Africa Today | Women’s Rights and Sexual Freedom in Africa; Crime Fiction Writer Dr. Kwei Quartey

KPFA Radio’s Africa Today, september 16, 2019 | Silicon Valley African Film Festival & Updates on Sierra Leone

[Click Here To Visit Africa Today], A weekly news program providing information and analysis about Africa and the African Diaspora, hosted by Walter Turner.


Muadi Mukenge is an expert on woman health and rights, political transition and economic development in Africa. She has more than 20 years of leadership experience and grant making and program development women’s global health She’s work with the Pacific Institute for women health at the regional director for sub Saharan Africa at the Global Fund for Women. As a project director of African health professions regional collaborative at Emory University. She is currently the chief of development and External Relations for IPAS. The only international organization solely focused on expanding access to safe abortion and contraceptive care across Africa, Asia and Latin America. She joins Africa Today to discuss access services and advocacy for safe and legal abortion in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) throughout the African continent.


Dr. Kwei Quartey is a crime fiction writer, and a physician living in Pasadena, California. He has practiced medicine for more than 20 years, while simultaneously working as a writer noteworthy in both fields. He went to medical school at Howard University in the early 1990s. He began his practice in California. As a crime fiction writer, he made the Los Angeles Times bestseller list in 2009. He has published Wife of the Gods, Children of the Street in 2011, Murder at Cape Three Points in 2014. Gold of our Fathers 2016, Death by His Grace in 2017, and The Missing American, which is his most recent novel, which is coming out in 2020. He joins Africa Today to discuss his newest book.


WT: 0:00
KPFA 94.1 KPFB 89.3 from the city of Berkeley, kfcf 88.1 of the city of Fresno and K 248. Beyond 97.5 coming out of Santa Cruz and online at all the time at The time here at radio stations kpfa Kp is 701 is time for Africa day with your host Walter Turner.

Muadi Mukenge is an expert on woman health and rights, political transition and economic development in Africa. She has more than 20 years of leadership experience and grant making and program development women’s global health She’s work with the Pacific Institute for women health at the regional director for sub Saharan Africa at the Global Fund for Women. As a project director of African health professions regional collaborative at Emory University. She is currently the chief of development and External Relations for IPAS. The only international organization solely focused on expanding access to safe abortion and contraceptive care across Africa, Asia and Latin America. They work with partners to train abortion providers Connect women with vital information so they can access services and advocate for safe and legal abortion. Muadi Mukenge is originally from the country of the DRC, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and has traveled extensively throughout the African continent. She works for IPAS Health Access and right. Muadi thanks for joining Africa today.

MM: 1:55
Thank you, Walter, for having me. It’s nice to be back on the show again.

WT: 1:58
Oh, it’s a total pleasure, thank you for all of the since I have you on the air. Thank you for all of the great work that you did in the Bay Area and the work that you continue to do very much. Appreciate it. Give us some background on IPAS, Muadi.

Unknown Speaker 2:15
IPAS was founded in 1973. And we currently work in 18 countries. Our largest presence is in Sub Saharan Africa, but we also work in Asia and Latin America. And we work with partners to make sure that safe abortion and contraception are widely available, and to make sure that women can be connected to vital information so that they can access safe services. As you know, unsafe abortion is a critical component and contributor to maternal mortality around the world. There’s a lot of attention to addressing the other causes of maternal mortality, but not a lot of attention to addressing the prevalence of unsafe abortion. And so we’ve focused on reducing the prevalence of unsavable, on integrating services for safe abortion in the public health sector. And also making sure that contraceptive care as well is expanded.

WT: 3:09
What do you define for our listeners, Muadi as unsafe abortion? How do you define that term?

