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Branded a prostitute for getting into politics: Empowering women to win more influence

Stephanie Greenr interviewing Safia Alhassan Andani a womens group at Sagnarigu, Ghana Andrew Aitchison

Stephanie Green interviewing Safia Alhassan Andani a womens group at Sagnarigu

Stephanie Green, a VSO volunteer in northern Ghana, has been talking to women’s groups and local women leaders. She finds that the main barriers to decision-making are not only women’s lack of education and representation, but also cultural attitudes and getting appropriate funding.

Globally, women and girls make up nearly two thirds of those living extreme poverty. They perform two-thirds of the world’s work, produce 50% of the food but earn only 10% of the world’s income and own just 1% of the world’s property. It is clear that by empowering women to take centre-stage in decision-making bodies, millions of people will be lifted out of poverty.

Local women: disengaged and disempowered

Suraiya Manan, one of the National Patriotic Party’s Women’s Constituency Organisers in Tamale has experienced the misconceptions people have about women in politics:

"You are branded as a prostitute. If you get into politics before you are married then it can be difficult to find a husband”. She also knows that “to take part in elections is expensive. If you don’t have strong sponsors, you can’t do anything”. 

“You are branded as a prostitute. If you get into politics before you are married then it can be difficult to find a husband”

Safia Alhassan Andani is President of Pagsung Women’s Association and manages the Association in Sagnarigu, near Tamale which trains women in literacy, improved shea butter quality, soap making and dress making.

According to Safia 80-90% of the women in her community are illiterate which means that they don’t always know that they should be a part of decision making. In northern Ghana, traditional chieftaincies and groups of elders are overwhelmingly male so it is difficult for women to be heard:

“They [the men] will not invite you. You have to push yourself to be heard. You have to meet with opinion leaders to get information to where you want it to go.”

Not surprisingly, a survey conducted by the National Commission for Civic Education in Tamale Metropolis and the Sagnarigu District revealed that 79% of women in the area have no interest in local level elections. It also showed that there were hardly any women candidates for the Tamale and Sagnarigu District Assembly elections (0.04% and 0.07% respectively).

Safia Alhassan Andani, Leader of a womens group making Shea butter at Sagnarigu. Andrew Aitchison

Safia Alhassan Andani is President of Pagsung Women’s Association

Safia applied to stand for these elections herself but after much consideration she withdrew:

“Somebody advised me ‘my sister, I don’t want you to stand. If you stand, they will trouble you, they won’t give you peace. They will think everything you acquire comes from being in post. They will think any of the things you get for your children is because of corruption.' ”

Safia believes that measures taken to help increase women’s participation should be country-specific and that governments must design programmes for their women to become empowered.

"The Government should also put in place educational policies. It needs to be seen as essential that girls are sent to school.”

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