What’s in a Name? Ama Ata Aidoo, CEGENSA and Voting with Your Feet

Just like most other netizens and media consumers in Ghana, I have been following the issue of famous Ghanaian academic and writer Professor Ama Ata Aidoo’s walk out of an event where she was to be honoured. What happened on Saturday September 3rd was: Aidoo walks in, notices that the banner and the program has spelt one of her names wrongly. She walks out and while organisers beg her to return, she doesn’t.  Source and photo: Article on CitiFM.


Aidoo’s daughter Kinna Likimani was the first one to report the issue on Twitter. Later she posted her tweets on Facebook as a post which was shared extensively. Full disclosure: I work with Kinna Likimani, respect her professionally, and like her a lot personally. Likimani wrote both about her mother’s relationship to Ghana and to being honoured. She explained:

“Ghanaians know how to do things right. We do.

What will not be happening is Ama Ata Aidoo enduring any bad treatment or anguish over honors or celebrations. No. Certainly not when folks like Korkor Amarteifio have set a standard.

Writers only ask to be read. That’s all.

My mother often quotes Efua Sutherland: “I was sitting my somewhere”. She lobbied for nothing, asked for nothing.

My mother is a highly sensitive person. The anguish would have followed her home and she would have wallowed for weeks.

She has done for Ghana and Ghana has responded with awards, honorary degrees, events. We thank all.

But at 76 years, Ama Ata Aidoo, after 60 years writing, publishing and teaching, will walk out.”

Then last week, Journalism professor Audrey Gadzekpo, wrote a compelling piece about this story from another point of view. Full disclosure: I have met prof Gadzekpo a number of times and she is one of my academic/activist role models. Gadzekpo suggested there were no winners to Aidoo’s walk out. She highlighted the important work of the event organizer Centre for Gender Studies and Advocacy at the University of Ghana, CEGENSA, in advocating for women (I have blogged about their pioneering zero tolerance policy on sexual harassment for instance) and suggested:

“I point out the bona fides of the Centre not to excuse the misspelling on the banner and in the programme heading, but to simply provide information on a little known centre caught in the eye of a public storm and now defined by the unfortunate incident for people who had never heard of it or know very little about what it does.

I have read several comments suggesting the Centre did not know the correct spelling of its honoree’s name and had disrespected her by getting the spelling wrong. Nothing could be further from the truth.

CEGENSA does know how to spell Prof. Ama Ata Aidoo’s name and is very familiar with her work. In all other correspondence with her and her foundation Mbaasem, before and during the planning of the competition, the Centre got the spelling right.”

Although, I understand the organizer CEGENSA’s situation as discussed by Gadzekpo: the overwhelming negative publicity focussed on a centre that has created real change for women, and the looooong enduring debate that followed – and that now I am adding to –  I would like to look beyond “who was right/wrong” and look to what we learned.

You see, I think Aidoo was not only sensitive or annoyed, but wanted to send a message about standards. Something like: Mistakes happen, but normalisation of those mistakes is dangerous! It is not OK to use misspelled banners and brochures, especially for an academic centre, especially when honouring someone and the mistake is in the name of that person, especially when you are an institution focused on women’s rights in a patriarchal society and role models are so few (although many of mine highlighted in this blogpost).

Maybe Aidoo was thinking about the embarrassing mistakes in official communication of late in Ghana, most notorious of them the State of the Nation program for 2016 that…I just can’t. Read Elizabeth Ohene’s furious account. In addition, Ansu-Kyeremeh lists a few other instances when attention to detail has been lacking in Ghanaian communication.

So here, I have to disagree with Gadzekpo. Sure, walking out is like sending an angry letter, it is not pretty. However, there is a win to making this extra “T” a big deal. After Ama Ata Aidoo walked out, the issue of striving for excellence in communication has been discussed in Ghana for TWO WEEKS, so walking out was successful from the point of view of creating a debate. As a lecturer of Written and Oral Communication, a learning moment for a nation on the importance of attention to detail, makes me happy. 

