I never really understood the saying there is no place like home, until I visited Ghana in my adult years. Growing up I was always fascinated by the country’s rich cultural history. A historical story that has always stuck with me is Yaa Asantewaa, Queen Mother Ejisu’s decision to lead the rebellion of defending the golden stool. Being born on a Thursday, my traditional Ghanaian name is Yaa. They often say that those born on this day are great bosses, which certainly links to the history of Yaa Asantewaa.
Growing up in London I have always made a conscious effort to learn my Mother Tongue (Twi) and learn about the different cultures of Ghana. Once I began to learn more about the traditional names and their meanings, I was almost shocked at the accuracy of characteristics stated. I wanted to understand who I was a bit more, and through conversion I wanted to connect with other men and women in Ghana over this topic. This year, I decided to take a trip back to Ghana to celebrate International Women’s Day in Accra. Using this opportunity to have discussion and capture stories which express the strength of Ghanaian women. Being an outspoken women can often be seen as rebellious, in African culture.
I had the chance to speak with Entrepreneur, Abena Damoah from Accra who shared her experience as a budding business women in Ghana. “I have noticed that during business meetings where the decision makers are predominantly men, it can be difficult to get my point across effectively.” With this being said Abena went on to explain how she stands her ground as a woman in meetings. “Especially with men over the age of 50, I often feel like I have to stand my ground more, and come armed with more than sufficient information in order to be heard.”
As a leader, it is important to ensure your voice is heard. Being heard is one thing, steering and driving change is another. Emmanuelle Chidiak, Founder of Afrohive Events Company Ltd shared how she was raised by Mother, who never failed to provide even in the most pressing times. Emmanuelle shared a time where she had to go against the wishes of her employees.
She found herself almost losing the business she built, due to the over-empowering voices of the men within the company. “I said to myself no, this is my business and also my idea. I’m not going to allow anyone to take this away from me. I was able to take back what I initially failed to keep and that’s what I’m most proud of.” Learning from example is a recurring theme for young Ghanaian women, we all can agree that we have been influenced by strong Ghanaian women; which reflects in the way we navigate daily.
Getting a different perspective on the strength of Ghanaian women was crucial to gaining an understanding of how women are perceived in Ghana. I spoke with Filmmaker, Shadrach Annang as a Ghanaian man who also agreed that women around him showed continuous strength. I asked Shadrach what he defined as being strong “I believe being strong means going through hard times to come out better, more confident, and happier than before. It means, giving and sacrificing for others even when you struggle with your problems and feel broken yourself.”
Living in the diaspora made me fearful that I may have had a different idea of how I defined a “strong woman”. However, after conversing with those living in Ghana I began to see the similarities in obstacles that women face universally. One thing that made me smile was the recurring theme of resilience, when dissecting the strength of Ghanaian women their success was often linked to their ability to always get back on their feet.