Dear Serwaa,

It’s been long, hasn’t? It’s been long since I last wrote to you. It’s been long since you read and called to differ with me on one opinion or the other. It’s been long since you told me how you raised some concerns in my letter and stirred controversy among your friends.

Today, I have decided to write to you based on your own request. You asked in your text message what I made of Archbishop Nicholas Duncan-Williams’ comments. I promised to reply in a letter, for a text message could not contain my full take on the matter.

I find it a bit difficult commenting on pronouncements of Men of God if the comment is not complimentary. Like Ghanaians and politics, people discuss matters of religion with their hearts, not their heads. “God says ‘touch not my anointed and do my prophets, no harm,” they will warn you. And I often wonder if we would still all not be Catholics if the early Christians had been as timid as we are today.

In the case of Archbishop Duncan-Williams, I have had issues with some of his recent comments. He attracted ridiculing international headlines when he said we should pray for the falling cedi. Why should I pray for the cedi when people are stealing our money, buying dollars and saving and spending lavishly in Dubai and other Western countries? I would rather pray for the president to wake up from his slumber and deal with the corruption.

Recently the Archbishop also said we should pray against the “demonic” Ebola. Demonic Ebola? I thought it was a virus. Or?

Don’t get me wrong. I am a Christian, and I believe in the power of prayer. But I also think if God wanted to do everything for us, he would have put pure water or sand in our skulls, and not brains. When we over-emphasise spirituality in everything, we find solace in our incompetence, laziness and mediocrity. When Ebola entered Nigeria, they put in measures and dealt with it. In countries where they saw the disease as a spiritual problem, it taught them the hard lessons of not using the white pigment in their heads.

But it seems some journalists of Gyeedaland have found the likes of Archbishop Nicholas Duncan-Williams, Bishop Dag Heward-Mills and Pastor Mensa Otabil as easy targets. On Sunday, they pitch camps in their churches with voice recorders and pray that they stir controversy. Last Sunday one of such journalists’ prayer was answered and social media became awash with what the Archbishop said:

“It’s a privilege to be married. It’s a privilege in the time we live in when it’s seven [women] to one man”, he told his congregation.

“Sister, when you get married, be thankful and stop misbehaving because it’s seven to one. It doesn’t matter how pretty, beautiful or intelligent you are; until a man proposes to you, you are going to stay beautiful, pretty, intelligent, nice and whatever, and get rotten.”

Serwaa, this is what you want my take on, isn’t it? Okay I will make it short and simple. I humbly disagree with the Man of God.

The story of creation reminds us that God created woman as a helper. It is a privilege to get a helper. Proverbs 18:22 also teaches us that “He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the LORD.” So who is doing who a favour here?

“It doesn’t matter how pretty, beautiful or intelligent you are; until a man proposes to you, you are going to stay beautiful, pretty, intelligent, nice and whatever, and get rotten.”

Like seriously?

Serwaa, I like marriage and will forever respect it as an institution of God. But I don’t think the usefulness of women is limited to marriage. Women, like men, have more to offer to humanity than marriage. I think the greatest injustice done to females is to confine their significance to the matrimonial home. It kills their confidence, initiatives and psychologically discourages the young ones from aiming high. A few years ago, I wrote about how such pronouncements terribly affected my twin sister, Dorcas:

“My sister and I stepped into the classroom empty-headed; knowing nothing about what awaited us in life. If any pupil was able to recite ABCD or count numbers from 1 to 10, my sister and I saw that pupil as magician. But that period would not outlast eternity.

“My twin sister, as Madam Grace Owusua would later put it, was smarter and naturally more intelligent than I was. All pupils started by writing on wooden slates and as they improved, they were allowed to write in exercise books. So my twin sister started writing in an exercise book while I still struggled with much difficulty to draw the numbers and letters on the wooden slate. Even when I joined her later in writing in exercise books, I was still many miles behind her.

“This didn’t go down well with my father. Why should a boy allow a girl to outperform him in school? Boys, he emphasised, were more useful to the family than girls. Girls would one day get married and fly out of the family nest. But boys would be the ones who would one day sustain the family’s name, its lineage, its heritage. It was unheard of, therefore, that my sister should be better than I academically. He didn’t say it once. He didn’t say it twice. He often repeated it, mostly in the presence of my sister.”

Serwaa, these pronouncements and other treatments took a toll on my sister. She dropped and I overtook her, and as we climbed the academic ladder, the gap between her performance and mine widened. In 2011 when I gained admission to do my master’s degree, she also gained admission to do her first degree. That’s how bad it can get.

Real men do not think the place of a woman is in the kitchen or in bed. There is nothing more useful to society than a well-educated, confident and well-mannered woman. It is for this reason that I have a crush on products of Wesley Girls High School in Cape Coast.

