Empowerment is the new word for Tyranny


The idea of empowerment has become a popular one in present times. To empower, simply, is to release the energies of a marginalized group, or individuals, so they can take control of their own lives. The Chinese have a proverb about giving a man a fish as compared to teaching him how to fish. Give him a fish and he comes to your home every morning with his grumbling stomach. Teach him to fish however, and he takes responsibility of his grumbling stomach. Teaching people to fish for themselves is the crux of empowerment.

Empowerment is also about giving people a voice, so they can speak up against oppression and injustice. Throughout history, there has been one empowerment program after the other. As long as inequality remains, there will always be the need for the strong to lift up the weak. Be it the empowerment of Black people, or of women, of sexual minorities, or of street children – there is always a need for someone to rise up and say ‘it is your time to speak up; you can lay claim to any resource around you, just like everyone else.’

Empowerment is important because it tries to do away with the coercive and oppressive relationships of power that often exists in some societies. It is really doubtful that anyone would find faults with empowerment’s honest need to give a voice to the oppressed and to make their lives matter.

Nevertheless there is a paradox in empowerment agendas that can result in the abuse of the very people whose interests it seeks to protect.

I will clarify this paradox with an illustration.  Mr. Mensah is an oil magnate while Budu sells cigarettes on the rough streets of Accra. Driving home from work one day, Mr. Mensah meets Budu and decides that Budu will be better off if he gets off the street. He does this because he sees the potential for success in Budu, so takes Budu home with him. Mr. Mensah believes that Budu will make an excellent lawyer someday, so he quickly enrolls Budu in the university. Budu is grateful, of course; Mr. Mensah has given him a new chance at life, he has given him a voice, he has empowered him; something no one ever did for him. Where empowerment failed is this: Mr. Mensah never asked Budu what it was he really wanted. Had he asked, Mr. Mensah would have known that Budu had always wanted to learn sculpturing at the community polytechnic.  Mr. Mensah gave Budu a voice, but it was a voice Budu couldn’t sing with.

The illustration of Mr. Mensah’s relationship with Budu is to establish that no matter the magnanimity of empowerment, power still remains in the hands of one the strong. That is, within the very structures of empowerment is the possibility of domination.

Empowerment comprises of two parties; the weak/oppressed who needs saving and the strong/free who takes upon himself the role of giving hope to the hopeless. Weak and strong, poor and rich – that is the dynamics of empowerment. Any displacement in the balance that exists between the weak and the strong will result in a new form of oppression, where the savior becomes the tyrant.

Can Budu ever complain if Mr. Mensah employs him as his lawyer personal lawyer? Can he ever say no if Mr. Mensah instructs him to forge documents and perjure himself in court? No he cannot; he owns most of his success to Mr. Mensah.

Tyranny can be cloaked as empowerment, and it is often the case when benevolent NGO’s, civil societies and donor agencies fall into the delusion that they know more about the needs of the poor than the poor themselves do.

With the argument that empowerment can serve as a tool for oppression, it is important to understand poor doesn’t necessarily mean dumb. Can saviors overcome the seductiveness of a new form of oppression? What will be the motive of empowerment, teaching the hungry man to fish for himself, or teaching him to fish so he calls you “Master”?

By Dede Williams


Welcome to Quote With Gird. During the month of May we collected and shared some memorable quotes from the book Mr Happy and the Hammer of God & Other Stories by Ghanaian writer, Martin Egblewogbe.

Mr Happy Cover Illustration
“Mr Happy and the Hammer of God & Other Stories” by Martin Egblewogbe [Publisher: Ayebia Clarke Publishing
Here, we have compiled a few of the quotes for you. You may have missed out on the quotes on either our Facebook page,  Gird Center or on our Twitter feed, @GirdCenterGH, or maybe you did see them and would want to read them again. We hope you find them interesting and worthy of inspiration or discussion

1. “A man walked the path he did because of a million sources of coercion – overt, covert – life was the great manipulator.”

