We sat next to each other on a Lufthansa flight from Ghana to Germany, where we had to wait for some hours for a connecting flight to London. She was neatly dressed in a blue denim jeans and a white bow front blouse with a leather jacket. She didn’t look like a first timer. We didn’t say more than ten words to each other throughout the journey. On arrival at Frankfurt; I located where the passengers who were connecting to London were and joined them.
I found myself a comfortable place and sat to watch some movies on my laptop while I waited for the flight. After some few minutes, the same lady walked up to me and introduced herself as Maya. Did you just ask why we did not do the introduction on the flight? Well…you know ladies and their ego… I wanted to do it though, but pulled back upon a second thought. I told her my name as well and she asked if she could get a Samsung charger to charge her phone. Unfortunately, I had just my cord in my hand luggage so I suggested that she charged her phone with power from my PC. She agreed and went to bring her hand luggage to sit next to me.
After a chat with her, we realized that we were both products of the Linguistics Department of the University of Ghana. She said she was going to spend some time with her auntie in London. I told her I was going on a similar trip. Then we started talking about how life was going to be after school; about how hard it was going to be to gain employment after national service and other things. Then I said that it would be easier for us to get employed because we are women.
“You think so because of Affirmative Action, right?” she asked. Yes, I replied.
“This is what I have always spoken against,” Maya retorted.
“Affirmative Action was intended to promote the opportunities of defined minority groups within a society to give them equal access to that of the majority population. Besides it came at the time when women were not supposed to be seen, when marriages were arranged and women had no say but were only considered properties of their husbands, at the time when the only powerful women at the time were royals or those who were from wealthy families and when female writers wrote under pen names. Are women a disadvantaged group today?” She asked
My answer was a big NO. So she continued.
“Many have gained employment and positions in many institutions because of Affirmative Action and they are doing well. Others also see it as a reason to be lazy and complacent and end up disappointing those who entrusted them with the positions. I don’t want to mention names but within the period of about one year, we all know how Ghana has suffered so much disgrace in the hands of some women. Of course some of them did not necessarily fail because they did not get there by merit. The fact that if these women were given the position on merit, they would still be lazy if they want to can’t be overlooked.
“Employers still demand to sleep with women before they offer them employment, has Affirmative Action stopped this?” she asked.
I just looked at her and shook my head, hoping she would end the long talk so I could continue watching my movie. But no, she continued.
“I believe it is high time women discovered their strengths and used them. Yes, what men can do women can do better but in their own way. Instead of fighting to be like men, we should use their natural gifts and do things in their natural way,” she said.
“Don’t you think that will empower women more?” Maya asked.
“I think women have always underestimated the power they have. There are countless occasions where my father changed his mind overnight on a decision he took earlier.”
I remembered and told her about how my daddy changed his mind about not allowing me to go on a school excursion.
She went on to say that some university students start telling their mothers about some books they have to buy in November with the idea of securing some money for Valentine in February. Eighty percent of today’s fathers will think of this before the children do and wouldn’t want to give them the money. To evade all the hard questions from fathers, children would rather go to their mothers not because they think they are weak but because they know the kind of power their mothers have over the fathers, the supposed heads of the homes.
At this point, I felt like I was at the lecture hall and it was getting more interesting. You should have seen the passion with which she spoke. I brought out a pen and a diary to jot down some things.
“Another way that shows women have power is that a woman can do a number of things simultaneously and succeed. Female children at that tender age are able to learn how to keep the house and also learn whatever they are supposed to learn at school at the same time. Women are able to learn how to cook, clean the house, take care of the family and excel at school. Isn’t that wonderful?” Maya asked.
It is, I said with a smile.
“Some even excel better in areas that are perceived to be for men only,” she added and continued.
“Women are multitaskers. They are able to do many things with divided attention. She said there was no way her kid brother would listen to you if he was watching cartoons or on his PS game or iPad. And added that there have been occasions where they’ve had to warm food that has been served him and he would stir his breakfast while watching the cartoons until the food it gets watery.”
No scientific experiment has been done to prove that women are multitaskers but I can also think of this example, one of my bosses at a place where I did my attachment. He was always on either his phone, lap top, iPad and would hardly respond to you when he is typing or chatting on social media.
Then Maya said, “But a woman can prepare soup, turn and pound fufu, all at the same time. In Akan we say ‘odi aworka’.” How many men are able to do this?
“Let’s leave the men to make all the noise that they are the strongest. I sometimes get worried when women try to scream when they have issues with their men. The few women who know the power they have will just keep quiet and watch them make all the noise. Allow them to make all the noise when you are outside and you should have all the patience to wait till when just the two of you are in the room. You will own the ‘platform’ and he will have no choice than to listen to you.”
I laughed out loud after this part.
“To me, equating women to men is not important; the focus should rather be on celebrating women who have excelled despite the perception that women are weak. The focus should be on how to redeem the women who are suffering because of the perception; the ninety year old woman at Gambaga witch camp, the thirteen year old girl who has being forced into marriage, the married woman who is being maltreated by her husband’s family because she hasn’t given birth, and the wife who is abused by her husband and cannot fight back. These are but a few of such incidents.”
She went on to say that most of the women she mentioned find themselves in those situations simply because they are women.
They accuse these women who are probably in their menopausal ages of witchcraft and keep them in isolated camps. “I am yet to hear of any wizard’s camp. But tell me, Asiedua, are there no men practicing witchcraft just like they believe the women are doing?”
“Deep question!” I replied.
“Women are often blamed when couples face infertility problems. Are they God? Why therefore are they subjected to all kinds of maltreatments when it comes to infertility in marriages? The most worrying of all the problems women go through is that, in most cases, widowhood rites are performed for women. These barbaric acts include, women confined in the same rooms with corpses of their late husbands, widows given stones as pillows and confinement to the house long after the burial of their husbands. A widow must not marry until after a year or more in some traditions but with widowers, some have their next wives move in even before their burial of their wives. Why is this seen as normal in the first place?”
Another deep question, I thought. And just before she completed another statement, we heard an automated voice directing all passengers waiting for the connecting flight to London to start checking in. Maya continued talking as we got on board because her seat was about two seats away from mine.
It was indeed a thought provoking lecture. Although I did not like the long talk from the beginning, I wish we had more time to talk.
I almost forgot about Maya until the New Patriotic Party incurred the wrath of some of their followers with the introduction of Affirmative Action. In my view, the bar should never be lowered for women in any competition such as election. They will not be respected when their male counterparts in parliament have the perception that they did not win their seats on merit.
What we should rather do is to remove all the impediments, fight the prejudices and present a level playing field for both men and women. When this is done, even the irredeemable chauvinists around will soon cease to call women the weaker sex.
This is what is inside Asiedua’s chest. What do you think?”