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Of the President’s Vancouver Remarks And The Controversy   
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President Nana Akufo-Addo has recently been at the centre of a furore about remarks he made in Canada, regarding the status of equality and the empowerment of Ghanaian women. One of the most trenchant was the reaction of Nana Oye Lithur, a former Gender Minister.

Of course there are many who have voiced support for the President’s observations. But just what did he say to attract so much anger and biting criticisms from empowerment advocates, gender campaigners and feminists?

His remarks were made during a panel discussion at the ‘Women Deliver 2019 Conference’ in Vancouver, Canada. President Akufo-Addo said, among other things: “We are not seeing enough dynamism and activism on the part of (Ghanaian women).

“I am talking about dynamism where it matters … electing people to Parliament, controlling political parties because they are the instruments by which our societies make decisions. The most important thing is power: that you sit at table whereby decisions you make are enforced and become the norms by which the society lives.

“We are talking about decisions, not wishes and hopes; we are talking about decisions that are going to make the difference,” he added.

The Women Deliver conference, described as the world’s largest gathering on health, rights and well-being of women and girls, takes place every three years. This year’s, held June 3 - 6, was under the theme, ‘Power, Progress, Change’.

Other Heads of State who attended were Canada’s Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau; President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya and President Sahle-Work Zewde of Ethiopia. What President Akufo-Addo’s critics seem to be censoring him for is his statement that Ghanaian women are not assertive enough in the equality campaign, notably in the political arena. But was he telling a lie?

If their furious response stems from a belief that as President he could do much more, does it mean that he had no right to say how he views the situation?

Mrs Lithur was Minister of Gender, Children and Social Protection, 2013 - 2017, during the administration of President John Mahama and the National Democratic Congress. She said memorably on GHOne TV: “President Nana Akufo-Addo made me cry. I cried yesterday.

“To see my President, the country that has in its Constitution equality before the law, non-discrimination; to have a human rights lawyer speak and address the issue of gender in the way that he addressed it. Very regrettable ….” Even the data the President provided was wrong, she stated. She continued: “The President … is enjoined by the law to adhere to the tenets of the 1992 Constitution of Ghana. He has a legal responsibility and obligation under the Constitution of Ghana to ensure that as a woman in Ghana I have equal opportunities.

“I do not need to mount a platform! I do not even need to do any advocacy to get President Nana Akufo-Addo to do what he has to do in terms of creating opportunities for me as a woman in Ghana (emphasis added), ” she said.

I found Mrs Lithur’s biting, scornful comments all the more astonishing because as Gender Minister she made at least two outrageous, anti-empowerment and rights decisions. 
The Ministry she headed, has among its objectives: “The achievement of gender equality, equity, the empowerment of women and girls ….”

Yet what did she do when her Ministry was required to nominate somebody to the National Media Commission, as the Ministry’s representative? She chose to nominate a man!

The following are excerpts from what I wrote about that decision in this space in 2014:

“The irony of the Gender Ministry making this appointment on a body that is already clearly suffering from gender imbalance can’t be overlooked …. “ (The 18-member NMC was thus left with only two women on it.)

“Surely we haven’t got to the stage where the Ministry of Gender should give its only seat on any commission or body to a man just to show that it is gender sensitive or that it represents both men and women.” (Issue of March 7, 2014, ‘A curious decision by the Gender Ministry’.)

Secondly in 2016, there was the atrocious episode in which Mrs Lithur played a shocking role, the ‘Montie 3’ radio case. I wrote:

“Not only were there death threats made against the Supreme Court Judges … there was also the scandalous warning that someone was “ready to marry” the Chief Justice, Mrs Justice Georgina Wood, in the event of turmoil in Ghana.

“A clear threat of rape!

“Yet, incredibly, there are people who have signed a petition pressurizing President Mahama to pardon them! Gender Minister Nana Oye Lithur is the last person I expected to sign such a petition; but she did.” (August 5, 2016, ‘The Montie FM saga and matters arising’.)

