Ghana’s modern queen mothers come with pearls and smartphones
Despite the cultural damage done on African institutions due to colonialism, some traditions refuse to die. One such institution is that of the queen mothers in Ghana. As in other West African precolonial societies, women played important leadership goals in Ghana’s precolonial days.
Traditionally, queen mothers were responsible for women and children, as well as the whole community. They were chosen from royal families based on character and authority, and they were not necessarily mothers of kings. Their roles were not just limited to this however as can be seen in the example of Yaa Asantewaa.
Perhaps the most popular queen mother from Ghanaian history, Yaa Asantewaa was queen mother of Ejisu of the Ashanti who led a war against colonizing British in 1900. Yaa Asantewaa’s example shows the power and equality queen mothers once had among chiefs and as judges in their communities. That power was slowly eroded once colonialism took root and later with independence. The role of the queen mother gradually became ceremonial, and traditional authority was relegated to the male chiefs.
That is beginning to change. According to the team behind The Formidable Queen Mothers of Ghana, queen mothers are now reclaiming and modernizing their traditional roles. The queen mothers of today are decked in gold and pearls and come equipped with smartphones and tables. They advocate for change and empowerment of Ghanaian women and girls acting on matters such as girls’ education, early marriage, land grabbing, poverty, the ill-treatment of widows, and climate change, among others. Queen mothers are pushing for space in the now male-dominated sphere of traditional authority, where they aim to represent the voices of women and children in their communities.
These days, there is a queen mother in most regions and villages in Ghana. While in the past queen mothers were largely recognized in the country’s south, the north has also opened up to women leaders. Through organizations such as the National Council of Women Traditional Leaders and Queen Mothers Association, Ghana’s queen mothers connect and share across cultural lines and are reaching across borders to women leaders in other African countries.
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