Unknown Speaker 3:15
So unsafe abortions would be abortions that are performed by untrained providers but also in unhygenic environments. We work in places where a lot of women don’t have access to contraception. And when we’re when faced with an unplanned pregnancy, instead of going to a facility or using modern forms of abortion, they will go to an untrained provider, or they will sometimes drink concoctions or sometimes use sharp instruments. And so these are very dangerous ways to you know to end an unplanned pregnancy often leading to uncontrolled bleeding or septic shock. But there are alternatives. This is something that’s completely preventable. There are safe methods of accessing and abortion and so IPAS works with health systems to make sure that these services are widely available to make sure that providers are also trained providers that include doctors, midwives and nurses such that women can actually get the health care that they need.

WT: 4:19
Why does and I know most of your work, you have over 20 years of work we know you here from your Global Fund for Women work and before that, and then even since that why does Africa Why does the African continent have the highest number of deaths from unsafe abortions? It’s clearly the youngest continent of all the continents we talked about. But why? Because the numbers I looked at from the information we shared are staggering. As much as 22 million a year around the world of women die. Women have unsafe abortion. Why Africa, Muadi?

Unknown Speaker 4:56
I think this is a women’s rights issue. This very much has to do with women’s lack of voice, women’s lack of agency iIn ann their lives, and this extends to inability to make decisions about our bodies. And with such low social status and inability to negotiate safe sex, and inability to choose if and when to have children and how many. This means that women have very limited options. And so the contraceptive prevalence in Sub Saharan Africa, for example, is about 33%. But that means that there is a very large unmet need for contraception. And women take drastic measures because they know what they want in terms of their their life and in terms of their bodies. And unfortunately, we see a high rate of deaths from that. That post abortion care is available in public facilities, but not a lot of women make it to the facilities if they’re bleeding. And also oftentimes when they go to the facilities, it’s late. And there’s already an infection. And so we’re losing a lot of women that way. So we are doing a lot of public education or partnering with community based organizations. We’re working with journalists, we’re working with a lot of local partners and all the countries where we work to make sure that women have access to information and then know what to do is faced with an unplanned pregnancy.

WT: 6:22
Talk about some of the countries specifically say something about Ivory Coast, but share with us the countries that you’ve worked in on the African continent body.

Unknown Speaker 6:32
Yeah, so and in Sub Saharan Africa we’re in Ethiopia, Kenya, also Malawi, Zambia, Ghana, Nigeria, Cote d’Ivoire, DRC, and South Africa. And the Francophone program is our youngest. It’s about three years old, but we’ve been in Ethiopia and Nigeria for a long time, for example. And so these would be partnerships that we begin with the health systems partnering with them. ministers of health, the Ministry of Health to integrate safe abortion services into the public health sector. And we also work with civil society partners, and our programs partner with community groups, also religious leaders, youth and even police to be allies and sharing this information on safe abortion. And our country programs are staffed by local people, local experts. These are people who are very knowledgeable about the culture and also very knowledgeable about the barriers that women face when accessing care. And so it’s really important that also lessons learned from different countries in terms of how they’ve been able to integrate services into the public sector, how they’ve been able to navigate also the laws that sometimes restrict women from exercising their their human rights and their reproductive rights and lessons also and how we make sure that at the community level, the women and young women and young girls also have information on the options that are available.

WT: 8:01
Why has, I saw a video actually and you were visiting one of the programs that IPAS has established in Cote d’Ivoire? Why have there been some successes in Ivory Coast? Give us that story. Please.

Unknown Speaker 8:17
See successes often have to do with the allies that were able to identify in country who recognize that there is a problem. There is a problem around unsafe abortion and the prevalence of unsafe abortion we partner with these allies to be able to make a case to government. Oftentimes, we use data the data from that country and presented to ministries and to others so that they will see the the expense of the of those challenges within their own country. And oftentimes when, when policymakers and decision makers see those numbers, they want to be part of the solution. Of course, this is not something that happens immediately. It’s It takes, you know, several conversations, you know, sometimes years of engagements. But we’ve seen advances happening when the right voices are at the table. And that’s why we’ve all we’ve also collaborated, for example, with women lawyers, with the police, various advocates to join us. And in such a way there’s a concerted pressure on governments. And little by little, we’ve seen them come on board, we’ve been able to articulate the opportunity to provide services even where there are restrictions, for example, where safe abortion is only allowed in the instances of rape or incest or in the health of the mother, oftentimes, countries were not even providing those services. And so we make sure that the the latest technologies are available and the public sector we partner with the Ministry of Health staff to rise The guidelines and the standards to to make the services available. And then we train the providers in such a way that they have the skills. The skills are provided by the local doctors, the local midwives and nurses who then can provide services to the women who needs them. And so I was able to visit Cote d’Ivoire in July. But I’ve also been able to visit our country offices in Kenya and Ethiopia, Ghana, as well as Myanmar. We’re able to see the work in various at various sites.

