A Stolen Childhood and a Reclaimed Story: Brigitte Sossou Perenyi

Recently, I was introduced to an elegant looking woman in a coffee shop in Accra. She was well-spoken, chic, and had a good sense of humor, and a hello turned into a 30-minute conversation. Towards the middle of the convo, she told me about having had the opportunity to make a BBC documentary about her life. I was quite impressed talking to a twenty-something with her own documentary and told her I would check it out.

The woman was Brigitte Sossou Perenyi and her story was “My stolen childhood: understanding the trokosi system”. This fantastic documentary chronicles Brigitte’s and thousands of other West African girls’ unfair fate of being human sacrifices. In some cultures in Ghana, Togo, and Benin, a committed sin is believed to cause sickness and death in the family which can only be stopped if a girl is “sacrificed” and made a slave of a shrine.

This documentary is fantastic as it shows how striving for understanding of wrongs made against you can free you, how returning to the scene of the crime and remembering together can let your courage spread to others. Our heroine travels the region and speaks to everyone from an Uber-driver, a group of elders, academics studying the practice at the University of Ghana, her trokosi friend who also managed to get free, her family, and to all of us who want to listen to her story. I spent another half-an-hour with Brigitte and cherished every moment of it.

Thank you Brigitte for reclaiming and sharing your story with so much courage and truth-telling!

Trokosi, or ritual servitude, was made a crime in 1998, but no one has been prosecuted for a practice that is still ongoing and affecting many lives.

Becoming Ghanaian: Registration as a Citizen Part 3 – The Interview

After 11 years in Ghana, I have applied to become a Ghanaian Citizen. This is the third post in the series of my experience of the application process. Read part 1 Submitting the application and paying the fee and 2 Submitting the Application to Ghana Immigration Service.

Just before the holidays, I sent a few WhatsApp 

messages to my Ministry of Interior contact to ask of my citizenship application. I wanted specifically to know if the application had reached the stage where they would make a home visit and interview my husband and me. After a little back and forth, we decided on the last Friday before Christmas.

It was a brief affair. After arriving almost two hours late, due to Christmas traffic and phone network disturbances to clarify our location, the visit / interview seemed to be centered around two issues:

  1. Did we live where we said we lived?
  2. Had my husband written the “consent letter” to support my application included in my docket?

Everything else was pleasantries that reminded me of cordial, although formal, family visits before an engagement or similar where you take turns to welcome/accept the welcome, offer water/drink the water, and state the purpose of the visit/ accept the purpose of the visit.

At the tail end of the two officers’ visit, we enquired how long it would be before my application was concluded and were told it would most likely be finalized in the first quarter of this year.

So there we have it, step three toward my Ghanaian citizenship is now behind me. End of this month, it will be one year since I started the process and took the selfie that illustrates this post at the Ministries in Accra. 

If you have any questions on this process, please post them below and I will do what I can to help.

“Shared History” and Decolonising the #RoyalVisitGhana

Last week British successor to the throne, Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall, more popularly known as Camilla, came to Ghana for a four-day visit. The tour was part of a 9 day West Africa visit with stops in not just Ghana, but the Gambia and Nigeria as well.

Britain was heavily involved in the transatlantic slave trade which greatly affected and weakened what is now Ghana, subsequently tightened its grasp through bloody wars with the local kings and leaders, especially the Ashanti kingdom. In 1874, the protectorate of Gold Coast was proclaimed and until 1957 when Ghanaian freedom fighters negotiated independence, the British flag flew over this land and Gold Coast people were killed, exploited, and without basic rights. Hence, a state visit from the former colonizer with such a power imbalance infused history is symbolically important and interesting to study – and discuss, see info on an event below!

With this background, I was shocked and outraged when I saw the UK in Ghana facebook account discussed the visit with the words “celebration of a shared culture” – how is this bloody past equal to “a shared love of Ghanaian music”? Since when?