But what about the young women who had written stories for the competition? Gadzekpo listed the winners as Nana Yaa Asantewaa Asante-Darko, Margaret Adomako, Ruthfirst Eva Ayande,  Sarah Faakor Toseafa, and Awo Aba Odua Gyan. Their award night was ruined! Or was it really? I think Aidoo will find a way to read their stories, and so will many more of us (perhaps they can be published on the CEGENSA website?) While the young writers might have been initially disappointed,  soon I think they were rather empowered to see a woman who can: that a woman has choice. If she wants, she can always vote with her feet.

Now, would I have done the same? Would I walk out from a festive writing competition held in my honour because of my convictions? Probably not. But then again, I am not Ghana’s foremost trail-blazer feminist, writer, educator, and activist. I only aspire to be like her.



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A Good 24 hrs : Tortoise, Hairy Legs, and a Video on Pulse

In the last 24 hours, the following all happened to me:

  1. A tortoise crossed the road in front of my car, I slowed down and allowed it to safely get to the other side. There was a slight drizzle, it was after seven PM so completely dark except for my headlights lighting up the dense forest. It was a magical moment.
  2. At the salon, I was told the hair on my legs is nice and “never wax it!” I already knew it is not an issue in Ghana, (in Sweden it is almost a political/feminist statement these days to not remove your leg hair as it does not conform with our beauty standards), but receiving compliments for my hairy legs was a magical moment as well!
  3. I was featured on Pulse Ghana for their women’s month! Journalist Stacey Knott recently came to campus and did this interview in which I talk about being a woman in the Ghanaian academy (“wrestling my way top the top”), blogging and my love for Ghana.

Needless to say, it was a good day.
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Not Paying the Black Queens, Is That Really Sexism?

This is a summary of the, at times heated, debate on Twitter this morning regarding the non-payment of the Ghanaian women national team and the issue of sexism. Is it an issue for feminists or rather just a mishap?
  1. After winning gold at the All Africa tournament in the Congo, the Black Queens returned to Ghana last Sunday and on Monday (8 days later) they explained to the press that the Minitry of Sports still owed them their payment.
  2. First, some of understood the issue from a feminist point of view…

  3. Sexism maths: #BlackQueens:even when u win, u lose. Win gold. Lose payment. #BlackStars: Lose every game. Win plane carrying cash. #CitiCBS
  4. Apparently its simple economics. Women do unimportant work for free.  https://twitter.com/kajsaha/status/648767195120599040 …
  5. Those who think men and women are treated equally can compare #BlackQueens & #blackstars – no payment vs flying in the cash. #feminism101
  6. Suggestions 4 a donation drive 4 #BlackQueens r well-meaning, but misplaced. Pay women what they have earned. Respect their work. #CitiCBS
  7. But not everyone agreed

  8. @kajsaha the Black Queens issue is just the irresponsibility of government. It has nothing to do with feminism in my opinion.
  9. @kajsaha I’m saying the B. Stars had to employ extreme tactics to get paid. As do doctors and teachers. For owed dues. Regardless of gender
  10. @kajsaha because men’s football all over the world has a wider audience. This isn’t peculiar to Ghana.
  11. I saw my chance to do some feminist education

  12. The dynamics are different tbh. Black Stars rake in more revenue than their female counterparts  https://twitter.com/kajsaha/status/648767195120599040 …
  13. True, we’ve many issues in Ghana. Still that does not explain the #BlackQueens nonpayment, in my view. #feminism101 https://twitter.com/kantfit/status/648777918680858624 …
  14. Enter Mansplaining and Menmoaning