2. “He could see that she could see that he didn’t want to talk. This is where honest people say goodbye.

3. “Yet when he stopped speaking to people they considered it a hostile act, but how could keeping your peace be a hostile act.”

4. “Oh the misery technology can bring: on the glowing screen it is worse than I could ever have imagined

5. “Dervi was not convinced by Bubu’s philosophizing. She came from a rich family and could afford to study anthropology and be detached […] For him to be ‘detached’ meant to ‘starve’. He had to go to the field and work.

6. “His applications were rejected so many times that he slowly lost faith in his Bachelor’s degree. However, his fortunes turned when he concluded that the orthodox means of seeking a job would not help.

7. “Long ago he had heard someone say that Psychology was the Science of Rescue. But rescue from what exactly?

8. “Dervi knew that God had not died. Nietzsche had written that; and Nietzsche rather had died.”

9. “The lexical accuracy of the word ‘mistakecould be questioned. Great lies are often hidden in misnomners.”

10. “His fingers passed lightly over the Health warning. Cigarette smoke is bad for you but good for economy.

Look out for the book to quote from for the month of June via @GirdCenterGH or Gird Center

Quote with Gird is a Gird Center project that seeks to present to our audience notable African writers through sharing quotes from their books.

You may purchase Mr Happy and the Hammer of God & Other Stories by checking with any of the bookshops near you or you can get copies by checking with Ehanom Books via the Twitter handle: @EhanomBooks or on Storefoundry: ehanombooks.storefoundry.com


One of haiku’s main appeals is that it focuses on nature or aspects of it. Haiku, in its brevity, captures those special moments in time when all our senses are awakened to the wonders and beauty of nature
– Celestine Nudanu, Writer

Celestine Nudanu

Celestine Nudanu is a Ghanaian writer, a romantic at heart and a book reviewer. Girdblog had a chat with her about her writing life and her debut collection of poetry, Haiku Rhapsodies. We are delighted to share some of Celestine’s insights with you.

Girdblog: Who is Celestine Nudanu?

Celestine: Thank you. A simple question yet very loaded. Who am I? Celestine Nudanu is a middle aged woman who refuses to think like one. “I am a romantic at heart, and love a good romance story, though I shy away from erotica. Almost all my poems focus on love, or aspects of it. I love books. And I would rather buy books than trendy clothes. I’m a strong Christian with my unshakeable belief in the resurrection power of Jesus. I’m a product of the University of Ghana, Legon where I graduated with a BA in English and Theatre Arts, and MA degree in International Affairs. As well as being a passionate reader and book reviewer, I’m also a poet, with a talent for haiku, the short Japanese poetry form. I’m a work-in-progress though. I blog at Reading Pleasure. Yes, and I’m married with three boys. Oh did I forget to say that I love to laugh, at life, at myself and at laughter itself.

Girdblog: What was the inspiration behind your debut collection of poetry, Haiku Rhapsodies?

Celestine: I guess you could say I wanted haiku, the art form, the genre, to take root in Ghana and flourish. I fell in love with haiku two years ago and this love affair drove me to make it well known in Ghana. In actual fact, my fellow haiku poet, Mr. Adjei Agyei-Baah has been writing haiku long before I came on the scene. Another haiku poet Nana Fredua Agyeman indeed was the first Ghanaian to write haiku so far as I know and have it published on his blog. But there has not been any publication in hard print, until my collection.

Girdblog: Who do you write for / Is your poetry about your own experiences?

Celestine: I write for the love and the pleasure of it. My audience are lovers of literature, lovers of poetry especially micro poetry. As a matter of fact, few of the haiku I have published and those on my blog reflect any personal experience. Haiku is basically about nature, one’s observation of it and the fleeting impact it has on one. That moment must be as short as possible, and the impact though fleeting should be deep, invoking all of one’s senses. So my works reflect my observation of nature and yes, being a romantic at heart, I rope in matters of the heart in just three lines. What is life without love and life itself, the spiritual and death? These are the themes that Haiku Rhapsodies explores in just three lines with each of the works in the collection.

