The Keep Ghana Clean campaign sponsored by the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development and currently running on television to promote good refuse disposal habits is a laudable effort especially in the height of the present cholera epidemic.
The campaign is made up of a number of public service announcements including “The Story of Cholera”, a five-minute short animation film produced by the Global Health Media Project and released in 2011, and a number of television advertisements produced here in Ghana, which show scenes most of us know very well.
Despite the good objectives for the campaign, some of the public service commercials show images of women in ways that tend to reinforce undignified stereotypes for women, an aspect of the campaign which goes contrary to the Directive Principles of State Policy in Article 35(5) contained in the 1992 Constitution and also runs contrary to sound ethical principles of the media.
In August and September this year, I watched three of the commercials on the same subject of good refuse disposal habits on a state-owned television in which women are portrayed as offenders: only female characters throw rubbish indiscriminately around town. In two of the adverts, men are held up as heroes when male characters rebuke female offenders and tell them what to do—drop refuse in a bin.
In one case where a young woman in the street drops some litter, a supposed male lunatic accosted her to pick it up. In another case, a female passenger riding on a taxi throws a water bottle out the window carelessly after quenching her thirst. The male taxi driver stops the car and tells her to pick it up and dispose it off properly or else he wouldn’t continue the trip. But as the passenger complies: alights and picks the bottle up, the man speeds away with scorn and leaves the young woman on the road, baffled.
Indeed, the gender interactions portrayed in the commercials bear implicit meanings that tend to reinforce negative stereotypes against women and sustain attitudes which promote discrimination against them in this country and elsewhere.
In addition to that, the adverts display power positions that accord to men authority to the disadvantage of women, who already suffer discriminatory cultural practices that violate their human rights, and are the victims in majority of domestic violence cases.
What’s more, the fact that the Local Government Ministry sponsoring the campaign and the state television connection seem to suggest official attitude towards women. Whether that is government attitude or not, the campaign makes an uncomfortable impression on government because, surprisingly, this is happening in an era of constitutional democracy in which the constitution guarantees human rights and free and independent media.
The Directive Principles of State Policy contained in the 1992 Constitution charges the State to actively promote the integration of the peoples of Ghana and prohibit discrimination and prejudice on the grounds gender or circumstances of birth, or on other stated grounds. At the same time, in Article 162(5), it enjoins the mass media to uphold the principles, provisions and objectives of this Constitution, and the responsibility and accountability of the Government to the people of Ghana at all times.
Evidently, these constitutional charges could have been observed better in the implementation of this campaign. Besides, ethical considerations could have been taken more seriously at the production and broadcast levels. I think these commercials have to be dealt with for the very important campaign to promote clean communities.