WT: 10:34
You’ve done this work for a long time, and we had this conversation before the interview I was asking questions about given that many of the presidents are are male, and there certainly are cultural issues, whether it’s on the African continent or the United States. How is the How is this phrase which you’re well associated with gender equality, gender equity, how has it evolved over the over the time 20 years that you worked at rather, I’m thinking more from just an appendage long-term to something where there’s actually an agency in capacity your thoughts, Muadi?

Unknown Speaker 11:12
This is an area that requires concerted effort, continuous effort. We know that there have been a lot of advocates who have worked very hard to make sure the sexual reproductive rights are integrated into global documents. But we cannot be complacent even when those commitments are made. And when governments come together and say that they will, that they will advance women’s human rights. We have seen backlash and some of those and regression and some of those commitments. And so the the global human rights movement knows that we cannot be complacent. We also know that we have to try different strategies. And we have the International Conference on Population and Development that really reaffirmed especially reproductive rights are part of human Right. And we have other instruments such as the Maputo Protocol. We have work that is going on at the United Nations. But even these types of global and regional instruments and commitments are constantly under attack. And so we’ve learned to be nimble to always be vigilant to learn lessons from each other. And to really emphasize that safe abortion is healthcare. And so we’re making sure that we’re part of advocacy initiatives, we are supporting local actors to be part of regional conversations and global conversations, to make sure that we actually see a reality and changes on the ground. And so as long as long as we have 25 million unsafe abortions happening globally, we know that there is a problem. And so we’re trying to bring that number to zero.

WT: 12:54
What are the cultural factors? I mean, I read the Maputo protocol, and actually Some of your points, I was somewhat surprised that it took from 1995 until just very, very recently in the last several years for it to be ratified and move forward. What are the cultural factors that are addressed specifically in Africa that have made this a challenge?

Unknown Speaker 13:19
With the Maputo Protocol, one of the strengths of it is that it’s actually quite comprehensive. It details a range of women’s human rights violations, which had not previously been named, such as FGM, gender based violence, early marriage, abortion is also in there. And so abortion has actually been a sticking point. It’s been an area where there’s been a lot of resistance to apply the Maputo Protocol, because of the fact that it talks about abortion. And in spite of the prevalence of unsafe abortion across the African continent, there’s still been resistance to, to address it head on. And so the women’s rights movement and the Global Health movement has really made a stance and IPAS as has been part of that for many, many years, that we can’t reduce maternal mortality without addressing the prevalence of unsafe abortion. And as long as women are not at the center of being able to decide when and you know, when they want to have sex and when they also want to have children and how many, then we need to address this area. And so one of the successes we’ve seen, and the application of the Maputo Protocol has been in DRC. And the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which experienced a window of opportunity early last year, and was able to actually apply the this regional instruments so that it would actually supersede national law. And that sense, then the regional instrument became law. And so now we’re We’re seeing a process where DRC is developing the standards and guidelines to integrate safe abortion services. But again, it’s in a restricted environment, but it’s been liberalized. So it’s been liberalized in such a way that the services will be available, and the cases of rape, incest, and to assure the health of the mother. And so we want to make sure that particularly in the most populated parts of the country, you know, we’re into metropolitan areas we introduced that work, we we do a lot of training of the providers were collaborating with the Minister of gender, the Minister of Youth Minister of Justice, so it’s a very comprehensive approach. And so other countries are seeking to learn from the DRC experience in hopes that they can also apply that and so in West Africa, we’re seeing a lot of interest to again, see how we can leverage the Maputo protocol, and all of its all of the components that are included in it.