The trio had threatened the Chief Justice with rape, clearly because she happened to be a woman, to intimidate her from doing her work as Chief Justice. Just because she was a woman.

Would they have threatened a male Chief Justice with rape?

But, Mrs Lithur, women’s advocate and human rights lawyer of repute, apparently felt that the four months prison sentence was too harsh for the notorious Montie 3.

And she now condemns President Akufo-Addo for saying he wishes Ghanaian women were much more spirited in fighting for their political space?

It made me wonder whether she spoke as she did out of convenient amnesia, political expediency or playing to the gallery – or all three.

Anyway, going by her words, is it just recently that Mrs Lithur has realised that women don’t have to lift even a finger to get the Government to give them their due?

If, as she implies so stridently, women should get their due automatically from the government of the day, why the need for a Gender Ministry, or a Ministry with a Gender component to push for opportunities for women?

Strange that she didn’t decline the position. Why didn’t she advise President Mahama that the Ministry should be scrapped because the Government should do its duty, per the national Constitution, of creating opportunities for women?

Is it only now that Mrs Lithur has discovered what a government is supposed to do for its female population, even if they don’t “mount a platform” or “do any advocacy”?

I’m still trying to understand her. Perhaps it’s now the turn of Ghanaian women, too, to weep. 

Source: Ajoa Yeboah-Afari ([email protected])

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Name: Afia Ba
I was proud as a Ghanaian on that day to hear my President Nana Akufo-Addo speak they way he did. Only empty-headed hypocrites will condemn him for what he said. Any sane person will aprreciate that the President was spiriting the women to be more dynamic in creating sustainable political space to achieve gender equality beyond quota rules and firmative actions. Which make it seem that, without the lordship, thus 'the Herrschaft' handing-out some positions to the Ladies, the Ladies cannot by themselves make any meaningful headway in terms of all Gender-inclusive Governance. Yet, in Ghana today the female dominate in terms of the population numbers. This clearly, is Democratically not healthy if the electorates, both men and women are not exposed to a free political space which makes decissions that reflect their numbers and interests. Indeed we all have to accept, that our beloved women, through no delibrate faults of men, have been victims of norms, traditions and cultures which modernity makes it today imparative, that we collectively correct those inequalities and discriminative behavours, dispassionately. It is our resposibility as sane human beings to do that corrections. Polarized political games, hypocrisy and populism are not the ways to the solutions.
Name: @all three
Truth hurts,it is a bitter pill but that bitter pill always cures fast.It is now that Oye Lithur has come to her senses and woken up from the slumber.Today she has acquired a property in South Africa(revelation by her husband) in short time in government.He wants NDC back hence this nonsensical comments.
Name: all three
It's just obvious you all three who first commented on this article are NPP followers that is why you refuse to realize this writer herself is a sympathizer of NPP. There is nothing objective about this article.
Madam Ajoa's type need to be respected. Very well written piece. She has not played politics, she made concrete observations about the double standards of some our so-called gender activists. What she said could also go for Usullar, Otiko, Valerie, etc. Partisan politics is killing the gender equality campaign. The campaign has been hijacked by female politicians who are more sympathetic to their political parties than the issues of gender and women. For the gender campaign to succeed we need to hear from the ordinary, non-partisan Ghanaian women. That is my understanding of what the president said.
Name: Kofi
Hallelujah, some reality in the house! Oye Lithur has no shame and is absolutely dishonest.
Thank you respected Madam Afari-Yeboah for your wise, deep and thoughtful write up. The President wasn't there to please or ***barred word*** foot anybody. He spoke the truth and the truth hurts. As for Oye Lithur, that woman has lost focus and bearing and I will advice you don't waste your precious and invaluable time on her. God bless you for your knowledge and I sincerely hope that the current crop of journalist will learn from veterans and legends like you. Thank you

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