by Samuel Nyampong, Ghana. First publisched in Gender and Religious Education.
Women get children and are not able to think
The traditional perception of females in Ghana up to the latter part of the 20th century was that females could not undertake arduous tasks and were better suited for child ‘producing’ and domestic, trading and farm work. Intellectual and professional developments were the preserve of men. A Ghanaian proverb explains it better: “Obea to tuo a etwere obarima dan mu” (When a woman is able to acquire a gun, it is the man who keeps it in his room).
A research on Position of Women in Ghanaian Society has confirmed that women in premodern Ghanaian society were seen as bearers of children, retailers of fish, and farmers. Given the male dominance in traditional society, some economic anthropologists have explained a female’s ability to reproduce as the most important means by which women ensured social and economic security for themselves, especially if they bore male children.
This ingrained perception about females gave justification for fathers to give their daughters to early marriage so they (fathers) would reap the benefit of receiving a dowry in the form of drinks, cash, cattle and other material goods prescribed by Ghanaian traditional customs. Early unprepared marriage has plunged many girls and women into difficulties which have entangled and imprisoned them with no hope of emancipation. Today the Constitution of Ghana guarantees equal rights for males and females.
Straight regulations in my family
My father was born in 1908; he experienced the First World War as a child. Stories about the war were told to him and his other siblings. The Second World War however took place when he was a matured adult and married man. The call for male adult enlistment into the British Colonial Force to fight along British soldiers in Burma and other battle zones during the war excited him. Being the only son of his mother, his desire to enlist in the army was hindered by the fact that he did not have a male child to take over from him if he should go to war and die. That deepened my father’s desire for males who would inherit him.
Unfortunately for him, when he started having children, his first four children were girls. The fifth child was a boy. The strong desire to have another male child was not fulfilled when two other female children were born before my birth as the last male, but eighth child of my father.
My father did not hesitate to allow my mother to stay at home to take care of the family whilst he worked as a school teacher. He encouraged all his children to receive education to any high level but he would not put as much pressure on my female siblings as he did on the male. His words were that we the males would directly inherit him and takeover his responsibilities including the care and support for my elder sisters. Thus the responsibilities between the genders were defined from the early days of my childhood.
Growing responsibility as a man
Later I was, by God’s grace, able to reach a postgraduate level in my education. Having studied for my PhD in Scotland, I returned home at a time when both parents had died a few years earlier during my absence. My sojourn in Britain and my acquisition of a doctoral degree put me in the first place position in a family where much was expected of me in the support of the education of my nieces and nephews and the general financial support for my older female siblings, many of whom had become widows or retired and earning little or no income for their daily upkeep. My responsibilities as a male still continue today.
My exposure to Christianity, education and Western lifestyle has transformed my traditional conceptions about the roles of the sexes in modern Ghana and in my own nuclear family where I encourage my two girls and son to pursue education to the highest level. Many well educated Ghanaians share similar modern views about gender equality.
The motherhood of God and Jesus’ acts of liberation
In the Bible in Is. 49:15 reads as follows: “Can a woman’s tender care cease towards the child she had born?” And it says in Is. 66:12-13: “As the one who is comforted by his mother, so will I comfort you and you will be comforted in Jerusalem”. The passages above give a good description of the motherhood of God which is demonstrated in God’s tender care, love, mercies and protection. Like a mother God also comforts us and grieves when we sin against Gods love. This knowledge of God became real to me when I became an adult man. Sometimes when one wants to cry out, one remembers that it is only God who can understand how we feel because God has both fatherly and motherly qualities that make him more approachable. This notion has made me value women as possessing the quality that make creation complete.
My faith in Jesus Christ is strengthened by the knowledge that Jesus’ manifests in the Temple that he had come to set the captives free and release the oppressed and those in prison. This act of liberation is to human beings held in bondage to sin and oppression of Satan. Since all have fallen and there is none that does well according to Scriptures, all (men and women) need God’s justice and pardon. Hence all (men and women) were liberated by Christ on the cross.
This act of God should influence our attitude towards the other person – be it man or woman. We all are considered the same, needing one grace, the grace of Christ. Discrimination and selective condemnation among the sexes is unbiblical and unchristian. Social and cultural norms which discriminate against females ought to be condemned. Administration of justice should apply equally to all, independent of sexes, races and colour.
Dr. Samuel Ayete Nyampong was born in 1959 in Obuasi, Ghana. He studied psychology and theology in Accra, Ghana and in Aberdeen, Scotland. In his graduation he was concerned with pastoral care among elderly people in Africa. He is a minister in the Presbyterian Church in Ghana, leads the ecumenical and social department in this church and is member of the church management (head office). For many years he is involved with different committees of the ranges bio ethics and gerontology (age research) and he is member of the Pan African Bioethics Initiative (PABIN). He is married and has three children.