WT: 15:59
Okay, we’re speaking with Muadi Mukenge. She is the currently the chief of development external relations for IPAS. The only international organization solely focused on expanding access to save abortion and contraceptive care. I read a data as I was looking to notice it, pregnancy and childbirth related complications are the leading cause of death for women ages 15 to 19. How do you address this case of dualism here a very young women and girls, particularly in crisis situation. So beyond the basic elements of your program, how do you get two young women and girls education information? And how do you address situation such as the DRC or, or Sudan where war and dislocation has been a factor?

Unknown Speaker 16:52
Thank you for that question. It’s definitely a priority for us to reach young women and adolescence. We see a very high Rates of unsafe abortions in this population. And so we partner with community based organizations, we partner with youth groups, we have a lot of partnerships which enable the this vital information to get to young women and to get to adolescence. So such that they can make the informed decisions about their bodies. And so they know they know also how to get services, and how to get safe services. And so that the partnerships are really, really critical. As I indicated, we work in, we have offices in various country, local, local staff, but at the same time, we work with local community based organizations. And this is really critical to reaching the populations that need the information. At the same time. We also do work in crisis settings. We have been working in humanitarian settings for very, very long time, but has intensified our work and our strategy, particularly in the past 10 years. And the strongest example is is actually with the Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh, so the Rohingya, who left me on Myanmar then to set set up and camps and Bangladesh. And so we were actually called by the government of Bangladesh to provide training within the camps that would enable the women who had faced sexual violence and who were in dire need of services to actually receive those services. And so what we did our IPAS office, which we we have an IPAS office and Bangladesh, trained the staff of the minister, the Ministry of Health and, and Bangladesh to be able to provide that support. And that really made a difference for the women and the camps. And so we’re definitely trying to leverage that experience in other settings. We have partnerships with the International Rescue Committee with With that sense of volunteer, and have also worked with UNFPA so really looking at making sure that these agencies who are readily present in humanitarian settings have the skill set to be able to work with women who are in need of contraception as well as safe abortion.

WT: 19:21
Okay, give us a as we move forward here. Give us a short clip here of what the project you have in Ghana with which is working with the police. I found that particularly interesting.

Unknown Speaker 19:34
Yes, so I’m working with the police that’s really innovative, and it’s really important. We have a tool kits which we’ve developed to demonstrate what we’ve been able to do in Ghana in hopes that other countries can also integrate that particular strategy. Women are times arrested for undergoing an abortion in restricted settings and So we’ve done a lot of outreach to police to really explain the the barriers that women face to talk about the conditions under which abortion is law, it is allowed in countries, and to have them play a role in providing vital information and information about the the law as it exists and what it allows in terms of access to safe abortion. And so over several years and gone and we’ve actually saved them shift from being a barrier, and you know, a sector that actually arrested women to two partners who actually support women and being able to access services, they are part of referral systems, and they reach other sectors of society, particularly men. And so part of our strategy is to look at how to engage men and this work. Not only have we work with police and Ghana, but in other countries with we’ve also worked with the police and another country. She’s also we’ve reached a men in communities because they are part of the solution. And so we want them to have information about contraception about the prevalence of unsafe abortion and what can be done to prevent it. Or work across communities to to reduce maternal deaths.

WT: 21:18
This issue that I read, I think it was and on a clip of some pre notes we were talking about, and we talked briefly about the millennium development goals of the early 2000 Sustainable Development Goals. 2015 make it clear to us the relationship between the work of IPAS, access to safe abortion and contraceptive care and development, how countries develop what the opportunities are, make that link for us. So we don’t see these as the some of us may see these as separate issues.