 

But was later informed of the major billboards around town which had President Akuffo Addo and Prince Charles on them along with the text “Shared History, Shared Future”, a message that both omits and distorts reality and hence insults the intelligence of Ghanaians. What is shared about being exploited? What is shared from one entity exporting its language, education system, religion at the expense of the other? What is shared if one nation colonized the other?

A Facebook friend also pointed out that the shared future, propped up by an acute need for trading partners for the UK ahead of the automatic (Br)exit from the EU next year…

 

And there were other things:

 

As Ghanaian artist Fuse ODG complained in this video and Satirist Machiavelli drew something only Ghanaians can understand…

Now, this is not just Britain’s doing. Ghana has to think harder in how it positions itself when power visits. Look at the Benin traditional leader asking Prince Charles to return stolen goods, for instance. Or is there a gain to Ghana (or the Ghanaian elite?) for playing along I do not understand?

Come discuss tonight Saturday 10 Nov at Libreria at 6.30pm!

Introducing the team behind #Justice4Her – and next steps for the campaign!

These are historical times. The week after the hashtag #metoo took over the world, Ghana saw the perhaps most successful social media campaign ever, #Justice4her, in response to a very brutal sexual assault case. I was impressed to see thousands of Ghanaians engaging and speaking out against sexual violence and society’s leniency. BBC reported on it as well. I reached out to Elizabeth Olympio and the Coalition Against Sexual Abuse (CASA) team behind the campaign to learn more. 

 

  1. Why was the #Justice4her campaign started?

The campaign was started in direct response to the news that a 4-year-old girl had been sexually assaulted in Assin Adadientem. I decided to channel my outrage by contacting a few like-minded friends to brainstorm about what we could do about the case. Our immediate concern was about getting the young child help. But we know that she is a representation of a bigger problem.

#Justice4Her is really a rallying call to get “justice” for “them”. Our use of “justice” is not restricted to the legal concept of justice and all that it entails, but also includes “practical help”, “changed attitudes”, and protection for a vulnerable population.

 

2. Who is behind it?

CASA is the Coalition Against Sexual Abuse.

We describe ourselves as an online social action group of concerned citizens. There is a core group of about 20 people in CASA and we collaborate with other groups and individuals who are interested in the same issue – getting help for child victims of sexual abuse.

Elsie Dickson

Richard Anim

Eugenia Tachie-Menson

Elizabeth Olympio

Sara Asafu-Adjaye

Marcia Ashong

Nana Awere Damoah

Nana Akwasi Awuah

Mawuli Dake

Farida Bedwei

Nana Yaa Ofori-Atta

Ama Opoku-Agyemang

Amazing Grace Danso

Yemisi Parker-Osei

Kathleen Addy

Golda Addo

Naa Oyoo Kumodzi

3. The 72 hours or so of the campaign has been a huge success, the hashtag has engaged many Ghanaians and trended, media and bloggers have discussed it, police and politicians have reacted, a suspect of the rape has been arrested –  is the campaign over or what are the next steps?

The campaign is certainly not over. This is just the beginning. Our goal is to get people talking so we can drive change. The one thing that we have realized is that this issue is a hydra: a multi-headed beast. There are many facets to it and it would be unrealistic of us to think that a hashtag will solve the problem. The problem is an interface between cultural practices, social, medical and legal considerations as well as political will. The media also plays into changing the narrative. This is both an individual and a collective responsibility. We would like to see the solutions reflect all these considerations.

We acknowledge that one group cannot solve the problem. Many coalitions such as FIDA, WiLDAF Ghana, Gender Centre, WISE, The Ark Foundation, LAWA, AWLA etc.. have done significant work in the past, and we salute them. However, the fact that every day, another child is a victim of sexual abuse tells you that there is still work to be done.

Our next steps are to leverage the outrage into concrete and practical steps. First of all, we are planning a march to present our petition to the relevant players in the conversation. We will be providing additional information on this and other plans in due course.

