by David Borzo
Yes, King Peggy is a woman, and yes there are some other women kings in Africa, but it is a highly unusual situation. We learned at SmartTalk this week about Peggy Bartels of Washington D.C., who accepted her “true path” in life when fate called. By considering God, her ancestors and the great needs of her home village in Ghana, that destiny was too great for this woman to resist.
Peggy was born in Ghana and moved to Washington D.C. She was working there as a secretary in the Ghanaian embassy in 2008 when she received that fateful call from Otuam, the village that she was born in: her Uncle, the King of Otuam had died. As it is put in Ghana’s culture “He is going to another village and will not be coming back anytime soon.” Peggy was told that she was included in the lengthy process of finding a new King – the only woman in 25 nominees. Against all odds she was named “Nanna,” or King, of Otuam.
Those are the facts of this SmartTalk presentation by King Peggy, but it is only prologue. What she has done since for her village and for the rights of oppressed women and children is truly inspiring. As it is documented by her scribe Eleanor Herman in her book, King Peggy, this was an opportunity to help her village of 7,000 souls. From building wells for fresh water when there was none, to providing an ambulance, to eye and dental health programs and educational opportunities, King Peggy has been a blessing to the people of Otuam.
The King spoke in particular about the lack of respect and opportunity for women. It is male dominated and chauvinistic society, but King Peggy nonetheless faces it head on, fighting against hundreds of years of oppression. Now injustice and violence against women is in retreat in Otuam. Her fearless countenance and deep concern is a force, and it was a great message to the young girls that attended the SmartTalk that night (pictured above). For these 9 and 10 year Des Moines Students, born in Africa, King Peggy’s message had great significance.
This unique SmartTalk night is what we’re looking for – women who really make a difference. There’s still time to get tickets to the last two SmartTalk shows at the Des Moines Civic Center; next month we’ll hear another story of fortitude from CBS News & 60 minutes journalist, Lara Logan. It’s not to be missed. Single tickets are available to the public through the Civic Center ticket office.