Unknown Speaker 21:54
It’s not a separate issue not at all and the arguments of IPAS and other women’s rights organizations. This that we cannot separate women’s rights from global development goals, we cannot separate sexual reproductive rights from the attainment of now the Millennium Development Goals are now translated into the Sustainable Development Goals. And so these global agreements on how to advance societies and nations cannot ignore the realities facing women that cannot ignore the fact that gender equality is central to achieving all development goals. And so our strategy has been to really make sure that a gender equality and sexual reproductive rights are at the at the forefront of these conversations. And that, you know, we have local partners and regional partners as well, who advocates at the national and regional levels and global levels to make sure that global developments conversations Do not leave out sexual reproductive rights. As you know, last November, there was the 25th observance of the International Conference on Population and Development. There are monitoring bodies for the Sustainable Development Goals at the regional and national levels. So we work with partners who, who try to monitor the implementation of these frameworks in such a way that safe abortion and broadly sexual reproductive rights are, are still central to the conversation.

WT: 23:31
Give us the address again of IPAS, Muadi.

Unknown Speaker 23:36
Yes. Our website is in multiple languages, you’ll find case studies of work we’ve done around the world. You have an opportunity to see some of the videos hearing colleagues and advocates talk about why it’s so important to get this number of 25 million unsafe abortions down to zero. You’ll see how we’ve worked with communities around legal reform, and how we’ve had some successes also with regards to integrating the safe abortion services into health systems. And so this work is possible. I think sometimes there’s an assumption that it’s it’s intractable. It’s an intractable issue. But working with our partners, we’ve actually shown that it is possible to do this work, and to offer safe options for women and girls.

WT: 24:26
Muadi in our last moment here, you’ve done this work for I think you said 20 years, but I believe it’s been longer than 20 years. I guess my question is that you This is so much been your focus in the issue of gender equality. You’ve worked around Africa, you’ve worked raising grants. I’m interested in how this work has affected how you see these, this challenge of remaking African agency of the African incontinent of women in the role there. How has this impacted Muadi Mukenge in her vision of of her political, and her work for change?

Unknown Speaker 25:12
Big Question much for that question. Yes, thank you for that question. I mean, I started out as a political science major, and but very quickly, when I worked at Pacific Institute for Women’s Health, I was actually exposed to the types of reproductive health challenges that women face and had an opportunity to visit a lot of facilities and work with women’s rights organizations, and appreciate the prevalence of these issues. And so in as much as we talked about the development of the African continent and women’s agency and building women’s leadership, these same women don’t have access to sexual reproductive rights and services. So it’s really incumbent on us to to appreciate and address the full reality of women’s lives. And oftentimes, sexual reproductive rights are minimized. If you look at the budgets of many countries, not just African countries, it’s there’s very limited funds that are put into reproductive health. And for safe abortion, it’s even less. And so there’s a lot of work to do to not only increase health budgets across the board as part of development efforts, but to make sure that reproductive rights and reproductive commodities are integrated into that. And, you know, we’re, we’re continue to see a backlash against sexual and reproductive rights. And so we’re very committed and I’m very committed to being part of the solution such that the the the types of agency that women deserve is something that we see come to come to fruition. And so we’re in the Bay Area in particular, in these several days to two visits with prospective donors to really talk to people that we know are Committed to human rights, and hopefully meet new prospective donors and others who are committed to reproductive rights and hope to want to be part of the solution.

WT: 27:11 is that the website there, Muadi?

MM: 27:16
That is Yeah. So you can also find us on social media. And there’s a lot of information there. For anyone who wants to know more. We’re happy to come out and meet organizations to talk to groups, and to talk about the work the very critical work that we’re doing in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

WT: 27:36
And you can also go on YouTube and there’s some videos there of the work that Molly is doing, particularly some of her work and at the United Nations as well as her work in Cote d’Ivoire Ivory Coast, and this has work that Muadi Mukenge has done for many many years. She is currently the chief of development external relations for IPAS, The only international organization solely focused on expanding access Safe abortion and contraceptive care. Muadi, thanks so much for making the time and take the best care and welcome back to the Bay Area.

Unknown Speaker 28:08
Thank you so much, Walter. We work with partners. And so I just want to emphasize that this work would not be possible without all the partners that we work with around the world. And so it’s a very exciting work to be part of and thank you for having us on the show.