Secondly, we are having crucial conversations behind the scenes, with the different players. Many of these conversations are away from the public eye. In fact, this is where change will be sparked. We believe that change starts with conversations – around kitchen tables, in living rooms, in trotros, market places, schools and offices. Success is not the number of laws on the books, or the number of signatures on a petition. Those are good. What would be a better indication of success would be conversations that spark a change in attitudes. A change that translates into reduced numbers of child abuse cases. Even one child victim is one too many!

Success is a change in the way child abuse victims are treated – from the moment that child tells an adult all the way to treatment – both physical and psychological, investigation and prosecution, sentencing, rehabilitation of both victim and offender; and also how the media reports the case. A change in all of these would be a mark of success.

 

It is a very daunting task, but we must end the culture of silence. It begins with conversations and ends with action and results. The question is are we ready, as individuals and as a nation, to take up this battle?

 

4. We often complain Ghanaians are not activists, what about this campaign do you think made Ghanaians act?

I don’t know if we have ever not had activists, in one way or the other. There have been many, many individuals and organizations that have been fighting this battle over the years. We are not the first or the only group in the trenches. I think what is different is that there are many more avenues available to us now.

Social media is an incredible force. I think that is what made the difference in our campaign and in many other campaigns on different issues. It’s easier to get the message out, it’s easier to express one’s outrage, plan protest marches and events, get the attention of government agencies and politicians. It amplifies both the problem and the solutions, and equally importantly, it helps more people get into the trenches.

 

5. What else would you like us to know?

This is a battle for life! Each of us has a responsibility. Here’s how you can help:

  1. Speak up! Talk about the problem and the solutions! Educate! Spread the word!
  2. Support victims!
  3. Hold your community leaders accountable!
  4. Be the change you want to see!
  5. Please look out for ways in which you can help!

 

Read also Circumspecte on 12 things you can do, this Pulse article with a word of caution about prison punishment only for offenders, blogger Oyoo Quartey’s blog post, and consider joining CASA’s Facebook group

Introducing Vickie Remoe and The Official Vickie Remoe Blog

Since many years, I am a fan of Vickie Remoe. How can one not love her spider-in-the-web business smarts, her flamboyant, sensual, and life-affirming style, and her constant reinventing of herself from journalist, to TV-show host, to magazine mogul, to returnee role model, to sexy mama, to marketing expert and the list goes on. Remoe is that person who always writes good content on social media and possibly who’s postings I comment on most, so believe that I  s-h-r-i-e-k-e-d  with joy when I saw she had started her own, self-hosted, personal blog!

I just had to ask Vickie Remoe some questions and share her with you!

 

1. Who are you and what do you do?
 
I’m a storyteller. Even when I’m working with clients and handling their marketing campaigns or drafting their marketing plans, what I feel I’m doing is telling a story. I run a small international marketing firm here in Accra, called Vickie Remoe and Company. We work for clients across the West African sub-region and amongst many other marketing services we help SMEs with the marketing plans they need to increase their sales leads and strategies for growth.

 

2. Why do you do what you do?

 

The sum total of my skills and experience these past 10 years have given me what I believe are insights or intelligence into selling and marketing in West Africa. So it is only natural to package all that and unload it for the benefit of paying clients.

 

3. What is The Official Vickie Remoe Blog and what is a GoWoman?

 

The Official Vickie Remoe Blog is a personal diary. It’s an outlet for me to use my writing not just to teach others but most importantly to tell my story as a means of finding clarity and peace.

 

GoWoman is from GoWoman Magazine, a magazine that I publish for and about what I call the 21st Century African Woman. A GoWoman is a woman who finds or makes a way where there isn’t one.

 

4. Why did you start blogging now?

 

I’ve been blogging for over a decade first on SwitSalone, then on GoWoman, but this is a personal self-centering undertaking. I started to blog because I need a place to connect my thoughts and talk about my own truth and lived experience. I’m not sure there is anyone else out there with my perspective, way of life, living as I am.