Girdblog: What was the hardest part about writing?

Celestine: I must say that writing haiku comes naturally to me. The brevity of the genre appeals to me so much. I love words, you see and I love to play with words. But at the same time, haiku is not easy to write. There are rules to follow, not just writing three lines of seventeen syllables or less. And for me that is the hardest part. The rules. I’m still a work in progress, as I keep saying.

Girdblog: What is the central message in Haiku Rhapsodies?

Celestine: Haiku Rhapsodies is arranged under five main themes or messages: Afriku, nature, love or the romantic which I term haiku my heart, the divine or spiritual and death. Afriku are haiku of African origin, focusing on her rich images, rhythms, and unique settings peculiar to the culture and heritage of Africa. Afriku in its simplest form, also captures thrilling African moments in nature. One of haiku’s main appeals is that it focuses on nature or aspects of it. Haiku, in its brevity, captures those special moments in time when all our senses are awakened to the wonders and beauty of nature; that aha moment when the ‘nickel drops’, and we are in tune with nature. This is what the second theme, nature seeks to portray in Haiku Rhapsodies.

Haiku My Heart are verses written from the heart, just that. Based on observations of human nature, nature itself, family, romantic love and yes, well just a bit of the imagination. They follow no pattern; just the brevity of the words, speaking from the heart to you.And often as is the case, what comes from the heart has a ring of truth in it.

The Divine is all about the greatness of God and our relationship with him. Are we heaven bound? Death the leveller! Is it to be feared, craved or welcomed? These are the questions the fifth theme in Haiku Rhapsodies pose. I dare say that these verses also capture that final moment of our lives in a poignant way.

Girdblog: Why did you choose this genre of writing?

Celestine: (laughs) I didn’t choose this genre. Haiku found me and chose me. I do have some other forms of poetry written though, other short forms of Japanese poetry like the tanka, shardorma. I also write free verse poetry.

Girdblog: What interesting thing did you learn while writing Haiku Rhapsodies?

Celestine: I appreciate nature now, its beauty. And through that I have come to appreciate more the greatness and beauty in worshiping God. When you appreciate nature you appreciate the greatness and magnificence of God. It is so profound and yet so simple an experience.

Girdblog: Are you working on any new writing projects?

Celestine: Yes. I’m trying to put together a second and better, I hope at least, haiku collection. At the same time I’m working on completing my full length novel.

Girdblog: What is a typical writing day like for you?

Celestine: My writing life is not organised at all. Bringing up three boisterous boys hardly gives me any proper schedule. I normally write at the office, during my lunch break or when I’m less busy.

Girdblog: Taking a favourite quote, line or experience from Haiku Rhapsodies, what would you say to that ONE person out there who needs that single burst of wisdom/inspiration to achieve her/his goal?

Celestine: I will give that one person the following haiku to reflect upon. We all interpret poetry differently but I believe these four will talk to that one person; to give him or her that single burst of inspiration.

