Role models are much talked about at the moment, and there is debate over the need for them but also the best types of women to promote as role models. I have been reading recently about African women leaders, such as the Queen Mothers in Ghana and I think many of these women embody the idea of a role model in its purest form. These empowered women who are respected and sought after by members of their communities have progressive agendas, with the will to achieve them.
The Queen Mothers or Pognamine in Ghana are women leaders who have considerable clout in their communities. This traditional role, once very important, has had a welcome revival in recent times. Now there are around 10,000 educated and determined Queen Mothers across the country, who are connected together by the National Council of Women Traditional Leaders.
The National Council in Ghana is a member of The African Queens and Women Cultural Leaders’ Network (AQWCLN). This is an umbrella organisation for groups of women leaders in 20 countries, who are all committed to ambitious goals, such as eradicating FGM across the continent.
In Malawi as well, a woman leader has been making waves as she battles against child marriage, with astonishing success. Theresa Kachindamoto is a senior chief in the Dedza district of Malawi. Kachindamoto set out to rid her area of child marriage, firing four sub-chiefs on the way as a warning to those who neglected their duties to protect under-age brides. She has broken up 850 marriages and made sure the children return to school. In this area, her work has been vital, as she had found sponsors to help girls through school and to ensure they don’t have to drop out.
The way I see it, the great virtue of queens and women leaders in Africa is their community centred orientation. By being the ones who know the people and the place, they are able to lead in the way best suited to their locale. On the other hand, the position of a chief is hereditary. Unfortunately, this is not the fairest way of choosing a leader.
All in all though, a role of that kind in a community seems to be an effective way to bring about change. The key element here is trust; a Pogna or other leader is known in the community and who has one aim, to help and improve that community. Since the Pogna knows everyone and knows what they need, she is able to deliver even on difficult problems such as FGM.