 

So I’m telling my story first and foremost for myself but also because I do have a following of young women who I feel need the content I put out, covering the things that would otherwise not be discussed in public. If I am honest and open about my life and my challenges and what I go through it might help them to also live their full lives.

 

5. How do you see Ghana today and where do you see Ghana in 5 years?

 

 

I’ve been here for almost 5 years and quite frankly I believe in Ghana. I have faith in Ghanaians that come what may
they’re going to stay invested and make sure Ghana is and becomes what they want it to be. This is a true democracy, not perfect, but true. In 5 years I think we’ll have more of the same; individual Ghanaians developing innovative solutions to everyday problems. I love Ghana and I hope to contribute to its development in my own way. This is home for better and for worse so we have to build it, all of us citizens and residents.

 

6. What is your best advice to someone who wants to create change?

 

You want to create change? Take small steps and actions. Don’t try to fix the macro problem, focus on what’s near, what’s close, and what you can start today.

 

7. What do you want to promote?

 

I follow a lot of women on social media. Women who exhibit their own light and are doing big and small wondrous things. They inspire me to keep doing me. To me, that’s what I get the most from social media, stories, and inspiration from others that set my soul on fire and give me strength. Some of them I don’t know at all.

 

Locally, I’m inspired by women in business who could be doing anything else but choose to follow their passions in seemingly unconventional fields. My local heroines are Yvette over at Cafe Kwae, Maggie over at Niobe Spa, Maabena  at Fitvolution and of course everyone’s favorite blogger and writer Jemila from Circumspecte. Those are taking the path less chosen, creating footprints for others who may not otherwise know how to get there.

 

Thank you for sharing, Vickie! I especially liked how you promoted other women “creating footprints for others” (sounds just like someone I know!) and your positive imagining of Ghana in the future. I wish Vickie all the best with her personal and very readable blog The Official Vickie Remoe Blog – two recent posts I read on dating married men and miscarriage – and suggest you follow her on FB and Instagram.

My Children Speak Three Languages: Here Are My Thoughts About It

My brother reads to my children. In Swedish.

In our family, we speak three languages: English is the common language that all of us speak, then I speak Swedish with the kids (which my children’s father can understand some, but cannot speak it), and the children’s father speaks Fanti, an Akan language ( which I only have a basic level of understanding and proficiency) with them. People around us speak either English or Fanti or other dialects of Akan, in school, my daughter is taught in English. We Skype with my Swedish family in Swedish maybe once a week.

Swedish is hence the language my children hear the least of.

My thoughts around teaching them my language are:

  1. It is extremely important to me they speak my mother-tongue. It is the lauguage in which I can express myself best and it is the carrier of my culture. My children speaking Swedish is non-negotiable and I am envisioning them speaking Swedish fluently as adults, on a level high enough it would not immediately be possible to tell they did not always live in Sweden.
  2. If I, their mother, speak Swedish, they will too. I therefore try and speak as much in Swedish with them as I can. Honestly, I constantly disappoint myself and end up speaking English much more than I intend to, but I try to be forgiving, switch to Swedish when I realize I am rattling on in English and say to myself that “tomorrow is a new day…”
  3. To increase my children’s Swedish vocabulary, we read books every day. I try to read to them every night I am home for about 45 minutes (5 nights a week). We have many children’s’ books in Swedish, but I also do direct translations from books in English (and the one in French!). We also converse around pictures in the books.
  4. Mixing languages is ok. The Multilingual Children’s Association agrees and calls it “harmless and temporary”. If my children speak mixing English and Swedish, and they do that quite a bit, I might translate to Swedish in my response to them. For instance,  they might say: “…and kaninen [the rabbit] fall down”,  I can respond “Ja, den ramlade…” [Yes, it fell]. But I don’t want to coerce them into speaking Swedish as I don’t want there to be any ill-feeling towards the language. At times that means I will be speaking Swedish and they will respond in English. Good enough.
  5. We spend at least one month in a Swedish-speaking environment every year. I think it is sometimes good to be emersed in the language and “forced” to speak (but I am not contradicting myself, the force that comes naturally from speaking to someone who prefers Swedish is very different to be made to speak to someone who speaks both languages).
  6. I take help from technology. When my children play iPad games or watch movies, I make sure some of them are in Swedish. It is also a great way of adding the cultural aspect of life in Sweden such as current favorites Barnen i Bullerbyn and Astrid får en lillebror.
  7. I think of next steps. However, I realize my children lack some specific vocabulary, for instance, words for play in Swedish (My child: “Hello, let’s play HIDE AND SEEK”, Swedish child: *blank face*), so I would love to organize playdates for them with Swedish speaking children. I know a few here in Ghana and am aware of a Swedish family moving to our town soon. Likely my Swedish would improve with some more practice as well!

