**This is the second of the unpublished Sebiticals. Enjoy this, written in May 2015, after the Dumsor Must Stop Vigil.*
Today, I start my Sebiticals from a proverb the obroni, Amy Engel, told in her nkrataa . She said: “I’m not sure how we got to this place, where a girl’s only value is in what kind of marriage she has, how capable she is of keeping a man happy.”
Last year, on 1 July 2014, a group of those people who prefer wearing tapoli around their necks and wearing siketi instead of ntama decided to join a motley band of young folks who wanted to do a walk to the Ahenfie . They said they had some words that they wanted Odikro to hear. A good number of our beautiful and strong ladies joined the march. After the event, some of the leading newspapers sympathetic to the running government decided to defame at least three of the ladies. One was mocked because she was not married.
Sikaman has been reeling under the effect of what has been known as dumsor. Some say there is so little sor that we should call it dumkoraa . Odikro has been promising as usual, and giving assurances he is not sure about. In March 2014, he said the crisis was temporary and asked for patience. Just last week, on May 1 2015, he again said the situation was only temporary, and will be surmounted in the “not too distant future”. This has led not a few people to enquire from the catechist whether the meaning of temporary has changed since the cedi has been depreciating so much. Wofa Kapokyikyi, who was on his way back from the Liberty Fan Club and was infused with the spirit with the accompanying fuse, interjected by saying that the word ‘temporary’ should be appreciated in the spirit of the word ‘provisional’ which lasted for eleven years.
A number of the big men and women whose films we watch at Sadisco Hotel have been speaking about this dumkoraa situation. John Dum said his mind. And Yvonne the Nelson too. And then John Dum came back to clarify what he said earlier.
There have been various reactions, of course, as always happens in Sikaman. Don’t we even speak back to Amakye the town crier when he gives us a message from Odikro , though we know he is only a messenger?
However, one of the responses that really got me tongue-tied was from a man who is said to do some walatu-walasa near the Ahenfie. He said because Yvonne had no man on whose wall she could lean her gun against, she had no right to wield a gun.
When I first heard this, I thought to myself that when a woman speaks and all you have to say in return is based on whether she is married or not, then my comments for you are best retained in my head.
But my Wofa Kapokyikyi said I was a fool if I didn’t unload the many thoughts in my mind about this. He is right because those thoughts were giving me headaches.
So I will speak.
As I said earlier, this misogynistic posturing was exhibited clearly last July after the OccupyFlagStaff House protest by some publications in Ghana. I said once that the beautiful thing about patience and the bosom of time is that words used to put someone in his/her place today will be the same words that embarrass or implicate the speaker tomorrow. In the matter of the current misogynistic utterances, however, the time lap is microscopic. It is, in this case interestingly, embedded in the proverb that says when you point the index finger at a person, three fingers are pointing back at you.
By the definition and categorisation applied at unmarried, above-thirty, ladies, the speaker paints a lot of his own colleagues and comrades.
The beauty of words.
The blessedness of time.
This is a country where in the early 1900s, a woman took up her gun and led men into battle.
This is a country where the selection of our chiefs and Kings cannot happen unless the queenmother decides.
This is a country where when there is a dilemma and a difficult knot to be untied, we go to see Abrewa .
A century later, there arises a man who is so close to the Ahenfie telling us that because of the rope between his legs, he has more sense than his mother who created and nurtured that rope.
This is how far we have come. We are where we are.
A few days after the May Day celebrations, I had a chat with a man who inspired me greatly. We discussed my new book, Sebitically Speaking, and he indicated thus: “Reading Sebiticals has been both fun and inspiring. We’ve got work to do. A lot.”
I sought his permission to share some of the responses I gave to him in the conversation. I wrote thus: “Indeed we have. Moreso, on the minds of our people. The level of mental appreciation is so low and it is complicated by the unwillingness to get enlightened.”
Then, he said: “Absolutely. And it’s getting worse on so many levels. We seem to be dumbing down, from top to bottom. I am so happy I am on social media. It’s the one place where I encounter a community of compatriots, a small yet critical mass, that give me hope that a revival is possible.”
I continued: “Yes, I set out to use social media to change one mind at a time too. But it is also where one sees the magnitude of the problem.”
I added that as a nation, social media has given us the privilege to see the thinking process of some of our political leaders; thoughts written not by speechwriters. Some of what is written is frightening.
We do need a renewal of our minds and very urgently. This misogyny at the highest and lowest levels of our society is a reflection of something deeper: our deficiency in having intellectual discussions devoid of insults and personality attacks.
In my book, I Speak of Ghana, page 111, I wrote: “People would resort to insults rather than keep focus on the argument; and they do so when they have lost the capacity to debate intellectually.”
We are where we are.
I have a little girl, who I am training to be assertive, intelligent, inquisitive, questioning and strong. I wish for her to be respected for her views as a human being. This is why this posturing must be condemned in no uncertain terms.
Which is why Wofa Kapokyikyi was right that I spoke my thoughts.
Which is why we should continue to empower our women to speak and to express themselves. To be confident. Not to be defined by what a man says they are by a ring. Or lack of it. We must cure this. If it is due to ignorance, we must preach enlightenment and banish it.
For as Joanna Russ said, “Ignorance is not bad faith. But persistence in ignorance is.”
Finally, those who persist in this ignominy must be told that this is Sikaman. We crossed that pre-historic line when Yaa Asantewaa marched.
Till I come your way again with another sebitical, I remain:
Tapoli: Dumb-bell shaped wooden tool used for grinding in an earthware bowl (apotoyiwa)
Siketi: Adulteration of the word ‘skirt’
Ahenfie: Chief’s palace
Dumsor: Power outage/load-shedding
Dumkoraa (Twi): Dum means ‘put off the lights’, koraa means completely or permanently
Odikro: Chief of a town
Abrewa: Old woman; wise woman