work. It seems in Ghana that most parents, working or not, affluent or not, just don’t want to make time for the children that no one forced them to have. And the non-breastfeeding issue is a part of that.

Swedish blogger Nina Ruthström saw similarities in the Ghanaian breastfeeding situation to attitudes prevailing in Sweden in the 1970-1980s. She also shared her personal feeling on breastfeeding in public.

Gällande det sexuella så skulle jag vilja slänga fram tutten precis som om den vore en termos, men det vågar jag inte. Jag är alldeles för pryd för det. Och indoktrinerad bröst=sexuellt. Jag skulle gärna hjälpa till att avsexualisera brösten. Men jag är diskret.

(Concering the sexual, I would like to put forward the boob as was it a thermos, but I do not dare to. I am way too much of a prude. And indoctrinated that breast=sexual. I would like to help de-sexualizing breasts, but I am discreet).

Swedish friend Maria who have lived many years in the US also too interest in the debate. She commented on the need to cover up when breastfeeding in the US and said she prefer the more “relaxed” attitude to breastfeeding in Sweden.
 Vet inte riktigt var denna trend kommit fran i U.S.A. men tror kanske att det delvis har att gora med den i ibland bara tva veckor langa mamma ledigheten men ocksa i en oversexualisering av brost och i feluppfattningen att modersmjolksersattning ar nyttigare for barnet. Mycket intressant amne!
(I do not quite know where this US trend has come from, but think it is partly due to the sometimes only two week long maternity leave, but also a sexualization of breast and the misconception of that formula is healthier for the baby. Very interesting topic!)

I must say I was surprised at the interest my blog post on breastfeeding generated, but I am happy and grateful to have learned so much from my readers on the topic. Recently a reader of Nina’s blog , Sofia, suggested blogging is the womens’ forum of our time. I thought it was a bold and alluring statement. However, the discussion above seems to be the perfect illustration of its validity.

 

 

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BloggingGhana for Social Media Minds in Ghana

Yesterday, I met with the best social media minds of Ghana. Some 15-20 of us in BloggingGhana  had our monthly meet-up (Are you a blogger in Ghana? Sign up to join us here).

Last year, just before I left Ghana, we registered the network called GhanaBlogging that has been meeting since 2008. We felt it was time to move to the next step. Actually, we were rather forced to do so due to the massive interest in our group. Now, BloggingGhana (BloGh for short)is our registered name, so GhanaBlogging is history as you are not allowed to register bodies that start with the country’s name in Ghana. We have an exiting year ahead that I surely will write more about on this blog over the months to come.

But back to yesterday, I can happily report the year started well for us. We had great turnout, high level of energy in the group ans most importantly we had some extremely fruitful and some hrm… more fun-oriented discussions. 

Ps. After the meeting there was a little discussion on Twitter (seach for #BloGh) and I think Nana Fredua-Ageyman‘s comment captured something vital about the organization:

“one thing about #blogh is the camaraderie. Everyone behaves like he or she knows you before.”

I think that also shows in the photo Edward Tagoe took.

 

 

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My Blogging Year 2011

Photo: Mattias Wiggberg

It is getting late. The year is almost ending. The time has come for bloggers to summarize the year. We all do it differently; I enjoyed  MsAfropolitan’s love letter, the book lists that hyper-readers Accra Books and things and A Fork in the Road shared and Africa Is A Country’s West African club hits!

My summary of the blogging year 2011 might not be possible to dance to, still here it is:

The year started out on a strong note. In January, I learned about Free and Open Source Software for Academics and analysed the Ghanaian “happiness culture“.

During February, I realized  in Swedish media Ghana is often portrayed like a success, economically, democratically and technologically. A more recent text buttressing my point is the top African success stories 2011 at Connected Africa.  This month I also celebrated my 30th birthday and my 500th blog post!

In March, I was inspired by DUST magazine and wrote my own You Know You Are In Accra When – jokes.

April was the month I got more serious and wrote about the mental health crisis in Ghana, sexual harassment and the unrest in Ivory Coast.

On Mother’s day I announced I was becoming a mother myself. At that point in May, my belly was so big everyone who saw me IRL knew. It was not like you needed to be an investigative journalist…  really is there just one investigative journalist in Ghana?

In June, I left Ghana for Europe. First stop was Marseille.  Then it was time for debating homosexuality. A debate that also made it to Global Voices.

In July, our daughter was born. What an experience! What a miracle! What a sweet soul!

In August, she was Virtually Outdoored. So was the Ashesi Berekuso Campus.

In September and October I was spending every hour of the day with our baby in Sweden. Taking walks, breastfeeding and blogging only sporadically.

Second week of November, I returned south and my daughter saw the green leaves and red soil of Ghana for the first time. And the green hoopoe!

In December, we had no water and I wrote about the EU Blue Card. And that was my 2011 year of blogging!

I am sure in the days to come, we will see many more chronicles of 2011 at Ghanablogging.com (soon to change name to BloggingGhana, but that is a story for 2012!)

Gott Nytt År! Afehyia pa! Happy New Year!

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What Do You Do with a Baby All Day?

What shall we do?

Yesterday, I got the question:

– But what do you do with your baby all day?

The short answer is sleep, eat (her mostly, me in the space between) and play.

The long answer is this:

02.00 She wakes up with a wiggle and a yawn. I manage to give her my left breast before she screams or even opens her eyes.

05.30 She wakes up with a smile. I give her my right breast and when she has eaten (drunk?) decide it is time for a diaper change. After playing in the baby gym and saying some nursery rhymes, putting on a new outfit we go back to bed.

08.32 Grandma comes to take her before dashing off to work. I go back to sleep.

09.00 Grandpa brings her back. She is hungry.

11-ish We wake up and do the diaper-thing. I decide to dress her in an outfit that matches mine.

11.30 I have breakfast and read a wonderful blogpost about tossing the hunt for productivity out while grandpa tries to get her to sleep.

15.15 We go out for a walk after she has slept and ate. During the walk she sleeps.

16.12 We enter a café. She wakes up. She looks around the place in amazement. I hurry to order coffee and gulp it down before feeding her again.

17.14 We visit my brother. She screams until I pick her up and then she burps. I need to remember that babies (almost) always cry for a reason.

18.40 Back home. We play for a while. She looks at things, that is I say “What are you looking at? A flower? The sun rays?” Then she is suddenly hungry and after that needs a diaper change. I optimistically put on her pajama. She is all smiles at the changing table.

19.30 Still trying to get her to sleep. As soon as I sit down she cries. I put her in the BabyBjörn and start to sing. When she is asleep, I have dinner.

20.55 She is up again. Can she really be hungry? She sits with my parents and “talks” to them before coming back to me. I feed her to sleep.

23.00 Time to blog!

The second question I got was,

– Is it fun?

Well, it is a different tempo, a changed way of life, an exhausting and at the same time relaxing task, many times it is scary, but also exciting and yes, maybe even fun!

 

 

 

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