Bolgatanga, Aug 5, GNA – One of the greatest changes being witnessed in northern Ghana is the involvement of women in traditional leadership, a concept which is only practiced in southern Ghana.
Women in northern Ghana have not been part of traditional leadership until recently and their exclusion from traditional leadership has not promoted total development of the north.
Therefore, including women (queen mothers) in the traditional set ups of the north is a welcome news for women because it will enable them to support their chiefs beyond their current behind the scenes approach to the involvement of women in traditional matters.
The absence of women in traditional institutions denies them equality in traditional governance, leading to their concerns and rights not being adequately addressed.
The concept of “Magazia” or women leader, which is common, only identifies women who will lead their colleagues in communal activities in the three northern regions.
Such “Magazia” have well defined roles to play as far as women’s issues are concerned. Their activities do not extend to men and they do not mix up easily with them at functions for fear of being humiliated.
Women leaders, therefore, they have no platform to press for equality with men, press for the right to inherit their late husbands, kick against widowhood rites that humiliate women and speak against forced marriages.
Traditional institutions in the north, composed of only men, make important decisions regarding women and customary practices many of them harmful to women because women are not involved when such decisions are taken.
The installment of “Puanaba,” as queen mothers would be called in the Northern Region and Upper East Region and “Pognaa” in the Upper West Region, had been received with great joy because women would now serve on traditional councils.
Puanaba Akuolug from the Gumbo Divisional Area told the GNA that queen mothers serving on traditional councils have a lot of advantages.
It has raised the status of women and provided the girl child some hope for the future and above all contributes to socio economic development of the area.
She said this new role given to women challenged chiefs in the three northern regions to fully accept the inclusion of the queen mothers in their administration.
Pognaba Abeliwine Dalin Kiima, an educationist and paramount queen mother of the Bongo Tradition Area, said the elevation is a call on them to come out with programmes that would enable them to support their chiefs on traditional councils.
She said health related problems especially high maternal and infant illnesses and deaths were areas queen mothers should not relent in supporting health personnel to curb.
Cultural Values and Challenges
The north share certain cultural values with the rest of the country: dressing, respect for the elderly among others, and there are a lot more of many western influences that have penetrated the Ghanaian culture that challenge queen mothers to sieve out the good values and help in promoting those that would promote the northern culture.
There is the need for a unified body of the traditional women leaders to work together and come out with policies and customary laws that would promote the dignity of women and girls.
Young girls in the three northern regions are denied the right to choose their husbands. Young men who decide to marry face the challenge of paying huge dowry especially in areas in Upper East Region where families still demand four or three cows as dowry before they give away their daughters.
Though dowry goes to add value to the girl going in for the marriage, it limits the freedom the person may have enjoyed if she had her own choice of a husband.
Many young men are not able to afford the dowry, hence are not able to marry and this increases immorality leading to teenage pregnancy and single parenthood.
Some of the young men elope with the young girls.
Queen mothers, therefore, have a huge task to lead the crusade for a change of some of these customs and help increase enrolment of girls in school.
Pognaba Abeliwine Dalin Kiima appealed to women and especially the queen mothers to live good lives that would portray good leadership.
Feature by Fatima Anafu Astanga