This post is part of our special coverage Global Development 2011.
Though she shares a last name with a globally famous Ghanaian, Linda Annan is not related to former UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan. Linda is a Ghanaian journalist and blogger who contributes to Global Voices Online on the Ghanaian blogging scene.
Linda founded and edits Obaasema, an online magazine for women. Obaasema means “ideal woman” in Twi, a Ghanaian language. Established in 2006, the magazine has a website, a YouTube channel, an online television version, a Facebook page, and is also on Twitter.
Linda was born in Ghana, but left for the United States in her mid-teens. While in the United States she obtained a Bachelor of Arts degree in Corporate Communications, with a minor in Journalism, from Bernard M. Baruch College in New York. She has recently returned to Ghana, and is working in media and communications.
In this interview with Steve Sharra, Linda talks about blogging, her passion for knowledge sharing and women’s empowerment, Obaasema magazine, and all the many other things she does on the Internet.
Steve Sharra (SS): To get us started, tell us about yourself. Who is Linda Annan? You share a last name with a global Ghanaian, former United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan. Are you related to him?
Linda Annan (LA): I am a Ghanaian journalist and communication specialist with a passion for politics and activism involving women and youth empowerment as well as various social issues related to Africa. No, I'm not related to Kofi Annan, though we're both from the Fante ethnic group.
SS: Where were you born, where did you grow up, and where are you currently based?
LA: I was born and raised in Ghana where I lived until my mid-teens. After that I left for the United States; I just relocated to Ghana three months ago.
SS: What brought you back to Ghana, and what you are now doing?
LA: It has always been my desire to move back to Ghana at some point; the question was when would it be? This year seemed right because my plans fell through and Ghana is now ripe for the sort of projects I want to start. Also, the goal, since I started Obaasema, was to eventually launch it in Ghana and other African countries. Now is the time to start such a move. What am I doing now: I work as an Associate Consultant at an Integrated Marketing Communications firm.
SS: You have a remarkable presence online, starting with Obaasema, the magazine you founded and edit. Tell us about why and how you went about starting the magazine.
LA: Thank you. I started the magazine a few months after I graduated from college. Generally, I love to inspire and empower people and since I believe in the power of words and am passionate about women's issues, it only made sense that I would use this medium to accomplish it. Knowledge sharing is another thing I enjoy doing very much and the online magazine was the perfect platform to do this at the time. Also, post-graduation, I noticed the need for a platform that provided empowering and inspirational messages to young African women such as myself through various channels. Since it was something I strongly desired to have in my life at the time, and knew other women who would appreciate and benefit from it, I decided to create Obaasema magazine; the name “Obaasema” in itself carries a lot of weight. In the Ghanaian language Twi, it is translated as “ideal woman” – that's the woman I aspire to be and it's the woman I want to call on every woman to aspire to be. Whatever that “ideal” is, it definitely has to be rooted in substance.
SS: Who is your audience for the magazine? How far has your reach been thus far?
LA: Target audience for Obaasema is the African woman, although anyone will be right in arguing that women's issues cut across. Our readers aren't just African women or women of African descent; we have a global online audience. The Obaasema woman can be the woman sitting high up in a corporate environment making major decisions or she can be the artist beautifully cultivating her craft or the woman in the village with no knowledge of her rights. All of these women need encouragement and need to be empowered at different levels to grow into the women they were created to be. That's where Obaasema magazine comes in. I can honestly say that we have been able to accomplish the main mission of Obaasema, which is to inspire and empower, although of course, there's more work to be done. Through feedback from our audience we know that people are being challenged to connect with themselves and strive for things that are of substance, whether it is in their relationships with people, relationships with themselves or accomplishing that dream. It warms my heart to see that our contributions to society are going far.
SS: Tell us about your work for Global Voices Online. How did you get started?
LA: I chanced upon Global Voices Online in 2009 and thought it was an incredible news resource. I love the diversity of the GV team and wanted to be a part of it; I've been writing political pieces with Ghana as a focus. I haven't been able to contribute for some time now but I look forward to actively doing so soon.
SS: You have a blog, Abi speaks. What made you think of starting the blog?
LA: I'm pretty opinionated and as I mentioned earlier, love to share knowledge with people. “Abi Speaks” is another platform I use to do that. It provides a chance for me to freely write about my thoughts without the limitations of, for instance, Obaasema which is an official publication. Also, “Abi Speaks” is my way of creating another voice, a personal one, outside of Obaasema.
SS: In 2007 you were featured on Black Star News as Entreprenuer of the Day. How did BSN learn about you? What did it do for you to be featured on the BSN website?
LA: Black Star News found me online and approached me about an interview. Their feature definitely gave Obaasema some exposure especially since it was pretty fresh on the web at the time.
SS: What do you find interesting about the Ghanaian blogosphere?
LA: I like the vibrancy of it; the boldness displayed in pieces is exciting and indicates that Ghanaians are advancing in this area of “freedom.” The bloggers here are pretty active; they have gatherings and seem to have built friendships with each other as a result of this.
SS: Finally, what are your future ambitions for Obaasema? And for yourself?
LA: In the next few months Obaasema Online will be undergoing a revamp to revive the energy connected with the publication. After reaching where we want to be with this new direction, a move towards launching the print magazine in Africa will follow. Ambitions for myself: My career in Communications is going in a direction I didn't anticipate, in a very good way, and I'm learning to relax and see where God takes me in this area. In the mean time, I intend to further explore other platforms in media to help move Obaasema to the next level.
This post is part of our special coverage Global Development 2011.