Former First Lady of the Republic of Ghana, Nana Konadu Agyeman Rawlings, has asked Queen Mothers in the country to be united in fighting for the rights of women especially those in their traditional areas.
Nana Konadu was speaking at the Queen Mother’s Day and Traditional Food Fair held on Tuesday, 29th April 2014 at Manhyia Palace in the Ashanti Region.
The theme for the programme was “Preserving our Heritage - the Role of a modern Queen Mother in a developing world.”
According to the former First Lady, “Queen Mothers have a very special responsibility to guide and counsel not just our women folk but the children and the men of their traditional areas too”.
“I have always stressed that unless society empowers women and indeed our Queen Mothers and recognizes their capability and capacity to improve our lives, there will not be any meaningful development of the family and society as a whole”.
Nana Konadu was accompanied by her husband, former President Jerry John Rawlings.
Below is a copy of the full statement
QUEEN MOTHERS DAY AND TRADITIONAL FOOD FAIR ON THE 29TH APRIL 2014 AT MANHYIA PALACE -KUMASI
Nana Otumfuo II Asantehene,
Former President of Ghana, Flt. Lt. J.J. Rawlings,
Nana Mampong Hemaa and her Executives,
Queen mothers (assembled) of Ashanti Queen Mothers Association,
Distinguished guests, Ladies and Gentlemen:
When Nana Mampong Hemaa called me that she and the Queen Mothers of Ashanti had organized themselves and on the occasion of Otumfuo Osei Tutu’s 15th year as a King, the Queen Mothers are having a special confab and would like to invite me to share a few words with them, I told her immediately that I would check my diary and revert.
When she came to Accra with some of the Queen Mothers to personally come and invite me again, I saw the seriousness of the intentions of our Queen Mothers to help improve on the development and quality of life for their areas.
This effort to honour your invitation, should, I believe convince you of the importance that I personally attach to the coming together of women to form associations and most importantly the coming together of Queen Mothers to form association with objectives aimed at improving the lives of the people in their communities and paramouncies, especially that of the women and children.
I am therefore not just pleased but most honoured to be invited to this special occasion, which is to coincide and be the preamble to the 15th anniversary celebrations of the enstoolment of Otumfuo Osei Tutu, Asantehene. I am indeed honoured to be here.
Mr. Chairman, today’s program has an interesting topic “Preserving our Heritage - the Role of the of a modern Queen Mother in a developing world.”
To be able to deal effectively with this topic, we should look critically at the role of the Queen Mother in the society and juxtapose it against or to the topic to see if our roles are being effectively used or being under utilized now.
In 1988, I wrote a paper to the then PNDC Secretary on Chieftaincy Affairs on the inclusion of Queen Mothers on the judicial committees of Chieftaincy tribunals. The objective of the letter was aimed at advocating for
Representation of Queen Mothers on the various Chieftaincy tribunals namely the Judicial Committees of the Traditional Councils, Regional and National Houses of Chiefs for the purpose of achieving some qualitative improvement in the adjudication work at these tribunals.
Mr. Chairman, for me I have always known the importance and status of Queen Mothers based on my personal lineage and I know our Queen Mothers know it too. Now for the sake of our visitors let me restate that, Queen Mothers play a very important role in the traditional, Political and Social setting. They are described as the mothers of the chiefs. A Queen Mother is usually the sister of the chief or niece but constitutionally and traditionally, she is regarded as the chief’s mother except in cases where the chief is indeed the son of the Queen Mother.
A Queen Mother is expected to advise the chief on his relationship with his subjects and may reprimand and reprove him in a way none of his councilors can for example two Queen Mothers of Juaben, Aata Birago and Afua Kobi were destooled for failure to advise their sons (chiefs) well.
Indeed it is from the Queen Mother that the elders of a stool request for a man to fill a vacant stool when the stool becomes vacant.
Prior to the advent of colonialism, traditional office holders including Queen Mothers performed judicial functions such as the trial of cases affecting subjects and strangers living within that traditional area.
But with the advent of colonial rule, the native administration formed were given arbitral (judicial) powers on matters concerning customary law and later criminal jurisdiction, (more particularly infractions on public health and bye-laws) was added.
In 1985, after listening to several Queen Mothers in the country, I requested a legal friend, Mr. Paapa Dadson to help us revisit the chieftaincy law; by the end of 1985, PNDC law 107 was passed, amending the chieftaincy (Law) Act of 1971Act 370.
This amendment stated that:
(1) A chief is a person who hailing from the appropriate family and lineage has been validly nominated, elected and enstooled, enskined or installed as a chief or Queen Mother in accordance with the requisite applicable customary law and usage.
(2) Not withstanding any law to the contrary no person shall be deemed to be a chief for the purposes of the exercise by him of any function under this act or any other enactment unless he has been recognized as such for the exercise of that function by the secretary responsible for chieftaincy matters by notice published in the local government bulletin made this 22nd day of March 1985.
(3) By that new law we now had the definition of who a Queen Mother was and is and indeed what function or functions she can perform. Even with the new legislation in existence, Queen mothers were still not taking their proper places in the traditional setting of the various Houses of chiefs. In 1989 into 1992, I started a new appeal to the PNDC Chairman – Chairman Rawlings, about the inclusion of our Queen Mothers into the Regional Houses of chiefs and the National House of Chiefs.
