The Role of Women and Queen Mothers in Ghana
Since time immemorial, women have undoubtedly played significant roles in standing as the bedrock of formidable societies, and this is the story of Queen mothers in Ghana! If you are looking for the perfect embodiment of intelligence, power, charisma, presence, influence, and power-wielding all rolled into one, look no further as we will share with you in tribute to International Women’s Day and Mother’s Day, everything you should know about Ghanaian Queen Mothers, their roles and how they have affected their immediate communities.
The origin of Queen Mothers
The tradition of having female leaders has been a long-standing practise common to communities in Ghana.
The Akan people are matrilineal by nature. The Akans, like many other tribes, use the matrilineal system of inheritance. The Akan believe children are related to their mother by blood and related to the father by spirit.
Among the Akan people in Ghana, each town has a chief and a queen mother who rule alongside the modern political system. This practice has been around for centuries, just like other chieftaincy roles, and in fact, this practice preceded the pre-colonial creation of the government and all its existing arms.
The Akan peoples use the term Ohemaa, which means "female ruler."
Queen mothers were traditionally from prominent royal bloodlines and were predominantly responsible for the following amongst other things.
a. Issues predominantly affecting women across all age groups in society.
b. Issues predominantly affecting children.
History has shown that without these formidable women, the society would not of been able to stand. Why? Because without a queen mother or "Ohemaa" there could not be a king or "Ohene." Every Akan realm has been historically founded by a queen mother, who only later chooses one of her sons to be placed on the throne as king and co-regent. If there were times of crisis- such as the king were still a minor or was absent, or if the collapse of a kingdom forced an immediate exodus - the queen mother ruled alone. She was then both Ohemaa; female king, and Ohene, male king.
Just like their male counterparts, the Akan people treated Queen Mothers to an equal level of respect as the Kings and Chiefs. However, colonial powers came through with their sexism; and diminished to a great level the importance of these courageous women’s role within society. While chieftaincy positions (largely held by men) breezed through the hurdles of colonialism, Queen Mothers suffered a dent in their influence. Colonial masters rebranded the entire idea of government and governance and excluded Queen Mothers from their pole position in society. Gradually, the role became more ceremonious, but in recent history that has started to change in recent years as we would see.
The modern Queen Mother
She is vivacious, educated, and exposed. She is a modern woman who understands that women are not second fiddle and have prominent roles to play in society. Importantly, she is refined and rebranded and understands that she can make nations with the power she wields, just as her ancestors before her.
As modernization came, Queen Mothers reawakened to the deficiencies caused by their absence and have taken back their rightful places. They now utilise the role for several functions, all calculated at empowering and changing the status quo of their communities. In addition, to their day job, Queen Mothers now have initiatives geared towards sensitizing people about social and economic issues, educating young children, advocating against child labour, child protection, climate change, HIV, and other societal issues that may be brought to their attention.
Today more societies are embracing the return of the Queen mothers in the society through the fight for recognition and representation at the house of chiefs is still on. Currently, there are over 9,000 Queen Mothers throughout the Akan regions; and since 1988's when the Ashanti Queen Mother Association was formed. They now have around forty-four women leaders from the Ashanti region as members.
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