Nations as Women

“As a woman I have no country. As a woman I want no country. As a woman, my country is the whole world.”

Virginia Woolf’s declaration in Three Guineas carries weight in part to her assertions that “nothing is ever just one thing…”  Woolf’s reflection on women, violence, and nationalism contributes to a discussion of shared responsibility and the role of women as developing our relationships with each other transnationally to develop a feminist coalition.  This statement can be a positive or misguided sentiment, depending on how you look at it.  There is a hopeful or assumptive connotation to claiming that womanhood transcends countries or that there is a possible solidarity among women.  It also at once comments on marginalization within one’s own country as a woman and the desire to break free of nationalistic boundaries, and perhaps cultural boundaries, between women.  Such a statement however runs the risk of further displacement and exclusion of women from men and from each other.  It is clear that Woolf is trying to undermine nationalistic violcence and conflict, but the world as a country is just another imagined community who’s belief in intersection can normalize what other women have to bring to the conversation.  It is a more positive assertion in my eyes even if it emphasizes a rejection of one’s assigned nation or culture, because it asserts that there is a tangible desire for a global conversation for women, and that is an important desire to have.  We can only stop normalizing women and their plights with a step toward a humble conversation.

On a related note the Ghana Review International published the Secretary General of the United Nation’s address on International Women’s Day, March 8th, and offered their own commentary in terms of Ghanaian education for women and girls.

“Only through women’s full and equal participation in all areas of public and private life can we hope to achieve the sustainable, peaceful and just society promised in the United Nations Charter.”

This excerpt from the address is concise in making clear how the work to make other half of the population no longer the other is necessary and constant.  The population of women and girls are needed to be fully engaged and autonomous peoples to be able to address the scope and magnitude of issues we face as a county in Ghana and globally. 

GRI calls for continued affirmative action in women’s education with a 30 percent quota on Ghanian Education decision-making boards, and interestingly asserts that this sort of integration can create more “gender-sensitive” teachers, therefore a better environment for women in schools as well as more opportunities in the first place.  This two sides initiative is encouraging and at the same time it places responsibility on the newly included women to portray and permeate gender sensitivity, the term itself is unclear on its projected position for women.  Despite these concerns there is a theoretical attempt to continue a conversation on women in education, and an acceptance that this is not a one-dimensional issue.

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GES backs dismissal of pregnant girls from school

17 girls were ousted from Aduman Senior High school for”getting themselves pregnant.”

Once again I am concerned of the rhetoric used in social responsibility among genders and public and private relationships.  It is suggested that the girls held the sole responsibility for becoming pregnant when obviously it takes two parties.  Later in the piece however it states that government officials “advised the [school] authorities to invite the men responsible for the pregnancy for counseling.”  There is an opposite charge of responsibility for pregnancy yet again no recognition of a shared responsibility.  These men were not ousted from school for ‘getting women pregnant’ but offered counseling.  True, it is difficult to truthfully determine the male party in a pregnancy, but it demonstrates how the girls are being unfairly ousted for their visual pregnant state.

The noting of “immoral acts” and negative influences on other students were cited as the reasoning that the school and government supported the temporary expulsion of the girls (they could go back to school once they delivered, or looked ‘un-pregnant.’)  Yet the Ghana Education Service (GES) cited the health and safety of the mothers and babies as reasoning for the temporary expulsion.  Those who opposed the measures were quoted as saying the expulsions were ‘harsh’ and that ‘maintaining discipline’ at the school should be addressed instead of penalizing the pregnant girls.  This is also interesting in the created relationship between more effective discipline and less ‘immoral acts’ such as teenage pregnancy.

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Apapa Kamasutra: Sex video girl sacked from school

A recent article about the expulsion of a 16-year-old girl from junior high school is fascinating for not just the story but the article itself.  The girl’s 17-year-old lover (a boy) captured sexual acts between them on a cell phone, which was apparently consensual.  The article not only offers strong commentary on most of the elements of the story but goes on to graphically describe the content of the video, something I have never seen in American news media concerning potentially obscene or offensive material. The debate for what information is necessary for a story as opposed to privacy comes to mind, such as Supreme Court justices watching pornographic films to determine the scope of the First Amendment.

The girl was ‘sacked’ from school after the story of the video circulated on News-One, which was also credited as the source for this article.  The reasons for her expulsion were cited as to not badly influence other students or lead them to commit similar acts, and then the ‘actual’ reason being the religious affiliation of the school disapproving of the acts.  The two motivations for her removal do not seem to drastically different but it is interesting how the public and religious motivations are so clearly separated.  More fascinating still is the depiction of the girl through the social context of the media.

“Interestingly, the girl’s parents have not taken
her out of the area and she walks around, with
fingers pointing at her and eyes turning in her
direction as gossips enjoy a field day, mongering
tales of her sex video.”

How this information could be obtained or confirmed seems problematic, as well as the implications of the correct actions of the girl’s parents, the girl herself, and the ‘gossips’ of her community.  Similar claims of information are concerning such as the circulation of the sex video being “widely circulated among almost every teenage boy in the area.”  I have cautious feelings towards how this information is being gathered and depicted.

Most strange and concerning to me is the description of the video depicting the girl as having “her hair cut low just as JHS girls are expected to do and she had a striking innocence in her eyes.”  This description implies the strongly constructed roles and placement of responsibility between men and women.  The girl is being portrayed as consenting out of weakness and otherwise acting as she should.

