The Chairperson of Ghana’s Electoral Commission, Charlotte Osei was on Tuesday honoured with the United States Department of State’s Women of Courage Award for 2017.
Presenting the award, the US Ambassador to Ghana, Robert P. Jackson affirmed that “Charlotte Osei epitomizes the phrase, woman of courage.”
Mr. Jackson in his speech praised Charlotte Osei for her bravery before, during and after the 2016 general elections.
In her acceptance speech, Charlotte Osei said “I owe my courage to the resilient women of Ghana, who are working daily to overcome male chauvinism and patriarchy in all its forms from the micro to the macro level of our society.”
“I am inspired daily by their refusal to accept the status quo, and to dare to make a difference,” she added.
Below is Charlotte Osei’s full acceptance speech:
WOMAN OF COURAGE AWARD ACCEPTANCE SPEECH BY MRS. CHARLOTTE OSEI, CHAIR, ELECTORAL COMMISSION
US AMBASSADOR’S RESIDENCE, ACCRA
AUGUST 22, 2017
Your Excellency Robert P. Jackson, Ambassador of the United States to Ghana, and Mrs. Babette P. Jackson;
Honourable Ministers of State and Members of Parliament;
Distinguished Members of the Diplomatic Corps;
Representatives of Civil Society organisations, Special Invited Guests; Ladies and Gentlemen of the Media;
My Colleagues from the Electoral Commission, My Family and My Friends;
Good evening to you all.
What can I say?
This is indeed a great honour and I am totally overwhelmed and humbled by this recognition. I would like to sincerely thank the government of the United States of America, through the Embassy in Ghana, for this honour.
I take this opportunity to firmly place on the record, that the success of the 2016 elections were not and could not be the results of one person’s efforts. Numerous people contributed in diverse ways to our successful elections and the national peace and stability we continue to enjoy. Let me begin by first acknowledging the truly invaluable guidance and support I received and continue to receive from my predecessor, Dr. Kwadwo Afari-Gyan, the support of my colleague Commissioners (some of who are present here), Directors and staff of the EC, who from the first day I stepped into office at the Commission and even in our most trying times, continue support me and help deliver on the constitutional mandate of the Commission. This award is for all of us.
There were many days in the last two years when I felt very heavily, the burden of leadership. The weight of, as it seemed, carrying the entire peace and stability of the nation on my shoulders. But through it all, I could always count on the love and support of my husband, my children and my friends. I lost a lot of acquaintances, but I gained a lot of true friends. And for that, I recognize that I am a very blessed person. I just want to take a minute to thank them: my husband, my children, my dad, my siblings and my very, few and supportive special friends: their unwavering love and support- bearing the brunt of falsehoods and insults, and many provocations- has kept me steady and given me the strength to go on.
My beloved daughters have endured not only my long days away from home without complaining, but made many sacrifices for me and continue to understand and do whatever it takes to keep Mummy going; thanks girls.
In those trying moments, the values of truth, integrity, honesty, and fairness, which my parents instilled in me from my childhood kept me focused on delivering on my promise to the people of Ghana.
In receiving an award for courage, I have had to ask myself, what really is courage? The words of the American Actress Shannen Doherty, a recipient of a similar honour for her courageous fight against cancer rang true to me: “Courage isn’t something that comes to you immediately…. It’s not something that you have fully. Courage is something that you gain and it grows. Courage is facing every day and every obstacle one step at a time. Courage is knowing that fear is not going to find a solution….” Courage is really, ignoring your fears and going on, focused on the end goals and the solutions to the challenges.
And that is our greatest need in Ghana- solutions.
Our society faces two major challenges: ignorance and the need for bold leadership at all levels to address these challenges.
My office reception is adorned with a beautiful artwork by a young Ghanaian lady, Lourraine Ocloo- highlighting the basic needs of the ordinary Ghanaian. Those needs are nothing complex. They are the simple things to enable them live a decent and acceptable life.
The ordinary Ghanaian needs education, clean water, affordable and accessible health care, opportunities to work and earn a decent living and take care of their families, governance without corruption; peace and stability; a safe and clean environment; a justice system that works, nothing fancy, nothing complex. All very basic.
As the saying goes: If you can’t do great things, do small things in a great way. We need to deal with the small things in our country.
I am inspired and motivated anew every day to work towards these needs. The starting point of course, is an electoral system that works and ensures that the process of electing our political leaders is credible and transparent and ensures national peace, stability and cohesion in its aftermath.
Today, I am being honored for my courage. But the truth is, I owe my courage to the resilient women of Ghana, who are working daily to overcome male chauvinism and patriarchy in all its forms from the micro to the macro level of our society. I am inspired daily by their refusal to accept the status quo, and to dare to make a difference.
Courage really is ‘doing it afraid’. The famous Napolean Bonaparte said: ‘Courage isn’t having the strength to go on, it is going on when you don’t have the strength.’
I have received strength from many: leaders of faith based organisations, including my own spiritual father, the Archbishop Nicholas Duncan-Williams, many clergy men and women and the national chief Imam, Sheikh Dr. Osman Nuhu Sharubutu. I thank them all for the daily spiritual backing. I am very grateful to His Royal Majesty Otumfuo Osei Tutu II, the Asantehene for his constant support and wise counsel; to former Presidents Jerry John Rawlings and John Agyekum Kufuour; and of course, to the two leading Presidential candidates of the 2016 elections, then President John Dramani Mahama and HE Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, for their responsible leadership and statesmanship during and after the elections. As a nation, we owe the peaceful conclusion of the process and the peace we continue to enjoy to their maturity and willingness to wait for the Commission to do what was right within its constitutional mandate.
And to the many citizens of Ghana, known and unknown, who reach out to me daily, quietly, behind the scenes and offer support, prayers and encouragement, this is a good time to say thank you.
As a Commission and personally, we have also had wonderful support and encouragement from the National Peace Council, the National Elections Security Task Force, the Security Agencies, NCCE, NMC, GJA, GIBA, the diplomatic community especially EU, USAID, the Canadian government, UN and UNDP, and the many others time will not permit me to list. We the Commission, and I are truly grateful.
To quote Actress Shannen Doherty again, “I don’t view it as me accepting the Courage Award for myself,” I’m accepting the Woman of Courage Award on behalf of every Ghanaian and African woman out there embracing the odds and making a difference in the lives of their families, communities, and countries. I dedicate this award to your daily struggles without recognition, reward or remuneration. You are really the women of courage!
In spite of all the challenges, obstacles, attacks and hurdles I have faced in my 6-year journey in public service, I still truly believe that it is a great honour and a privilege to serve one’s country. And it is a special privilege to serve in the capacity of the Chair of the Electoral Commission. I truly am grateful for the honour and the privilege and I thank all of you who have been a part of my journey.
Once again, my sincere thanks to the American Embassy for this acknowledgement particularly knowing that there are other equally deserving recipients of this honour.
I wish to also thank each one of you for taking time to be here tonight. I thank you for your time and I thank you for your attention.
God bless the United States of America;
God bless our homeland Ghana; and
God bless us all.
Thank you. Thank you.