If you have experiences with a multilingual life, I would love to hear your story!

Thanks to Charlie’s comment and Nadja’s facebook post which inspired this post!

This post is part of a series of posts about parenting

Third Time A Charm? Reporting from a #DayatDVLA

This year, my driver’s licence expired and needed to be renewed. I made my first visit to DVLA in April, payed the dues for the renewal, but did not get to complete the process. I left with a scribble on my application and used it until July when the scribble expired and the “capture machine” was restored. In July, I completed the application process and left with a temporary license. This week the temporary license expired, so I got on the dirt road to DVLA (see photo below) again. Here is my story.

file-2016-09-30-13-23-43

When I entered, I was shown to room 7 by a man in a yellow very saying “Lion Security” (more on that later). The room has a number of desks and about half of them are covered with boxes with licenses marked with “February 2015, March 2015” and so on. I would guess there were a couple of thousand licenses there waiting for their owners. I asked if I could take a photo for the blog, but was asked not to. I was immediately told, “Oh, your license is not ready”. I was asked to sit down while my temporary license was extended.

Instead I walked past crowds of waiting people to the head of DVLA Tema, Mr. Osei-Bio’s office (see photo below) to get an update on the issues we discussed in July. The same issues I had filed complaints about to his predecessor in April. Mr. Osei-Bio looked tired and did not recognise me until I sat down and introduced myself. He then smiled and answered all my questions with patience. These were my issues:

– Card printing delays

-Lack of information, possible solutions I listed in my first complaint were:

  • a central reception
  • signs and step-by-step instructions
  • personel wore uniforms or at least name tags
  • fees were clearly pasted on the wall (online onlyvehicle licensing fees are available, not drivers’ licensing fees).

– Security personnel instead of information staff.

 

file-2016-09-30-13-24-30

I was told all the printing is being done in Accra and is dealing with a two year backlog. This was confirmed when I later when to pick up my extended licence and was asked “When did you first apply? 2014?”. My friend Jacob that was mentioned in the April post also had had his temporary licence renewed since 2014. I again explained what a hassle that is to us drivers: having to spend several working days just to check on a license that we have all payed for, not having a valid ID (banks do not accept the Temporary license). I was told now the extension is not three months, but until the end of the year. By then, they believe the printing of the backlog of card will have been done. My extension reads 30/12/2016. However, why can the printing of licenses not be done in Tema ( and all the other DVLA districts) so the day that you come to renew your licence, you also leave with your new license? The cost for manpower involved in extending licenses for years and handling licenses must well exceed a few card printing machines? Add to that cost the productivity loss for all of us “coming and going” and being robbed of our legal identification.
file-2016-09-30-13-22-54
The lack of information was even greater this time. The electronic signboards were not working (see black screens on the building in the last photo). The audio message was off. No central reception had been created. Rather the “Customer Service Centre” at the gate was closed and replaced by two aggressive security men. No visual step-by-step instructions exist anywhere. However, I saw prices for services being posted on the wall, and I thought to myself: now that is an improvement from July. Exactly what I asked for!