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“NPP gives 50 per cent rebate women parliamentary contestants”

Ghana’s New Patriotic Party (NPP) is turning to women to add civility to and regain influence in Ghanaian politics.  The slightly awkward article title explains that women will only have to pay half of the normal fee to apply for parliamentary candidacy to increase their numbers within the party by encouraging participation.

The article does not mention the controversy of the GH¢ 16,000 parliamentary fee, which I think is a little over $10,000 USD.  Some argue that the high fee will make it impossible for many young people of potential to participate, so the extension of this discount to women becomes controversial in its implications of the woman’s position in Ghanaian society as opposed to others who might be financially burdened.  It is not made clear why or how women are more financially strained and therefore should be more motivated to get involved in the NPP.  There is also allusion to but not a real explanation of problems that occurred in the last election that weakened the power of the NPP, especially in comparison to the National Democratic Party (NDC).  Apparently there were not “clean campaigns devoid of inflammatory statements.”  I think it is fascinating that encouraging participation of women is a remedy to political mudslinging  This simple act by a political party creates space for a discussion on the financial burdens of civic engagement, motivations and potential for political leadership, and roles of gender within the group labeled as in poverty.

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Teenage pregnancy increases in Bawku West District

In a short piece attributed to Ghana News Agency (GNA) teen pregnancy rates are addressed as a concern, bringing in the factors of government responsibility, education, and abortion.  The first word that jumped out at me was “indulged,” referring to the “75 percent of young girls between 13 and 19” that “indulged” in the procedure.  Whether this word is a poor translation or a strong implication is concerning, because to the reader it is communicated that this procedure is some sort of luxury or solution to an inconvenience.  Then action is already cited in a conference held by the Rural Urban Women and Children Development Agency (RUWACDA), demonstrating how this issue has been relevant long enough to be addressed, and also intrigued me as to what other programs this agency conducts.  A quick Google showed the most recent update was the application for RUWACDA to join an organization for the end of tuberculosis (StopTB) that cited RUWACDA as a women and youth centered organization with a focus on:

Malaria, TB/HIV/AIDS Awareness, Prevention, Care and treatment
Advocacy and other health related issues
Reproductive health issues such as Sexually Transmitted Diseases

Sounds like Planned Parenthood, and it gets better, with concise aims to  “Empower women and the youth,” and “Promote reproductive health among women, youth and men alike,” among other things.

So here is this organization that sounds like Ghana’s version of Planned Parenthood that is presented in an article that refers to abortion as an indulgence.  I could not find information on whether this organization offered abortion services but found it fascinating that they seemed to be unlinked to or credited with the high abortion rates in Ghana but depicted as a solution to them.  If only rhetoric in America could be similar.  This short article presented an even more complex take on the issue of abortion in terms of the relationship of responsibility and public health.  There was almost an assignment of blame on the Ghanaian government for not addressing the needs and rights of young people.  I especially liked the direct connection made between government responsibility for at least facilitating a discussion on physical and psychological education and health and the rights of the Ghanaian people to education and health.  The trend of teen pregnancies was reflected as a health and civic issue to the whole population, not just women or children.

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First Impressions

Sooo I ended up scribbling in my notebook defeating the purpose of blogging out of convenience, but here’s some stuff:

I found Ghana Review International at to get some international news perspectives, at the suggestion of my professor, and chose it first because of its simple description on the world newspapers website: “Independent News Agency.”  With a quick navigation of the site you can see the other Ghanaian sites listed as “daily news, business news, privately owned” etc. so I was drawn to the word “independent.”  Independent equals more empirical, right?  Either way it was sort of arbitrary how I chose one Ghanaian newspaper over another.  The website definitely looks different from my experience with American news websites, with no visible effort to appear similar to a print newspaper.  There are two pastel colored columns that list the headlines and their date, with anywhere from 3 to 20 articles appearing each day.  The site has the option to search the archives but the articles cannot actually be viewed.  There are other navigation issues with the website, but the guest book and the occasional comment of an article suggests at least a modest following.  The articles usually site other news sources for their information.  The articles are also marked with different letters (N, I, S, C, B, A) For News, International, Contributors (?), Business, and Arts/Culture.  It is interesting how like American newspapers these distinctions are made, however vaguely, yet the articles still appear in the same list.  I already am seeing how the word “independent” means something different from an independent paper in the U.S.  It seems the news source is operated on a small-scale using a variety of other news sources to produce a small amount of short articles each day.  This can be particularly revealing with the sort of content that is chosen for such a small operation.

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This is my first blog since my angst ridden junior high school days, but now I have a better reason to blog.  1) I might be less dumb 2) This is initially for a class I am taking: Feminist Theory.  I’m going to track a news source, Ghana Review International (I know many students at my school have been to/are going to/like Ghana in general so any context for my discussions would be great), and discuss its content and characteristics through a ‘gender lens.’  For instance, a piece about the job sector could easily be viewed in terms of gender by what gender roles are expected in different work environments, how opportunities vary based on gender, etc. etc.  Vague, I know, but hopefully some development will happen as it goes along.  I’m going to throw up a few entries I’ve already handwritten and links to the discussed articles, of course.  A final disclaimer: this isn’t my looking up anything related to gender discrimination and harping on it, it is aimed to be a thoughtful look at how most situations, especially in media, can be viewed through terms of gender to think more meaningfully about the kinds of roles we accept every day without too much meaningful thought.  Feedback is welcome, and essential 🙂

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