Effects of non-participation of Queen Mothers in the Houses were numerous but the pertinent ones are as follows:
a) It stifles and retards equal development of the female counterparts in the traditional hierarchy.
b) Advantages of exposure in the art of customary judicial administration are lost to the female counterparts in the traditional hierarchy.
c) Reduction of chieftaincy disputes on lineage and the solving of lineage issues in super short time to the presence of the Queen Mothers who are the custodians of tradition and lineage to the stool.
d) Benefits of the “female” touch in the customary judicial administration are lost by reason of non-participation of Queen Mothers.
e) It goes against all known United Nations Organization Conventions intended to enhance the equal development of all sexes in all spheres of human endeavours.
Today most Queen Mothers are educated so they can only bring positive issues on board, nothing else.
When Queen Mothers come together to combine their collective wisdom and authority for the betterment of their traditional areas, it sends very strong positive energy and is indeed a very positive venture that must be supported by all.
In today’s increasingly complex world, to fulfill the roles of a mother, wife and an income earner adequately and responsibly is not an easy task. Perhaps that is why some of our Queen Mothers have little time to spare for their traditional duties except for appearing in splendid regalia at festivals, other traditional occasions and official occasions.
My dear Queen Mothers invited guests, our Queen Mothers have very special responsibility to guide and counsel not just our women folk but the children and the men of their traditional areas too.
The role of the Queen Mothers in our socio-economic development is both diverse and vital and the Queen Mothers need to be supported to work for the stability cohesiveness and the very existence of the family.
While preserving our Heritage on the 15th anniversary of Otumfuo Asantehene’s installation to the throne, let us use this opportunity to bring to Asanteman all that is rich and noble of your respective stools and work together to help mould a more dynamic, social system that will stand the test of time.
What are some of these social and dynamic issues?
The first is the family unit: as a group, how can you help to keep our family system intact or bring it back to basics? The family unit is very important and in the Akan system “ebusua” is not a word to be toyed with and no one disrupts their family structure for no apparent reason. But today in the age of computers and modernity some aspects of family life, family regulations, family behaviour, family etiquettes, family dos and don’ts are not just lost on some of the young ones but are being eroded into oblivion.
As Queen Mothers you have a serious burden on your shoulders to bring us back in line. Bring us back to basics that certain ways of behaving are totally unacceptable to anybody let alone your own family.
Indeed being the custodians of tradition, together you can bring the nations attention to certain unacceptable behaviours by some in the society who in all honesty do not seem to have been brought up well.
Mr. Chairman, parenting is a serious business of not just giving a child food to eat and sending them off to school, but it is permanently advising, counseling and bringing up the child to always understand the does and don’ts of a society.
Communicating with our children, and parenting them should be one of the major duties the Queen Mothers should take up if we are going to be able to change the negativities of the society.
Is it possible for a TV station to give time for Queen Mothers to teach us etiquettes?
It should be a major program for a modern Queen Mother to speak on:
1. Upbringing – giving children guidance;
a) Setting Boundaries
b) Politeness at all times (nothing to do with timidity)
d) Good Personal Hygiene
e) Differentiating between how one addresses peers, elders clients, family and family friends
f) Dressing to suit occasions
g) Discerning between friendliness and over familiarity e.g. the utilization of such terms as momee, pope, old boy, ya – instead of yes please; no instead of no thank you.
h) Environmental cleanliness – not just hand washing
2. The use of mobile phones and earphones in formal settings – Mobile phones introduced when people had no phone etiquettes at all. Rent seeking attitudes in the work place – if you are charging a fee for assistance make it clear instead of pretending to be helpful when doing nothing. Stampeding at functions during receptions and at exits.
Paying respect and regard to elderly and disabled persons. Being specific with time rather than saying 11am to 12pm I will be there. Sometimes 1, 2 or 3pm I will be there and still be late.
Teaching children to confide in parents even on issues of a sexual nature. Need for setting boundaries for children in the case of people who have authority over them.
Discerning between enlightenment and blind copying.
Speaking in different audiences
- Among peers, with strangers of diverse ages and broadcast audiences.
Queen Mothers are the repository of Ghanaian Culture and also agents of change. We must bear in mind that tradition and culture are not synonymous. While tradition emanates from the ethnics of our cultural settings, globalization demands that modifications are made to some outdated norms that retard development of sections of our society.
We need to promote traditions that enhance the social cohesion and equity for accelerating development of boys and girls, women and men, regardless of their economic or disability status to foster social inclusion.
Marginalization of segments of society puts all of us at risk of mayhem. Social inclusion does not imply the lowering of ethical standards but rather enhancing social skills to levels that lead to minimizing waywardness and criminality.
Queen Mothers have a role to play in ensuring that their societies understand fully the consequences of their actions and should resist pressures for promoting impunity especially from privileged segments of their community and national officers.
I have always stressed that unless society empowers women and indeed our Queen Mothers and recognizes their capability and capacity to improve our lives, there will not be any meaningful development of the family and society as a whole.
For the modern Queen Mothers to have a role in a developing world, we must get back to basics and give her the power to help us change. We must rectify all the imbalances in the talents of men and women so that we can harness the capabilities of all in the society for good results.
Dear Queen Mothers, it is my hope that you will each on this special occasion, bring all that is rich and noble in you to help mould a more dynamic social system, one that will glorify the Queen Mothers role.
As opinion leaders and custodians of tradition and culture use this position to educate and preserve your achievements in socio-economic, political and cultural issues at all times and together let us celebrate Otumfuo’s anniversary and look forward to greater participation of Queen Mothers in all aspects of traditional work and indeed in national affairs also.
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