[Prices]

file-2016-09-30-13-21-21

But it was not so. The prices on the wall is for a new initiative of “Premium service” where you supposedly get served quicker by DVLA. As the regular prices are not displayed anywhere, I can’t tell if it is a good deal though. (Also what is versions 1, 2, 3 for replacement of license?) Why create a premier service if you cannot perform the basic service?

file-2016-09-30-13-22-09

I told Mr. Osei-Bio that when DVLA does not paste information anywhere, see defunct electronic screens on the admin block on the photo above, they play us customers in the hands of connection men or the security guard I met when walking in. The security guards have been there for about a year and serve both as information givers and security. However, the onsite bank is guarded by a policeman with a weapon. I questioned why DVLA Tema need 6 security men on post? Mr. Osei-Bio said this is normal, all establishments need security. Perhaps, yes. But even more, do we not need information? To me, it seems that when drivers in and around Tema come back for the second-third-fourth-fifth time to get something they have payed for, they have every right to be angry and demand change. Is that why the security is really needed?

When I was leaving I wanted to record the speaker to prove there was no customer service announcement and also take a photo of the closed customer service unit. I had asked for permission to take photos by Mr. Osei-Bio when I was in his office and while he denied my request to take photos indoors, he said I could take photos “outside, on the premises”. My mistake was not asking security at the gate. Quickly they came up to my car and escalated the situation from me taking a photo and asking about the customer service announcement that was no more, to them screaming “Do you know there is security here” and “Who asked you, WHO ASKED YOU TO TAKE PHOTOS?” Their aggressiveness was uncomfortable and unnecessary and was not appeased by me saying I had a meeting with Mr Osei-Bio (“Mr. Osei-WHO?”) and had his approval. They forced me to park my car and walk back to the building and what for Mr. Osei-Bio to come. To me this buttresses my point above on an organization that cares more about protecting itself than being of assistance to its customers.


The only thing that keep see hopeful at this time is how well I was received by Mr. Osei-Bio (“You  help me to do my job better”, he said) and how much people around me at DVLA agree when I speak up and say: THIS IS NOT ACCEPTABLE. I urge every one of you who read this to “adopt” a government agency, liaise with its leaders, and demand better service.

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.

atta

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.

 

 

Mzznaki Reps Ghana Well-Well!

Ghanaian bride-to-be Mzznaki Tetteh is getting married later this month, but the attention has already started. After Mzznaki and her fiancé Kojo Amoah posted their pre-wedding photos online, the pictures have gone viral and sparked conversation.

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The response on Mzznaki’s instagram has been lauded as classy.

 

“She is one of the best people I have met and I am so happy to take her to the altar”, says Kojo in an interview.

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After the nurse and her engineer fiancé got international attention: Dailymail Uk, Yahoo.com (a nice article on fatshamin online), Today.com, Metro.uk and even Swedish Elle!Screenshot 2016-06-09 00.37.55

 

Yesterday, Mzznaki came on TV and spoke to Joy News to a quite rude Israel Lareya. She told her story and on a direct question on how much she weighs (!), she kept her cool and answered “hundred-and-sexy!” (Do yourself a favour and please turn off before creepy Lareya asks about her lingerie!!)

On her instagram profile, now followed by 36 000 people, Mzznaki describes herself as “A nurse, A sweet girl who loves fashion, A student, An achiever”. I think she can now add to her list:

“A social media sensation and A confident and widely admired ambassador of Ghana”.

I’m Back! With a Life Crisis, Post-PhD Blues, and Blog Fatigue

Vacation is over. Work has begun. I am back.

However, the sweet hopefulness of new beginnings that surround each start of a new school year has this year eloped me. Sadly, instead of feeling triumphant and light about my submission of my manuscript, I now feel rather lost and blue.

I don’t know what goal to aim for.

