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

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Ghana, Rape Culture, and Sexual Consent: From Otiko Djaba to #LetsTalkConsent and #HowShortWasYourSkirt

Two weeks ago, many Ghanaians were in shock after hearing the reported statement from the Minister of Gender, Children, and Social Protection at a senior high school she visited. This text is only partly about what the Minister said, and mainly about the useful conversation that ensued about who bears the responsibility for rape and how talking about sex and consent can be transformative.


The Speech

In her speech, Honourable Minister Otiko Djaba advised the high school girls in front of her, she said:

“If you wear a short dress, it’s fashionable but, know that it can attract somebody who would want to rape or defile you. You must be responsible for the choices you make”

In an excellent historical contextualization of the statement (and the ministry in the limelight) by Prof Akosua Adomako Ampofo, the professor suggested:

“The problem that everyone who has criticized her remarks refers to, is the link she made between short dresses and rape. There are many reasons not to wear a very short dress—so as not to draw unwanted attention to oneself, to dress to suit the occasion, to provide a professional appearance, to not expose one’s underwear if you want to climb a bus or cross your legs—but risking rape is not one of them and the connection is tenuous at best and dangerous at worst since it makes the victims responsible.”

Blogger Nnyamewaa fumed:

“Often victims are subjected to awful queries like “what were you doing in his room” and “what were you wearing,” suggesting that they’re somehow to blame for the actions of the rapist. Minister, your comment did exactly what rapists want, ignore their actions and place the burden of preventing rape on women. It serves no one than just perpetuates the rape culture, allowing rapists to get away with their crimes.”

That is, connecting appearance and rape is shifting blame from a perpetrator to a victim. How is that OK?


The Rapes

We see reports of rape and “defilement” (rape of child) often in the news. Brutal gang rapes and people in power such as police, teachers, and guardians attacking rather than helping. This recent article about how many families cannot afford to report a rape I think summarize the way many Ghanaians see the issue (settlement fees of GHS 500 or $125 are apparently common).


The Reaction

Ghana has been all but quiet on the issue in the last couple of weeks. First, there was a Twitter conversation #letstalkconsent, I believe coming out of journalist and public speaker Nana Akosua Hanson‘s event series on sex and consent. Online the #letstalkconsent hashtag trended and hundreds of Ghanaians discussed the issue. See a summary of the conversation on Storify.

The whole #letstalkconsent conversation reminded me quite a lot of the Swedish conversation on sexual consent from 2010 that was called #prataomdet  (“let’s talk about it”) happening in the aftermath of the very public Julian Assange rape case. The beauty of that conversation was to talk about the gray areas of sex – the times when sex goes from being exciting to scary and that we all have the right to say STOP.

In addition, Podcast Unfiltered hosted by journalist Nana Ama Agyemang Asante has covered the issue from many angles: in an episode on rape with Efua Prah, gender expert and my colleague at Ashesi University, in an episode on casual sex and consent with Eyram Seshie and Jessica Boifio.

Podcast The Other Room hosted by Cel, Kess, Aj and Vee also discussed this issue from the angle of safe spaces (Ep. 06). The name of the podcast, of course, is an ironic take on Nigerian President Buhari’s idea on where his wife belongs.

Last week, journalist and lecturer Esther Armah organized a forum for media people that sought to discuss how issues of rape and consent are covered in the news media (the conversation also came to be about the role of blogs, in a way I have never heard blogs be discussed in Ghana before, is this a sign of that blogs are finally seen as a force to reckon with in Ghana? Perhaps this is another post!) The #Reimagine2017 event covered both ethical aspects of journalism and public rape cases and media’s role in covering them.

At Ashesi University where I teach, the Vagina Monologues were staged. Guided by Faculty Intern and director Caira Lee, students also wrote their own texts about sexual transgressions and shared them with the audience. From the article on the Ashesi website:

“Restaging the Monologues within our context was important because it helps spread awareness about sexuality,” said Lilian Awuor ’18. “It creates a platform for young women to share their struggles, thoughts and feelings on how it is like being a young woman in Africa today.”

This week, activists and film-folk in Accra like AWDF‘s Jessica Horn, Maternal Health Channel’s Ivy Prosper and An African City‘s Maame Adjei and Nicole Amartefio together with LetsTalkConsent have started another campaign on the same topic: #HowShortWasYourSkirt. Short films that comment on the skirt length (are you listening Honourable Otiko Djaba?), on issues of intoxication, on what we should tell young people about rape.

There are likely many more initiatives out there that have skipped my end-of-semester-two-kids-at-home-busy radar, but these are events, programs, articles I have read, listened to or participated in and support fully.


What is Rape Culture? 

Rape culture or a culture that condones rape is built on a patriarchal societal structure. In such a structure, women are responsible if there is a sexual transgression, women have to limit their lives to be safe, women should be thinking about what they wear. Prof. Adomako-Ampofo again:

“…when we talk about so-called “women’s issues” such as violence against women, including rape, these are in fact “gendered” issues. In other words, if we take the case of rape, women are disproportionately the victims of rape and men are disproportionately the perpetrators. This is because rape is about exerting power and control, and men generally have more “power” in society than women do. Therefore, the ministry is expected to address the gendered nature of our societies when it addresses issues such as rape.”

This 2005 expert paper prepared by Elizabeth Ardayfio-Shandorf for the UN of over 3000 individuals in Ghana suggested:

“Female respondents were asked whether any man had forced sex on them. Likewise male respondents were asked whether they have forced and had sex with any woman (whether a wife or a girlfriend) against her wishes. Eight percent (8%) of the females said they have had that experience before and 5% of the men also said they had forced sex on their wives and girlfriends. According to the males, this happens when women/girls always request for money from them and deny them sex in return. It is also meant to settle a quarrel between them.[..]On the question of what action was taken after these acts, 59% said they never reported these actions to anybody.”


What can we do?

Many societies have a rape culture, Ghana from everything I have discussed above most definitely does, and to change it I believe we can and should:

  • discuss sex openly to make sure young people know as much as possible about sex
  • place sexual consent center stage, not what she wore, where they were, or what time it was
  • make rape a criminal rather than a civil offense so that charges cannot be dropped and threats to doing so will always be fruitless
  • educate ourselves about patriarchy, rape culture, and slut-shaming
  • get outraged and speak up to make a difference

When the Minister who is supposed to protect young women does the opposite, it is a time to throw your hands up in disbelief and shock, but it is also the time to roll up your sleeves and educate. In this post, I have sought to highlight some of the activists in Ghana leading the ensuing educative, enlightening conversations. Thank you for transforming the conversation. I applaud you.



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