African Voices: A woman that men can’t stand

This post by Assemblywoman Memuna Sandow was kindly provided by the Millennium Villages Project

Before I became a district assemblywoman in 2009, I had already been working with my community for years, especially the women. But I came to realize that despite my hard work, without an official position, my ability to effect change would always be limited.

If you are not an assemblywoman, if you go to any place to say something, they will ask you, “Who are you?” But that all changed when I was elected to represent the communities of Wulugu, Silinga and Nabari at the district level. Now, any office that I want to enter, I enter, and tell them what I’ve come in for, and if they can help or they can’t, they let me know.

Memuna Sandow
Memuna Sandow is an assemblywoman in West Mamprusi District, Northern Ghana.

As one of only five women in the 43-member assembly, I am especially determined to getting my voice heard. Many men in the community resist the idea of women in leadership. They believe that if a woman gets a higher position, she will not respect the husband, she will be arrogant. So because of that some men deny their women to come out and be a leader. And even though my husband supported me from the start, I endured intimidation and insults during the campaign. But the women in my community helped me to persevere.

As a member of the assembly, I meet regularly with the communities to find out what they need, and then advocates on their behalf with the government and other potential supporters. The rural communities I represents have a population of 1,700, but none of them has a health center, the schools are in poor condition and lack trained teachers, electricity is not available and water sources are inadequate, especially during the dry season.

In the next few years, I envision health facilities within easy walking distance of all, sufficient and accessible water supplies, and electricity to allow the communities to connect to the world. Nowadays, it’s computers everywhere. Without electricity, you can’t work on a computer. You use the computer to browse, to find friends, to find out what’s going on in the world, and even to find sources of support for community needs.

Education is a critical component: I want to see improved school buildings staffed by trained and committed teachers, so that all children, especially girls, can be empowered with education. Ultimately, it is women who take care of their families and communities. It is so important to empower and to educate the girl child. If a boy gets money, he goes to marry, he goes to drink. But if a girl gets money, if a girl gets good education, she will build a house for the family, she will take care of the family. She will even take care of other people that come to her.

Featuring contributions from African citizens who are living in communities affected by extreme poverty, ONE’s African Voices series will follow their progress to give a better understanding of the day-to-day challenges they face and also to track changes that occur over time. Find out more at one.org/africanvoices.