Meeting the Queen Mother

Meeting with the Queen Mother in Adidome was an eye-opening experience. Her translator explained to us that it was customary for members of the royal families to speak through a translator to preserve the dignity of their position, but after a few questions, she spoke to us directly. She explained that her duties, while separate from those of the male leaders, were equal in importance. Aside from organizing and guiding the women and children of her community, she also acts as the custodian for village’s social well-being, and advocates on their behalf for support and aid. Where Chiefs appear to be the custodians of history, land and law, I understood the Queen Mother’s role to care for the people, particularly those in the present. This separation of duties between two equal, but different power structures gave me a better understanding of why Western political systems were ill-fit substitutes for these traditional systems.
This casts Queen Mothers in a unique position of respect and trust. Since she is considered wise and always in the best interest of her community, she has a unique opportunity to institute values or change. UNICEF Ghana has also recognized this, and in 2013 convented with nine members of the National Council of Women Traditional Leaders to discuss how they could work together to better realize the rights of children.
I can imagine the strength of this powerful system working in many ways to continue to improve conditions across the country – be it improving health conditions, sanitation, access to clean water, farming practices, and more.
Given the theme of this study tour, one particular realm the Queen Mothers can help the most is in the education of children. UNICEF is one organization that has realized this, and is mobilizing and organizing Queen Mothers to act as an innovative and impactful avenue of communicating behavioral change. But more than just communication, UNICEF, and other education-focused organizations, should help Queen Mothers organize to advocate. Their combined power and influence can be used to do more than communicate. They can encourage their communities to think longer term, to invest in their future, and to help each other succeed in a way that governments often cannot. This is an invaluable tool for progress that should not be squandered.

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