WT: 28:22
Total pleasure. Take care.

Unknown Speaker 28:24
Bye bye.

WT: 28:42
Dr. Kwei Quartey is a crime fiction writer, and a physician living in Pasadena, California. He has practiced medicine for more than 20 years, while simultaneously working as a writer noteworthy in both fields. He went to medical school at Howard University in the early 1990s. He began his practice in California. As a crime fiction writer, he made the Los Angeles Times bestseller list in 2009. He has published Wife of the Gods, Children of the Street in 2011, Murder at Cape Three Points in 2014. Gold of our Fathers 2016, Death by His Grace in 2017, and The Missing American, which is his most recent novel, which is coming out in 2020. It introduces 26 year old Emma Jones, who through family connections becomes employed by a private detective agency. Her first case involves the missing of a middle aged American widower, who as part of an online community love interest, travels to West Africa and becomes as the title says, missing. Kwei, thanks for joining Africa today.

KQ: 29:54
Great to be with you again, Walter.

WT: 29:56
How have you been?

KQ: 29:58
Very well. Thank you, yourself.

WT: 29:59
I’ve been very, very well. How long have you been working on the? Well, first of all, so you were doing two professions, you’re doing more one profession, is that correct, Kwei?

KQ: 30:13
Yes, I was up until July 2018. I was working full time as a physician as well. And really what happened was, I had been thinking of retiring from medicine for a couple years before that. And then I kind of got the push from my editors, my publishers, when because they made the observation that sometimes it was hard to schedule me for, you know, book events, book tours, and so on. So I felt Well, you know, this probably means it’s probably time. You know, things happen when they’re ready to happen. And so, I felt this was time for me to turn my attention full time to writing.

WT: 31:02
No, it was it was a great move. I absolutely love the book as I was telling you in the pre conversation Not only is it a page turner, but it’s a quick get back to. So every time you read a piece, and you stop because you go sleep or you have something else or work, then when you get back to that you want to read it pretty quickly. So it is really great. The title of is the missing American. How long have you been working on the on your latest book? This is your, your sixth one, but it’s the first one with a new lead character.

KQ: 31:33
Well, it’s a it’s about a year and a little bit. Originally, I had wanted to bring on board a female character whose name was Mabel saffle. And she appeared in the les Darko novels, Death By His Grace, and my idea originally had been to have her work cases either alongside Darko or kind of with him in the background or the consultant but you know, in what turned out to be a very wise decision. My publisher asked me if I could, you know, just reinvent a whole new series separate from Darko. And I’m glad I’m glad I did it that way because otherwise would have been too too restrictive I think, you know, kind of riding on Darkos coattails whereas now you know, I have the freedom to have creative freedom for Emma Jan, my new protagonist, you know, to do what she’s, she wants to do what she’s going to do.

WT: 32:30
How does that how does that work? Once you create a character, just a character? I think we’ve mentioned this before the character kind of runs and grows by themselves and at some point it’s not completely in Kwei Quartey’s hands. Is that a good description?

Unknown Speaker 32:50
Yeah, absolutely. And once you once you set up the character, if you’ve set it up, right, what will happen is that as you’re writing the story, things will occur to you that you hadn’t really thought about consciously. And that’s why I say the influence of the subconscious is really strong and creative writing. And I think that’s also why. You know, sometimes when I wake up in the morning I have the solution to a question I had the night before regarding writing and I think it’s formed during sleep, which is a good reason to get enough sleep. But yes, absolutely things things start to happen that you know, you never would have thought consciously of a new writing

WT: 33:38
is crime fiction. Different from mystery?

Unknown Speaker 33:45
yeah, what mystery the mysterys and thrillers are, like sub genres of crime fiction. You know, you have a hard boiled you have cozies and All these categories all sort of come on the crime fiction and in the mystery that it’s a classic who has committed the crime and and why. Whereas in thrillers sometimes you already know who’s committed the crime. But the the substance is in the chase of the, you know, your protagonist after the conflict, then you know, you sort of glued to the book trying to figure out how this protagonist is going to catch up with your your criminal, whereas in mystery, you don’t know who the criminal is yet.

