Memuna Kabore Abu-bakr Siddique a.k.a The Iron Lady is Gender activist, Politician, Teacher, Entrepreneur and a philanthropist. She is also a founder of Memuna Educational Foundation to transform lives, mentor young girls and empower women.
“The Iron Lady” as she is fondly called, her uniqueness, exuberant personality combined with God-given talent skyrocketed her to high places after she contested and lost at the general election for legislators.
She was later appointed as a deputy director of programs at the Presidency and assigned to work directly with the office of the first lady of Ghana where she attended both local and international event. In 2015, she was in Nigeria during the election as an observer from Ecowas.
Memuna had since concentrating on her foundation to empower, advocate for more women in the community.
In an exclusive interview with ADEWALE ADENRELE , Memuna speaks about her journey into politics, challenges, and humanitarian activities.
Below are excerpts:
Can you tell us briefly about yourself, your family and educational background?
From a humble beginning, and thirty-five years currently, I am the 4th child of the late Mr Abu-Bakr Siddique Kabore who was an Electrical engineer and Hajia Memuna Amadu (Business woman). My root is traced to Pusiga in the Upper East Region of Ghana. I started Primary school at Light House Junior Secondary School and completed in 2001 with Basic Education Certificate Examination (BECE). I then continued to Osie Kyeretwie Secondary School (OKESS) where I read Business and completed in 2004. I had scholarship from the Otumfuo Educational fund for Brilliant but Needy Students that paid my fees for 3 years and since then, l vowed to give back to society in future. Upon successful completion, I proceeded to the University of Ghana in 2005, and completed my First Degree in 2009, where I obtained Bachelor of Arts in Information Studies with Philosophy. I had my National service at University of Ghana as a Teaching Assistant in the year 2010. I furthered and had my Second Degree from University of Ghana in 2011, Master of Arts Degree in Archival Studies.
Who influenced you and why do you choose empowering and mentoring young girls and women?
I was influenced by the Otumfuo Education Fund, for the needy but brilliant students. I was a beneficiary of the scheme established by the Otumfour, Asantehene to help the needy but brilliant students. This scholarship changed my life and my thinking. So l decided to also mentor young girls and empower women in their endeavor. With strong passion to helping the needy, the underprivileged and mentoring young girls in my community, l established the Memuna Educational Foundation in 2012 for this purpose and to Gods glory, we are able to transform lives , donate to orphanage , trained women in liquid soaps, ice creams , yogurts and skin cares to mention a few.
What have been the most challenging and most rewarding aspects of leadership for you?
My most challenging aspect of leadership was the fact that the political party I belong organized its internal primaries where I contested with two strong men in November 2011 and won. Given the fact that I am a woman and Ghana being a male dominated country, it is never easy for women in politics. I had religious challenge as well, where the Muslims say it’s “Haram” for a woman to lead an election. My second challenge was the fact that l contested at a stronghold of the opposition New Patriotic Party (NPP) at the time. In all of it, my most rewarding aspect of leadership was that in 2012, l did the unprecedented in my constituency by increasing the vote of my party the National Democratic Congress by 50%.
What brought you into politics and how was the journey so far?
I started politics on the University of Ghana campus. I was the Deputy Women’s Commissioner for TAIN. I was chairperson for Legon Hall TAIN. I was the Organizer for RESAG (Religions Students Association of Ghana) at University of Ghana. I then moved to aspire for President of ISSA (Information Studies Students Association) at University of Ghana but this election was rigged as l believed l won the election, so l sued the electoral commission at that time… l was then appointed Senator to represent the Information Studies Department of the University of Ghana at GRASAG level. In the year 2011, l won the outstanding Senator of the year from GRASAG. It was right after that l started National politics and won my primaries in 2011.
Interestingly, out of the 275 Members of Parliament (MPs), only 36 are women which represent 12.75%. This cannot be a true representation of women. Currently women form 52% of the total population of Ghana. Particularly, my desire to see to the passage of the Affirmative Action Bill, for proportional representation of women in Politics and to also take part in legislation of my country, Ghana gave me the motivation to venture into this male dominated terrain. The journey has not been easy; I can say that it is worth the try.
In some African Countries, half of Ministers are women, making them one of the world’s few gender-balanced governments. How do you see Africa’s women become President in their various countries?
That should be the ultimate dream for every woman who is dedicated to the empowerment of women. That we would wake up and see women occupying the top positions in governance as presidents, would be a successful breakthrough. But first, we must strive for an increased participation of women in politics. By that, they get exposed to the structures and then they obtain the experience and skills needed to take up the top jobs of becoming presidents. No one gains the experience of being a president before becoming one. However, a hand at governance at all levels by women would increase the interest and boldness to take up the highest challenges on the continent.
What will it take to build entrepreneurship in Africa and to build employment in Africa? And what are you or your organization trying to do to move the needle?