I don’t know where to go from here.

I don’t know what I want to do with the rest of my life!

Is this the post-PhD blues people talk about? Or a full-blown life crisis?

I don’t even know what to blog about. Ghanaian politics seem more opaque than ever. Should I be more of a lifestyle blogger, perhaps? Showing you my (perfect) kids, my (well intended) DIY-projects, and my (always failed) herb garden? Or more like my fav academic blogger Chris Blattman, wittily summarising the interesting research debates I engage in, mixed with lists of links to great reads? Should I join other bloggers and start a podcast and simply talk to you, dear reader?

Well, for now I am lost. Or as it is put as the textbook chapter I happen to teach next week, I am “learning to wallow in complexity”. If someone out there has an opinion on what I should do with my life (or blog!), I’d love your input.

3 #DumsorMustStop Vigil Lessons

Here are my three take-aways from today’s #DumsorMustStop vigil.

1. A few people, in this case celebrities, can make a difference. Thanks to their leadership, we were given a venue to speak up. The feeling of walking down the street with 1000 (2000?) others who also think we deserve better was like…a cold shower after a night under a non-moving fan.

2. We can do better. More people can show up next time, but more importantly, those who come should know how powerful we are if we optimise the protest in terms of:

  • spacing (one arms length to the person in front of you one to the person next to you),
  • speed (slowly, like a tortoise winning against the hare!) and
  • place ( you want to walk ON THE ROAD to create maximum impact of the protest, not on the curb, etc).

3. Clearly, Ghanaians are tired of sitting in the dark. Seeing thousands of Ghanaians dressed in black floating down the street holding candles and kerosene lamps – and one fridge! –  must be the government’s nightmare.

Tomorrow Sunday 17 May, 2015, at 3.30pm BloggingGhana will discuss the vigil and how social media can play a role in #DumsorMustStop. If you want to attend, let us know here.

Reactions to the State of the Nation in 2015: #SOTNGhana

This morning, Ghana’s president John Dramani Mahama stood in front of parliament to give us this yearly landmark speech. The radio stations have been gearing up for days and as a social media pundit who loves politics, I had been looking forward to this – very significant online – event.*

The state of the nation is kind of mixed at this moment. I mean not having power two nights/days out of three is very, VERY bad. But there are also improvements in infrastructure, especially water in the Grater Accra area. There is much hope that the pending IMF deal will restore confidence in the Ghanaian economy, but also many critical voices towards Ghana having to “go beg”. Many other aspects of the state of the nation can of course be discussed, but I will focus on the reactions.

Last year the State of the nation address was criticised for being too jovial This year, the tone was different, but I was saddened to realise that Ghanaians on Twitter could not take anything the president said in his speech at face value, mostly sour comments and satirical outbursts filled my Twitter time line. However, I was also not surprised. We are hot, angry and some of us hungry due to the current power crisis. It was also pointed out that a state of the nation address is supposed to chronicle what has happened thus far, but instead of somber reports, grand promises of future large scale projects were rather trumpeter out – election campaigning style! Mahama even mentioned what he was to do in his second term!

The opposition came to the parliament dressed in black and red to display their sorrow at the current state of affairs, and that deepening raft between governing NDC and opposition NPP is maybe the most worrying as, pointed out by small party PPP leader Ndoum earlier in the week, Ghana stands in front of challenges that need longterm, non-partisan solutions.

Now, Mahama towards the very tail end of his speech did touch upon that:

I do agree with the analysis made by both Nduom and Mahama, but attitude and excessive partisanship are most definitely leadership questions. Where is the bipartisan IMF delegation? The humility of statesmen and women in the face of hard times? The rapid responses to the worst effects of power crisis for citizens? Not much of those around for now.

*Although it was puzzling to us the president “announced” a hashtag different from the one we have used for years when discussing this event: #SOTNGhana, but did not even use that new hashtag in his own tweets! (Thanks to @Kwabena for pointing that out)