Women nowadays are becoming more influential in global politics, business and in various leadership positions; however such strides are still low in Northern Ghana. Part of the reason why women are still few in decision making processes in the region is a result of lack of understanding of what leadership is and its importance in advancing their issues. Leadership is described by the Canvas manual as the process of influencing, motivating, and enabling individuals and groups to achieve goals. The US Air Force defines leadership as the art of influencing and directing people in such a way that we will win their obedience, confidence, respect and loyal cooperation in achieving common objectives.
These exciting definitions have a different meaning in Northern Ghana, seemingly they mean that only men and boys have the ability to influence and motivate people. This is due to prejudices and stereotypes attached to women and girls. Conversely this has been translated into an unwritten policy to deliberately exclude women and girls. For example there is a popular belief amongst both boys and girls that Senior High School Senior Prefect position is a preserve for boys, whilst there is no government policy that buttresses such a narrative. In addition no empirical evidence available has proved that men and boys can lead better than women and girls.
As a response to these affront on women and girls rights to participate that have continued to perpetuate negative notions and beliefs, ActionAid Ghana and its partner NORSAAC have started a series of leadership and public speaking capacity building trainings targeting over 700 girls under their flagship Young Female Parliament (YFP) project in 18 senior high schools and two tertiary institutions in Northern Ghana. This initiative is a stimulant for girls to organize and confront power structures that have oppressed women and girls and violated their rights.
Explaining the scope of the trainings, Nancy Yeri a project officer with NORSAAC said “ We underscore the need for girls to take up Senior prefects (SP) positions to end the stereotype that a Senior Prefect position is solely for boys and proving a point that girls can equally lead in key leadership positions at all levels” she continued “The trainings have increased confidence of girls and is bringing out their leadership potential and at the same making them deal with their fears in speaking in public”
The leadership trainings are empowering girls with leadership qualities such as making them able to shape their vision for the future, assertive, changing negative attitudes and beliefs, inspiring them to be self-motivated, encouraging them to have integrity and to be honest in their dealings. The trainings also make girls critical and creative thinkers and enhancing fairness in the way they relate with other people. The trainings also equip girls with leadership skills which are important tools that girls can use to successful win support, motivate and lead others as one Chinese say that “A leader without followers is just takin a walk”
Public speaking acquaints girls with techniques important for canvassing and winning support in the public. It introduces them to ethics in public speaking which include being dignified in conduct, integrity with the subject matter, types of public speaking that include persuasive, entertaining speaking and key elements such as developing and good messages. The public speaking coaching is anchored on the effect and intent of the speech. Girls are trained to master techniques such as avoiding disruptive gestures, making good eye contact and projecting their voices loud when speaking in public.
The series put icing on the cake by imparting girls with knowledge on how to develop winning election Manifestos to encourage them to contest elections within the schools and promote their participation in decision making processes.
By Michael Mdladla Ndiweni