What Africa requires in this regard is the political commitment and the will to ensure it works from the top. Entrepreneurship which actually is the private sector that many governments in Africa tell their citizens is the engine of growth, has the potential to employment the largest working force. Indeed, government institutions have a limit on the number of workers they can take. As a result, all they do is to replace those who go on retirement. If they do sign up to policies to cut jobs in the public sector, the citizens suffer the more. This provides a strong case for entrepreneurs to be given the needed support to fill in the void. Access to credit, and for that matter, affordable credit, would remain the greatest starter to ensuring the success of private businesses. Again, African countries must leverage on their potentials, trade among themselves, and provide tax incentives to their citizens to ensure they remain competitive on the continent and outside the continent. Entrepreneurship can also be built in Africa if we establish vocational training institutions. These vocational training institutions will equip Africa people with the needed skills to start their own work. Those Africans who have the skills, the business plans but need capital to start must be spotted and aided to realize their dreams.
My organization, apart from empowering young girls by sending them to school and mentoring women by training them with skills that can help them eliminate poverty, we train in liquid soap, we train in how to make fresh yoghurts, also sponsors young women who want to gain skills in dressmaking. This acquisition of skill is what my organization believes will help reduce poverty.
In the past 20 years, Sub-Saharan Africa has achieved some of the most dramatic breakthroughs in the world. The number of female legislators on the continent has increased, would you consider yourself as one someday?
Like stated earlier, I made attempts in the 2012 elections to become a legislator I again went unopposed on the ticket of the National Democratic Congress. Unfortunately, the challenges did not allow me to achieve that dream. I take cognizance in the fact that I was able to increase the total votes of my party in that constituency even though it was one for the opposing party. That dream remains alive. It will be pursued, and it would be realized God willing (AMEEN). I am a strong believer in never giving up on what one believes need to get done. The preoccupation in these few years ahead as I am not contesting is to keep making impacts and touching lives as much as possible, and I am referring to the lives of women in our societies. Their future must remain bright, their torches much remain lit, and their potentials even enhanced further. When the time comes for me to get back and pursue that dream of joining colleague women on the continent to legislate for our respective countries, I will not relent.
Ghana is commonly regarded as one of the most beautiful countries on the entire African continent, what are the tourism potentials?
Ghana has very good potentials when it comes to tourism. The country, across its 16 regions, has amazing tourist sites spread across the country. In the Volta Region for instance, we have the Wli (Vli) Water Falls. Again, the highest mountain in Ghana, the Mounatain Afadza called ‘Afadzato’ in the Ewe Language is a site to behold. It stands at 885 metres hight or 2,904 ft tall. The Eastern Region can boast of the Boti and Akaa Waterfalls as just two of the numerous waterfalls. The Kwahu area has some beautiful rocks as well as parachute sites that attract the eyes of the country and tourists during the Easter festivity every year. We have a beautiful park located in Aburi, the Mole National Park located in the Savannah Region of Ghana is one important tourist centre of the country. We have the Kakum National Park located in the Central Region. The Cape Coast Castle, the Christiansburg Castle located in Accra, the capital of Ghana, are some of the tourist sites. The Bonwire Kente from Ashanti, the numerous and beautiful cultural displays during our festivals across the country, are important symbols of our uniqueness. I would like to submit here that one can visit this site to catch the potentials of the tourism sector
Amazing memories are unforgettable; can you share with us most amazing memory?
My most amazing and unforgettable memories were when l was appointed to work at Flagstaff House (Seat of Government) in June 2015 as a Deputy Director of Programs at the Presidency. I was assigned to the Office of the First lady where I had my first experience of sitting in a Helicopter to execute my task. This work gave me several opportunities in my life. I had the opportunity to attend a conference in New York. I attended another conference in Namibia for Prevention of Prostrate and HIV AIDs with the Former First lady of Ghana, H.E. Lordina Dramani Mahama. I was in Dubai with the Former First lady for her Award on her humanitarian work with the Lordina Foundation. I was also in South Africa for a program organized by the organization of African First Ladies against AIDs (OAFLA). Then l was part of the delegation from Ghana to Nigeria in 2015 to monitor the Nigerian elections. As an election monitor under ECOWAS, we presented our report and left Nigeria. This election saw Goodluck Jonathan the incumbent, losing to Muhammadu Buhari.
What do you like about African culture?
African culture presents a unique make of our kind and sends across what we cherish and uphold as a people. The culture of Africa illuminates our heritage and our communal relations. The food we eat, the clothes we wear, the songs we sing, the stories we write and tell, the languages we speak, stands us out. These present for us, an image of a unique class of people. The continent is blessed with varied cultural backgrounds that work together to tell our stories. Africa can maximize on the potentials its cultural heritage presents to the world and use that to change the lives of rural folks who require resources to escape the grip of poverty.
Lastly. What is your advice to younger ones ?
The younger generation must learn to become future leaders.
Thank you for sharing with us.
You are welcome. 🌿🌿