Serwaa, don’t be envious because I had that crush on them before I met you. It started in 2008 when I was a student of the Ghana Institute of Journalism. I set up a newspaper and named it The Secondary Times, which targeted senior high schools. I was the reporter, editor and distributer. I also helped in the layout and design.

It was such enterprise that took me to Wesley Girls, the school I had heard so much about while I was in Krachi Senior High School. When I got to the school that morning and was waiting to see the headmistress, Mrs Betty Dzokoto, I noticed that all the students who entered the administration block greeted me in a very courteous way before proceeding to do what they came there to do.

When I entered the headmistress’ office, I introduced myself and told her I was about to start a paper and wanted to feature her school. She agreed, took time to give me an interview and even posed for a photograph. Mrs Betty Dzokoto’s humility contradicted what anyone would guess. I met a lot of heads of senior high schools in the process and some were rude. The rudest to me was the headmistress of Osu PRESEC. “Even the headmistress of Wesley Girls was humble,” I said to myself as I left her school that afternoon, cursing her in my heart.

But my admiration for Wesley Girls did not end with my first encounter with a humble headmistress and good-mannered students. Later that year, I attended the speech and prize day of Wey Gey Hey and the head prefect, Gloria Naa Awo Boye, wowed me.

The well-organsised ceremony started with a performance from the school’s cadet, then a welcome performance from the representatives of the various houses before four beautiful girls came to recite Maya Angelou’s poem, Phenomenal Woman.

When it was time for the head prefect’s address, Gloria Naa Awo Boye was ushered in by traditional dancers. She was flanked by her two assistants, Habiba Inusah and Priscilla Ohemeng-Mensah. She delivered one of the most brilliant speeches I have heard. The presence of high profile dignitaries such as the Chief Justice, Georgina Theodora Wood, did not intimidate her. She delivered the speech without reading even “the” from a script.

I was so impressed that when I was leaving Wesley Girls that day, I made a silent vow to myself: “Even if I don’t marry an old student of Gey Hey, my daughter will surely attend this school.” I love intelligent and purposeful ladies, ladies who know what life is about and can hold their own against their male counterparts.

Serwaa, we have so many Gloria Boyes in senior high schools across the country, very intelligent and promising young women with so much prospects for this nation and the world. If you look at those who receive the yearly WAEC excellence awards, most of them are female candidates.

 The mindset that girls are useless without men often slows them down as they go higher. When they get to the university, some are preoccupied with how to attract boys. They spend time polishing and behaving as though their survival depended on the boys they date. The reality dawns on them when they leave school. The boys they were far better than back in school occupy positions they never get to occupy.

It is here that NGOs make their money. They get funding from donor organisations, gather a few women around a stale theme and christen it women empowerment.

Real women empowerment should start with purging our young girls of the self-imposed inferiority complex. We should let them know they are equal, to and in most cases, better than their male counterparts. They have no reason to slow down and later ask for quotas or affirmative action. Women empowerment should start with the condemnation of thoughts such as that of Duncan-Williams.

Some of my Facebook friends say his comments were directed at extreme feminists. What about the extreme chauvinists? A woman who is trained to be respectful will be respectful despite her position, level of education or influence in society. Remember the Wesley Girls headmistress and that of Osu PRESEC? Some women have nothing to show in life but they are disrespectful. Others are also very accomplished but are very submissive in marriage.

It is all about personal character and men, irrespective of their social status, should never think they are doing the women favour by marrying them. And if the 7:1 ratio the Archbishop is propagating is anything to go by, then it means some women will not get men to marry. Why? Christians frown on polygamy. Besides, it is not every man who would have the opportunity to marry, divorce and remarry as in the case of the Archbishop so that at least, two women can take turns to marry the same man. So if a woman doesn't marry,  does that deminish their contribution to society? Will they rot?

Serwaa, because of what I have experienced with my own sister, I will stand for the cause of women any day. Feminism should not the left in the hands of only women. Men must be courageous enough to help the correct centuries of the lethal psychological warfare and injustice women have suffered and continue to suffer.

I stand for this cause, and think women deserve their right position if our nation is to see any meaningful development. I know it is a difficult task, but I trust it will happen one day. And on this note, I join in chanting the prayer of Nana Yaa in Efo Kojo Mawugbe’s In the Chest of a Woman:

"Ye spirits above,

May you let me live to see the

Successful end of the wheel of change

I’ve set in motion. A wheel of change that shall leave all men convinced that,

In the chest of a woman

Is not only an extension of the breast and a

Feeble heart

But a flaming desire to Possess and use Power!"

 

The writer, Manasseh Azure Awuni, is a senior broadcast journalist with Joy 99.7 FM. His email address is azureachebe2@yahoo.com

 

 

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