This speech was originally delivered at the roundtable discussion, "Gender Solidarity and the Legal Profession: The Role of M.A.L.E Allies in Ghana" organized by the Institute for African Women in Law (IAWL) in collaboration with the Ghana Bar Association (GBA) and the GBA Women's Forum on 15 June 2022.
My Lords, President of the Ghana Bar Association, The Ghana Bar Association Women’s Forum, Colleagues at the Bar, the Board members of the Institute for African Women in Law present, Ladies and Gentlemen; Good afternoon.
I am delighted to have participated in today’s event, I am grateful to the Institute for African Women in Law for the opportunity to give brief closing remarks to this very important gathering of great minds. I would firstly like to thank our esteemed panel of speakers: My Lord Mr. Justice Dotse, Your Ladyship Mrs. Justice Torkornoo, Mrs. Sheila Minkah-Premo, Mr. David Ofosu-Dorte, and Ms. Maame Yaa Mensa-Bonsu, for their generosity in time and effort, and for a most impactful discussion on gender solidarity and male allyship.
You have individually demonstrated – not only by your exemplary achievements, but by your commitment and contribution to important discussions such as today’s – that gender equality is not a women’s issue. Men have a crucial role to play in the success of women and having male allies is extremely important in this journey.
Thank you, Jarpa Dawuni Esq. and IAWL for the incredible work you are doing of showcasing the talent of African women in law, and serving as change agents by facilitating quality conversations to achieve the ultimate goals of addressing issues that affect the progress of African women, and, by extension, men.
On a personal level, I have been a beneficiary of male allies from a very young age; from my father who afforded me the same opportunities as my male siblings, to the male allies in a male-dominated profession who gave me opportunities; not because I was a woman or Black, but because they believed I had something good to contribute. You see, these male allies of mine never went by the label but rather importantly, at the core of their value system, I believe they were determined to treat people the right way – in a work setting or otherwise. They placed a high value on fairness and equality. They listened, learned, and advocated for women in their own small way – working to correct the imbalance of opportunity.
Therefore, what are my key takeaways from this impactful event?
1. Gender solidarity is a mainstream agenda and cannot be treated as a side project. We all have a role to play both in the home and at the workplace. It does not take much to be there for one another and to identify a reason for the necessary passion and drive to push this agenda. It could be because you want to improve the environment for your wife/sister/friend in the workplace, or you hope that your daughter will grow up to meet a more positive environment in the future workplace she finds. Whatever the reason, I will urge all of us to encourage the men in our lives to identify their driving force on this journey toward gender solidarity and equality, and, like our esteemed panelists, step up to become a male ally (if not already) and be there for someone who needs them.
2. As women, we need to encourage male colleagues to be the new agents of change by sharing our stories/experiences with them. Only then can men have a deeper understanding of the hurdles women face and what it is to be on the receiving end of unfairness. That way, they begin to see the world as it is and strive for what the world should be.
3. On the journey to becoming a male ally, male colleagues must be prepared to pay attention, listen, and learn. In a male-dominated environment, male colleagues should be sensitive towards female colleagues who are relegated to the background at meetings, and interrupted or ridiculed when they try to contribute and speak up against unfair behavior.
4. We need male allies in the workplace to push for policies that encourage mentorship and progression towards leadership positions for qualified female colleagues. Male allies in positions of authority/ leadership must be willing to disrupt the status quo. Such action will result in a more productive and profitable enterprise for us all. It makes economic sense. Yet, it all begins well before women enter the workforce. It begins in the home where men must share in the invisible labor of housekeeping and child-rearing, giving women time and space to thrive in their own passions, allowing girls to study, explore and engage equally in conversations with male siblings. It begins at school where girls are encouraged to follow their individual academic interests, and no path of knowledge or achievement is forbidden or hindered.
In the words of Dr. Akinwumi A. Adesina, the President of the African Development Bank:
"No bird flies with one wing. We must support women everywhere to thrive. As they do, societies will thrive and prosper."
5. Change will happen, one male ally at a time, one act of empathy at a time but it needs to be done purposefully with an open mind, sometimes requiring the need to assess oneself critically. I encourage all of us to start this journey by joining one of the IAWL professional networks. There is one for every woman at different stages of their career: the IAWL Women Experts Network, the IAWL Law Students Network, the IAWL Early Career Network, and, very importantly, the MALE Allies Network. Together, we will build the change we all so deserve and thrive in a world as it should be.
Together, we will build the change we all so deserve and thrive in a world as it should be.