ANNA Bossman is a woman of many parts. A lawyer, Bossman has worked in the oil and gas sector before taking to activism, fighting for human rights. Currently, she is the director in charge of the Integrity and Anti-Corruption Department, IACD, of the African Development Bank, AfDB. She participated in the high level seminars that took place at the AfDB annual meetings in Marrakech, Morocco, which ended May 31. In an interview with Maureen Chigbo, editor, before the close of the annual meeting, the amiable Bossman, whose watchword is hardwork, speaks about her crusade to keep AfDB free from the plague of corruption, how it’s affecting the lot of African women and how her father, a former Ghanaian diplomat, influenced her to be what she is now. Excerpts:
Realnews: You have been in the business of activism for a very long time. How has it been?
Bossman: I am a lawyer by training. And I started out working, first of all, in the oil and gas sector. But then, I got into human rights. When you get into human rights and get into anti-corruption, you can’t be able to get out of it. It becomes like a calling and you find yourself always going back to it because in the centre of all this is really that you are talking about children. You are talking about women, men etc. So, behind all that we are doing, you have to see what is behind all the figures, statistics and situate them with what we are properly talking about and why we do it. It’s just because it’s people, it’s humanity. This is why I do what I do.
Realnews: How is endemic corruption in Africa affecting women?
Bossman: There are certain terms that I don’t like to use. But I will use it just for the purpose of explaining what I want. First of all, women in Africa are already relegated to certain inferior position. And I am talking again based broadly and generally because some countries are doing better than others. And therefore when you have that, when a woman is thought of as inferior, and in some ways as a commodity, disregard and disrespect towards her is intensified and therefore when people are doing things they shouldn’t be doing, they don’t even think that it is wrong. So, when they are thinking this way, it deepens the plight of women so that this inequality and injustice towards them makes it worse. So, of course, when you have a corrupt society, and someone is relegated to that kind of position you know, of course, the impact of the injustice will be more on them.
Realnews: Corruption is a very broad issue. In the World Bank, there was a case of sexual harassment which is all part of corruption. Do you have such cases in AfDB and how is your department handling it?
Bossman: In the case of sexual harassment, my department doesn’t look at that. But the bank itself takes that very seriously. The human resources department takes care of that and there is another unit that is being set up to look at issues like that. But at the moment, what happens if there is a sexual harassment allegation or investigation of sexual harassment, the human resources department sets up a committee that looks into it. Now, sexual harassment anywhere, especially within the African Development Bank is viewed as a very, very serious offence and people have been sanctioned because of that. Sexual harassment as you know can be against woman as well as man.
Realnews: Today, we were told about illicit funds transfers, which has done a lot of havoc to the African economy?
Bossman: We talk about it not in those terms. What we do is to define those terms and then we push it to the appropriate authority to look at it. We don’t look at that per se. But of course, in looking at corruption, in doing investigations, you might come across some of these things and then we give it to the appropriate entity to look at.
Realnews: You are a role model for the normal African woman and any young girl growing up. How did you overcome the glass ceiling to get to the position you are now?
Bossman: (laughs) How did I get here? It is a long journey. But it is a journey where you also have to have a role model. It is also a journey where you are driven by your conviction that you must do what is right. Whatever you do is that when you are leaving this earth, whichever corner that you have been living in, should be left better than what you found it. That’s something I have always grown up with. May be, I got it from my own parents. I also got it from other mentors. There is always the fact that in the way I was growing up, one thing in all the things that have always been with me is that money has never been the motivator but hard work, doing your best for people and striving to pull people, pull women along is something that I have always done. With men, I think that my approach has been, I am not sure I am perky, but I am very firm with the men. I believe that women should always strive to be very competent in what they do. I think that is the way it all came – competence at what they do. You know, what a man does well, a woman has to do twice better to be able to be recognised. The other thing I always try to do is to get men on my side. It is really difficult and nobody toys with fate. But underlying it all, hard work is the main thing. There are no short cuts to success.
Realnews: Can you tell me something about your background. What influence did your parents have on you?
Bossman: A lot of influence. My father was a medical doctor and was also a diplomat. He opened the Ghana mission in Morocco, the first mission under Kwame Nkrumah, in Algeria, Tunisia and subsequently, he went to France and England. My father when I was a child always told me whatever a man can do you can do. My mother used to interject and say you, why, why are you making your daughter like a man. My mother will say don’t you want her to get married. And my father will say ‘when love is hot, hot is sweet.’ (laughter). He told me you can always do things, you don’t need a man in order to succeed. He used to tell me you must do things on your own terms. Always do things on your own terms, don’t think you have to have a man to do it. Nothing against men, but do not ever think that a man should define you. This was my father in those days. It was very interesting. I have eight brothers.
Realnews: Eight brothers, are you the only girl?
Bossman: Three of us that are girls.
Realnews: That’s a large family
Bossman: And we are very close and sort of nurtured and supportive of one another. We lived very close to our larger family. My mother loved to have young people around. One thing I always do, when I was living away outside Ghana, I told my friends please go to my mother. She is the kind of person no matter what age you are, she will sit down and converse with you and I think we have all got that character. I don’t know if I can call myself a feminist. Maybe, I am in a way but maybe not in those terms. But what I always tell women is that you are a woman, be a woman. Be competent. You don’t have to be a man. Be a woman with manly qualities. Be a woman with womanly qualities. And it has worked for me. If it has worked for me, I guess, it has to work for other people as well. As I say anytime I give motivational speeches, I always say don’t let money be your motivator. If money is your motivator, you will compromise a lot. I didn’t say that you should not like money. No, no, no, I am saying it should not be your sole motivator.
— Jul. 8, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT