Juliet Yaa Asantewaa Asante, Master in Public Administration, Harvard Kennedy School as of May 24, 2012.
The header here may sound haughty. And why not? Very few women are able to challenge themselves into achieving the many successes that trailed Juliet’s current moment of glory.
I first met Juliet two years ago during a World Economic Forum (WEF) regional task force meeting in Accra. The meeting of roughly 15 Ghanaian industry captains and social activists discussed strategies to convince the Ghanaian Government to be visible at WEF Africa region meetings and take advantage of the many human and financial resources that are potentially on offer to visionary businesses and governments.
Juliet made very strong arguments for integrating women in the larger scheme of things, not simply because they are humans too, but their demonstrable ability to multiply talents, both naturally acquired and those handed to them for business. She spoke for all women who manage homes, table top enterprises, small and medium sized businesses and those in politics. After the meeting, Juliet and I continued the conversation under the sweltering heat of the afternoon sun. She understood the politics of our time and was keen on playing her role in changing the fortunes of the under privileged. She had begun actually. Later that day she was on her way to attend a women’s leadership conference in the Middle East.
But I had observed Juliet from afar. She had appeared in over a dozen Ghanaian movies I have seen, playing different roles that not only typify African womanhood but also the often misunderstood influences global multiculturism has on the African woman. Juliet not only acts, she makes actors and actresses too, and more important, market them across Africa through the very aggressive market-driven media communications and entertainment platform, she calls Eagle Productions limited.
Juliet did not tell me why she enrolled for a Master of Public Administration at the Kennedy School, but I can tell a causal link with one of her favourites; the arts and how the inertia by African governments is leading to a loss of revenue for artistes, be they musicians or film actors. In spite of the existence of Copyrights associations, societies and commissions on the African continent, enforcement is sorely lacking. Prof John Collins of the School of Performing Arts at the University Ghana estimates Ghana’s hip life music could generate US$53 million a year from foreign sales. Ghana did pass a strong copyright law in 2005, although it still has not been fully implemented. Perhaps, this would engage Juliet as she ponders on the big question of “what next”, now that the number one Ivy league school in the world has approved her to go into the world and make an impact.
James Habia, an MIT alum and a common friend to Juliet and I told me “Juliet is talented, smart, and savvy in her industry and topping that with a degree in MPA Class of 2012, will make her a powerful force in life. These are kind of products we want to see coming out of Ghana.” I agreed.
Juliet is indeed a worthy Ghanaian ambassador on that front, but crucially she wants others to achieve same and offer their expertise to Ghana. Juliet never misses the opportunity to tell me how great the Harvard programme is and never forgets to add “I will recommend you when you are ready.”
Part of an email she sent me on the stroke of midnight, the day of her graduation read. “As an ordinary Ghanaian who has pursued a dream, I'd like to use this as a motivator and also encourage those who have been through the school and other major training opportunities to avail their services to Ghana as this is what Ghana needs. What are your thoughts?” That question “what are your thoughts?” is what motivated me to write this short piece on a rare gem. I hope I have not patronized this very multi-talented and beautiful lady on top of her game really. Congratulations, Juliet!
Source: Franklin Cudjoe is founding director of IMANI, a globally acclaimed African think tank.
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