  15. @kajsaha attack the government and put pressure on them to release monies for these ladies.
  16. If you thought the world was complicated. It’s been made simple for you here…… How did we all miss this?  https://twitter.com/kajsaha/status/648767195120599040 …
  17. There’s an argument there. In both. This is slightly… Inaccurate.  https://twitter.com/kajsaha/status/648767195120599040 …
  18. .@Kantfit you want to develop what is inaccurate about my statement? #BlackQueens #feminism101
  19. …making it a male vs female thing won’t get much fixed. I think.  https://twitter.com/kajsaha/status/648768582885748736 …
  20. Thanks for the advise. Talking about #patriarchy is a bit uncomfortable, but the facts here are too glaring.  https://twitter.com/ofoli_kwei/status/648769979869958144 …
  21. @kajsaha I think I’ll keep my opinion although Rousseau would have been disappointed
  22. @kajsaha he said he’d defend anyone’s right to say what they have to say. That’s profound free speech. Something that is missing today.
  23. The worst part was when I was accused of somehow being against free speech.
  24. I believe I am talking about free speech. But anyway, lawyer away  https://twitter.com/kajsaha/status/648771357900193792 …
  25. Something long discredited. Are we going to discredit free speech now  https://twitter.com/kajsaha/status/648771357900193792 …
  26. I simply meant Rousseau said several things. Please talk about free speech, I can’t read your mind!  https://twitter.com/osarpong/status/648772194525401088 …
  27. Why would I be against free speech?
  28. Why would I? This is an insult to a lecturer at a liberal arts institution and the cofounder to @BloggingGhana 🙁  https://twitter.com/osarpong/status/648772898778423296 …
  29. Alas,
  30. @kajsaha apologies if you feel it was an insult. That was not intended in that caveat
  31. @kajsaha I wasn’t questioning that. You felt I was which is why the feeling of insult came in
  32. Not much of the feminist argument was accepted, however the term “mansplaining” was adopted by Ttaaggooee

  33. If I run, how will I learn about the well-researched “mansplaining” thesis revealed here today?  https://twitter.com/attigs/status/648789964013064192 …
  34. @osarpong and Android keeps autocorrecting the word ‘mansplaining’. Why would they correct someone’s yrs of research ?@ofoli_kwei @kajsaha
  35. Stop mansplaining. It is because they are women. Period.  https://twitter.com/pkamoh/status/648791901072695296 …
  36. @paakoti Herh. Go back to sleep. Stop Mansplaining. What do you know? @kajsaha is the sports expert with all the information you don’t have
  37. A few hours later I was back!

  38. I’m my view,@ttaaggooee @paakoti#BlackQueens is a national symbol. Hence more of a governance issue than sports.
  39. And as you want to discuss my qualifications (sexist?) to discuss governance issues @ttaaggooee, I do have a MA in Pol Sci and
  40. … abt to complete my PhD in African Studies. I also teach leadership at a Ghanaian Uni and @ttaaggooee @paakoti
  41. …discuss feminism, governance and Gh issues in the media and on my blog since 2007 @ttaaggooee @paakoti
  42. @kajsaha gone back and read through a lot more of your tweets and I agree with what some of the people have pointed out…
  43. That it’s the whole Ghana payment system that’s fucked up, not just a women only thing. Essentially equal-oppirtunity disrespect @kajsaha
  44. Also @paakoti why should #BlackQueens not be compared with #blackstars, but with workers? That’s sexism right there. #feminism101
  45. Enter the supporters

  46. *takes a look at @kajsaha TL. Sits back, takes a sip of iced tea and follows the lesson *
  47. Thanks for noting my educative mission this morning *types while breastfeeding* #feminism101  https://twitter.com/mropoku/status/648777450470670336 …
  48. @kajsaha hahaha, an incredible multi-tasker. You win??
  49. Person : “this is sexist” I Too Sabi Man : What credentials do you have to claim this is sexist? It is actually *insert pseudo science here*
  50. @kajsaha its ridiculous that you have to lay out all the ways in which you are qualified before your opinion can be valued. Smh
  51. It all fits perfectly into #feminism101 @bxshola. So there is a small upside 🙂
  52. Kajsa is bringing receipts. The others bought their ish on credit.
  53. If nothing at all, @kajsaha has won at #StartingConversations101 cos all the different twitter segments are talking about this. #Medaase
  54. In conclusion, two feminism classes came out of this exchange!

  55. Hope my Webster Uni Ghana Campus class is listening to this story. Class discussion 4 gender today: Black Stars vs Black Queens #CitiCBS
  56. I’ve done some lesson prep for you under the hashtag #feminism101Have a productive class! 🙂  https://twitter.com/estherarmah/status/648771053955731456 …
  57. Good discussion under the hashtag #feminism101 today. If nothing else, do take away the term “mansplaining”. So common on #ghtwitter!
  58. I’m encouraged by that Twitter is a feminist place where feminists support one-another. Thank you! #feminism101  https://twitter.com/bxshola/status/648829263441956864 …

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