balancing act
the precarious road
of a crooked love

these violets
keep reaching for the skies
summer baptism

the sound of my voice
above the clouds

tweeting the goodness
of God


Sun-Searching ~By Nana Akosua Hanson


One morning, Mr. Chagreen left and never came back.
He picked himself up from the corner of my room, skipped out the window into a freedom I had never had. I stare at the window and watch the wind blow my drab curtains. I wonder if freedom felt like the happy swing of the purple patterned fabric.
I didn’t understand why I was never to leave this room. They said I was mentally unstable, they said a  traumatic experience brought it on. They said I could put others in harm’s way. And then they said I was of no harm to anybody but myself. I don’t understand people. They say one thing all the time and mean another. They don’t make sense to me. But I guess that’s what makes me different. I guess it’s what makes me ‘mentally unstable’.
Mr. Chagreen was my invisible friend. He made me laugh when they made everything seem sad. Once, we went sun-searching. That is what Mr. Chagreen called chasing the sunset, trying to catch the shimmery orange rays of the sun as it fell away from earth to give way to the moon. We’d rush outside and sit on grass, stretch our palms out to the sky and try and catch as many rays as possible before the sun said goodbye. When he caught a ray, Mr. Chagreen always looked beautiful. The orange glow set his brown face in a shimmery halo, and a thought always flashed at that moment: God sent him to me.
But they say Mr. Chagreen is bad. They say he takes away my real friends and he is only a figment of my imagination. They say he scares people away from me and makes me talk to myself when real people want to talk to me.  So they drove him away. For days, I was lonely. I wanted to call him back but I dared not. Because they said it was part of my ‘treatment.’ And I hung alone in parks, played in the grass and went sun-searching all by myself. The real people didn’t know how to talk to me, they stared at me funny and whispered behind my back.
 All I could hear was screaming voices. It was the night pain began; that day was when Mr. Chagreen first came to me.  Mummy and Daddy were angry again. Mummy was crying and  screaming at the same time. Daddy looked like the evil purple monster in my bedtime story. I crawled to the corner of my room and closed my ears and hummed the song mummy taught me to hum. But they were shouting and I couldn’t hum loud enough. I started to cry. I wished they would stop. Then a thought flashed in my mind: Tell them to stop.
I run out of my room to the hallway, looking up the staircase at them and just when I filled my lungs to scream ‘stop,’ Daddy hit mummy hard. She fell and rolled down the stairs. I looked down at mummy lying next to my left big toe. She was no longer shouting. She was no longer crying. She was staring at a place between my legs and her red juice started to creep under my toes. It was warm. It was sticky. I called her but she didn’t respond. Then daddy swooped me into his arms.
Mr. Chagreen pinched my cheeks and kissed me awake. He told me he would be my best friend. He told me we would play lots of games together. And we would grow up together. He was with me when the men in blue came and took daddy away. He was with me when the fat ‘institootional’ lady came to take me away. He was with me when the doctor with thick glasses told me I’m ‘unstable’. He was with me when the nightmares came and mummy kept staring at somebody else with her red juice wetting my hands and feet and my favorite purple dress. I screamed her name but she simply looked away. Mr. Chagreen was with me when I woke to find the red juice had become urine all over my sheets and clothes. He cried with me when the fat ‘institootional’ lady gave me a ‘good spanking’ for wetting my bed.
 He was with me when the other children refused to play with me. He made my tongue form words when I was so scared to talk, I stuttered. He made me talk of the green leaves, orange sunlight, rainbows and unicorns when my mouth wanted to scream that mummy’s red juice was on my feet. Mr. Chagreen braided my hair and put flowers in it, though it made the other children shout, “She’s putting dead flowers in her hair again!” And when we went sun-searching and the magic orange rays fell on our faces, that hole in my chest that made it difficult for me to breathe vanished. That urge to scream ‘stop’ melted and mummy’s smile came back, daddy’s laughter caressed my cheeks again. And we were rolling around in my bed again, tickling each other and laughing and telling stories. Like the story of the handsome prince who looked like Daddy and had a dark horse that would take us to a far away land.
But the doctor with the thick glasses and moustache like a toothbrush said Mr. Chagreen was bad and had to go away. So I pushed him away. But he still held on to my hand.
Then one day, he went and never came back. And the nightmares came back. I began to cut myself and mummy’s red juice was with me, in my bed.

Ghana ~By Teddy Totimeh

Ghana is beautiful

If you pause long enough

To see the colour in the squalor

If you pause long enough to sample the order in the odours.


Ghana is beautiful

If you stand long enough

To feel the humor in the clamour

And are not too particular

About what is correct and what is not.


Ghana is beautiful

When you appreciate the patience

Of a suffering people

Waiting to progress.



What makes Ghana beautiful? Teddy advocates if we pause long enough, we could find out. Teddy Totimeh is a Ghanaian Writer and Poet.  He is also a Doctor specializing in neurosurgery. Teddy has won awards for both his poetry and short stories.