A LETTER TO MY UNBORN DAUGHTER by Abena Okoampah

Dear Daughter,  

I know you have not yet been conceived but know that care about you more than you can imagine. Know that you will always have my love and support. Unfortunately, not everyone will, so here are a few things you must keep in mind.

You are strong , powerful and resilient. Do not let anybody tell you otherwise. You are never alone. You are always surrounded by your ancestors , who have fought for , bled for  and won your freedom. Find strength in their strength. Always remember that the same blood that once flowed in their veins when they survived the perilous trips to the Americas runs through you. The blood that once flowed in Yaa Asantewaa and the Dahomey Amazons, when they fought willingly and bravely against our oppressors runs through you. I cannot reiterate it enough – you are strong, powerful and resilient.

   You are not inferior to the male species. Sadly, you may be born into a patriarchal world and an even more patriarchal society at that. You may be subject to various forms of discrimination, be them overt or  daily microaggressions. Every day, women hear words thrown around that render us invisible, objectify us or use our gender as an insult. Once, I saw a football game in a room full of boys. Yes, I call them boys. One of the boys in the room, out of frustration called one of the male football players “a girl”. I asked him what he meant by that. He said nothing back. He called another player a girl. I said to him, if you want to describe the player as a weak player, by all means do so. But stop using “girl”  to suggest a person is weak and as an insult. Another boy in the room told me that no feminists were needed in the room. Among others, a guy said there should be some criteria as to who is allowed to watch football with them. A.K.A women should not be let in this space to watch football. But ALWAYS remember that women are EQUAL to men. Article 17 of the 1992 Constitution  guarantees that all persons shall be equal before the law. A person shall not be discriminated against on grounds of gender … Your rights matter just as much as the rights of a man.  Article 21 (1) grants all Ghanaian citizens the right to freedom of speech and expression.  So do not ever be afraid to speak up amongst men. Even when you are the only woman in the room. You do not have to mute yourself when men try to mansplain and or gas light* . When we try to call them out, we are told that we are easily offended. This causes us to silently accept the injustice rather than speak out about it. Remind them that you have the same rights they do. That you will speak your mind freely. That you are not in any way inferior to the male species as some of them may wrongly believe.

       FIGHT FOR WHAT YOU BELIEVE IN; fight for women. You must  first have an INFORMED opinion, then you fight for what you believe in. To the world, you may be CRAZY but you must fight.  Like Rosa Parks who refused to give up her seat. STUBBORN. Still Fight, like Yaa Asantewaa when she declared, “if you men of Ashanti will not go forward , then we , the women will. I shall call upon my fellow women. We will fight the white men. We will fight till the last of us falls in the battle fields.” And she fought bravely till she was captured. You may be described as IDEALISTIC.  Continue to fight. Like Queen Jinga who fought fearlessly and cleverly for the freedom of her kingdoms (in present day Angola) against the Portuguese invasion and slave raids for 3 decades. You may be called HORMONAL. HYSTERICAL.TROUBLE. FIGHT. FIGHT. FIGHT.

For most of my life, men have always felt entitled to female bodies. This has manifested itself in incidents of rape, sexual harassment and is very present in our legislature, where the laws are made. There have been instances where men have felt so entitled to the bodies of women, that they tried to get an injunction to prevent their partners in getting an abortion.In Paton v Trustees of British Pregnancy Advisory Service [1978] 2 All ER 987 the plaintiff felt so entitled to the  body of his wife that he tried to get an injunction to prevent his wife from getting an abortion. It was held that the abortion act gives the husband no such rights and, in his view, therefore the husband had no legal right , enforceable in law or equity to stop his wife from having an abortion or to stop the doctors from carrying it out.  Here, the courts sided with us, helped us in letting the men understand that they do not have any rights over our bodies. What if people say I am supporting abortion? I know you ask. What I want is for women to be given the ability to choose. Choose between keeping a foetus or not. In Roe v Wade 410 U.S. 113 (1973), it was established that access to abortion can be strictly regulated or restricted after a fetus becomes viable or able to survive outside of the womb, which usually varies from pregnancy to pregnancy but generally occurs between 24 and 27 weeks  of gestation. In instances where the right to choose is not available, you must fight. You must fight to ensure women have the right to make the decisions about their own bodies. Section 58 (2) of the Criminal Code, Act 29 directs that It is not an offence if an abortion or a miscarriage is caused in any of the following circumstances by a registered medical practitioner specialising in gynaecology or any other registered medical practitioner in a Government hospital or in a private hospital or clinic registered under the Private Hospitals and Maternity Homes Act, 1958 (No. 9) or in a place approved for the purpose by legislative instrument made by the Secretary. Moreover,  where the pregnancy is the result of rape, defilement of a female idiot or incest and the abortion or miscarriage is requested by the victim or her next of kin or the person in loco parentis, if she lacks the capacity to make such request, Abortion is considered legal. According to 58 (2) (b), where the continuance of the pregnancy would involve risk to the life of the pregnant woman or injury to her physical or mental health and such woman consents to it or if she lacks the capacity to give such consent it is given on her behalf by her next of kin or the person in loco parentis, a woman can legally abort the baby. Another instance where abortion is considered legal is where there is substantial risk that if the child were born, it may suffer from, or later develop, a serious physical abnormality or disease (section 58 (2) (c). In all this, it is apparent that a woman’s ability to choose what she wants to do with her body and her fetus is constrained by the law.

In 2014, there was a new crackdown on what civil servants can wear Uganda. Women are not allowed to wear skirts or dresses above the knee, wear sleeveless or transparent blouses; to show cleavage , navel, knees and back; to  have bright coloured hair and nails longer than 3 centimetres.  This is an obsession that oppresses women. A woman should not have to be modest to be respected. Fight for women to have the ability to pick out their own wardrobe. If men are so bothered, they can learn to exercise self restraint, the same restraint they expect from women when they ask women to pick out and wear less revealing clothes. They can also unlearn toxic masculinity which has been so ingrained in them. It certainly is not the job of women to mute themselves to make men more comfortable.You should fight for women’s voices to be heard. To do this, you must be present. Always. You must demand a seat at the decision making table, and when you get that seat, speak up for women.Scream so that one day, decades from now, another woman will not have to dry her tears wondering where in history she lost her voice. If you get tired, rest but do not stop fighting.

        Always remember love. Remember to love and support your fellow women. Remember not to fall in the habit of labelling people as the “other”. Embrace uniqueness and diversity.  Never be afraid to wear your heart on your sleeve. Yes you may get hurt a couple of times, but you can always bounce back from your L’s. You do not have to change a thing, the world can change its heart. So go out there and love fiercely.

     Remember to love yourself so intensely that you walk away from any person or anything that is a detriment to your mental health. You may fall along the way, but always remember you are strong and smart enough to get back on your feet. Never apologize for being a strong effin* woman. Help other women and cheer them on. A victory for one woman is a victory for all. There is so much more to say but I will save that for the next letter. Love yourself !

Til then , I love you.

Sincerely,

Your mother.

 

 

Gaslighting is a form of persistent manipulation and brainwashing that causes the victim to doubt her or himself, and ultimately lose her or his own sense of perception, identity, and self-worth. According to Merriam Webster Dictionary, Gaslightimg is a term used by mental health professionals to describe manipulative behaviour used to confuse people into thinking their reactions are so far off base that they are crazy

 Mansplain :  (of a man) to explain something to a woman in a condescending way that assumes she has no knowledge about the topic

Micro agression a statement, action, or incident regarded as an instance of indirect, subtle, or unintentional discrimination against members of a marginalized group such as a racial or ethnic minority.

L – losses