Golda Naa Adaku Addo was ‘political’ years before she ever accepted the fact.
From 2006 to 2011, the policy reform activist endured hours on Ghana’s bumpy roads to research and engage with communities. She even worked on the campaign of a former minister running for member of parliament. All this she did for free. It was not until 2013 that Addo started considering her work political and putting value to it. Since then, she has worked in Ghana and 10 African countries, researching and monitoring political initiatives.
Often heralded for its democracy, Ghana’s political landscape remains male-dominated; a fact that deters would-be female politicians, as highlighted by Ghanaian President Nana Akuffo-Addo during the 2019 Women Deliver conference in Canada. Addo is one of few Ghanaian women who have fully embraced being a vocal political actor. While she thinks the President’s statement was “not our proudest moment,” she does believe it is a call to action for Ghana’s dynamic women, the government, and the country as a whole to address the lack of women political leaders.
“We do have quite a lot of us Ghanaian women who are still reluctant to embrace the full potency of our influence, of our power, of our ability to contribute something…If I stand up and walk around here and I boldly start handing out flyers saying I’m running for president, it’s going to be quite a lot of ‘you can’t be serious’…At the end of the day I also believe that any genuine leadership is the one that coaxes the best out of its people,” Addo says.
The West African nation still has a long way to go in making politics attractive to women. For one thing, there needs to be a social and cultural mindset change vis-à-vis women’s leadership. As Addo observes, some “do not take well to females challenging constantly and giving ultimatums” in policy and decision-making spheres. Additionally, a conducive and enabling environment that ensures women’s political participation through law-making, capacity building, and the availability of resources is imperative.
Addo herself is toying with the idea of running for political office in 2024 and hopes to follow in the footsteps of formidable female politicians like Ghana’s first female council of state member, the late Dr. Mary Grant. With over a decade of community development and policy work under her belt, Addo already knows what she would do if she were president. Chief among them is bridging inequalities, inspiring people’s best, and injecting integrity and accountability into the public sector. She believes that enforcing laws on penalization will help keep the political sphere transparent and accountable while serving as a mechanism for generating much-needed revenue for improving governance systems and agencies.
“For me, integrity is simply being able to make decisions with the full confidence that you are doing it from a very objective point of view. That it is transparently done and that you commit to accounting for it when questions are asked…You should be able to stand firmly by it once you have taken that decision, without trying to make excuses,” Addo explains.
For now, the 2024 political aspirant manages a multi-country Africa malaria research project and occasionally consults. Her motivation remains the same whether she is interacting with youth members of Ghana’s political parties; helping an independent candidate figure out their strategy; or debating issues on social media: to understand and contribute to Ghana’s struggle for sustainable development.
In 2015, while working as a monitoring and evaluation consultant with the Office of the President and the United Kingdom’s Department of International Development, she helped revise Ghana’s national manual on policymaking and introduce recommendations for e-governance, effective reporting and other key reforms. While she rarely sleeps, Addo finds her work fulfilling and impactful.
What is Ghana’s most pressing issue today? Fear, Addo responds simply. Fear of leading with integrity because of what has been promised in exchange for victory; fear of speaking up and demanding accountability because most depend on the ‘powerful’ to survive; and fear of being considered naive for not taking advantage of the system’s many loopholes.
“We’re being pushed more and more into a little corner as to how we can voice out our discomforts and our displeasures and that’s never a good thing…We feel trapped, really,” she says.
Addo believes a complete system overhaul is needed, but that requires fresh ideas, new options and a willingness to push boundaries.
Despite the challenges, she remains hopeful for Ghana and stays grounded in the knowledge that even the quietest voice that is courageous enough to speak up can make a difference.
“I will most likely take a shot at the political scenery in 2024…I will use the coming years to figure that out, but until then I’m sure that I’ll be involved in helping develop a lot of policies and strategies for people…If I find someone who ticks all the boxes, I will most likely not contend, I will probably just join their camp,” Addo says.
Jemila Abdulai is a writer, digital entrepreneur and economic policy consultant from Ghana. She runs Circumspecte.com – a digital platform dedicated to insights, experiences and creative action linked to Africa.