It’s about time my feminist side came out on this blog considering I’ve been here for 3 months now and haven’t really written much about women’s roles in Ghana. This entry was sparked by a conference I attended last week sponsored by the SRC Women’s Commission titled, “Ladies Hood 2011.” I wasn’t expecting anything in particular (mainly because the posters weren’t very descriptive), but I thought it would be a really interesting experience to see how these types of programs go in a place like Ghana.
The conference began with a “discussion” on whether abortion should be legalized or not in Ghana. I expected to hear the extreme religious response on the matter, which I did: “Under no circumstances would God ever approve of an abortion.” What I wasn’t expecting, however, were the completely opposing opinions that weren’t necessarily being equally represented, but were certainly present enough to spark quite a heated debate!
There were the usual questions of when a fetus is actually considered a human with rights, whether it should be a woman’s choice to do what she wants with her own body, etc. A lot of women brought up the point that women are already obtaining unsafe and unprofessional abortions, so why not just provide a safe setting since they will continue to happen regardless of legalization. One of the more frustrating comments I heard was something along the lines of “women should have the option of abortion in the case that there is no man to take care of them.” (-___-)
Eventually, the speaker came over with the microphone and asked the only 3 obrunis at the conference (Mariah and Stephanie—2 other UC students—and me) what our thoughts were on the matter. First, after awkwardly sharing that I’m an atheist and literally having the facilitator gasp and walk away in what seemed like absolute disgust, we explained how we didn’t think religion was a relevant factor because it’s a social issue, not a religious one. Of course, that argument doesn’t exactly work when you live in a place with no official separation of church and state…
I continued to explain my views and how I believe that a woman’s body is her own and she has the right to do with it what she wants and that a bundle of cells that has the potential to grow into a human is about as human as sperm frantically trying to connect with an ovary! A lot of women were cheering and agreeing with me, and a lot were shaking their heads in disgust. A wonderfully juxtaposed reaction to a very firm stance I’d say.
That discussion ended after everyone started complaining since we were just going in circles and we continued with a discussion of women having positions of power in the workplace, politics, and society. On the one hand, they recognized that this issue is largely due to gender inequalities, but as the discussion continued and I heard what some of the suggestions were, it made me even more frustrated. Women were saying that the problem lies in the women who have attained power, but don’t know how to act. They “should maintain humility” instead of “being bossy” because if they’re too controlling, men won’t respect them. AAAAA!!!
Next, after introducing the guest speakers at the high table, came a short poetry recitation and a performance by a singer/talk show host.
Afterwards, there was an informational presentation given by a medical doctor explaining STI’s and other common female bodily functions/issues. That was actually a really sad talk to sit through, especially after the Q&A section. Women were asking questions about their bodies that really reflected how little sexual health education there is in the education system here. I understand that societies with such traditional religious views have certain emphases in their education (i.e. religion courses are typically mandatory), but every woman should have a strong understanding of how her body works, what is “normal” and what she should be concerned about. It is a huge disservice to both men and women for this information to be omitted from the standard curriculum.
The best part about this conference was of course, THE FREE SHIRTS!! We got these great shirts that say “I <3 my parents” and “I <3 my baby” that are anti-abortion shirts, but I’m just excited to wear mine when I get back home because I think they’re hysterical!
Quick shout out to the Vagina Monologues Cast since this is a post completely dedicated to women! You ladies continually inspire me to be a stronger woman. For any of my other feminist friends out there, you should really consider auditioning for the show this year. It will positively change your life, plus, who doesn’t like talking about vaginas all the time?