WT: 34:38
Okay. Oh, who is this new lead person and Emma Djan, is that how you pronounce it?

Unknown Speaker 34:46
Djan, Djan. Yeah, Djan.

Unknown Speaker 34:51
D in the front of it. It’s a Ghanian, but it’s anglicised. Okay.

WT: 34:56
Who is she tell us about her. Just give us enough of a sketch. We want to tell the listeners some will want to tell them everything.

Unknown Speaker 35:04
Right? Well, she is a she’s a millennial. First of all, she’s 26 just started on her new career in the Ghana police force, where she discovers that unlike what she would have liked to see stuck in a unit called commercial Crimes Unit, which he has very little in interest in her late dad I should say was a homicide detective. So she grew up, you know, kind of watching her dad hanging around police station and seeing, you know, detectives talk to each other, talk to witnesses and talk to accuse. And this sort of seeped into her being in a way. So she joined the Ghana police force and lo and behold discovered to the shop that she’s got nothing to do with any Sort of decision to go into a particular aspect of time as the Criminal Investigation Department, it’s all up to them. So he’s really disappointed stuck in this job that she’s not really enjoying. And then after a very harrowing experience in the Ghana police force, she’s kicked out and she’s kind of looking around for a new job. And then she comes across agency that she joins and you know, what seems to have been just as easy missing persons case turned out to be a lot more complicated. And you know, Emma herself she’s, she’s kind of interesting. She’s got some kind of conflict trouble areas in her her life. She’s a regular churchgoer, although she’s not, you know, evangelistic in any way and she’s a millennial but also is made a kind of old fashioned decision to remain a virgin. until marriage. So, at the same time, he’s not approved and has a discerning eye for men as well. So she, she’s interesting, complicated. And the thing about her is that her style of solving mysteries is it’s kind of a very polite, cautious way of approaching things while you know, back in her mind, you know, she’s she’s on the trail. So, in other words, don’t be fooled by what appears to be her, you know, niceness or politeness. And that’s why I think I like her about her finance or be her ability to sort of go into the other person’s mind and understand what’s going on. She doesn’t use any physical force at all, you know, unlike a male, a male detected might do.

WT: 37:55
What were some of the challenges of writing. Give us just a brief sketch of the story and, Gordon, but what were some of the challenges of writing for a female lead as you mentioned in your, By His Grace, you had an assistant with Darko. But any challenges for author, Kwei Quartey?

Unknown Speaker 38:21
you know, it’s it’s kind of interesting. I remember Meryl Streep once saying on the Terry Gross interview that women have been able to look through a man’s eyes. You know, for years, you know, we have all these male protagonists, male movie stars, and women have mastered how to sympathize with a male character, whereas men are probably not as used to seeing the world through female, a female eyes. And so when I started using or having a female character, I was a little A bit concerned about how I was going to see the world I’m obviously a man and am as a woman, but come to find very interestingly that I was so much more relaxed writing about her and writing through her. Whereas with Darko, I felt all this little bit of tension. It might have been this so called, you know, male competitiveness where a man feels a little competitive with another man. And I didn’t get that from Emma at all. So in fact, I found myself much more relaxed writing her and much more at ease which was completely unexpected and of course I knew I recognized that only after you know I had worked the book and finished it I suddenly looked back and said, Wow, I just really love that was you know, it not only inspiring but but soothing to me. Kind of You know, fulfilling for me. So that was a surprise. Surprise for me. Yes, definitely.

WT: 40:06
And this you use a number of pieces here. I mean, the the the crux of the story, as it says on the cover is about a gentleman who formerly worked in the Peace Corps who’s now in the United States and on the internet and meet someone he believes he likes and he heads to Ghana and the story goes on from there and this person turns up in in very difficult circumstances and that’s what she and tactics agency and the police are searching out. Why the thinking there you use the internet, you use culture, you use love stories, relationships, almost relationships. You know, your thoughts about putting that together, Kwei?

Unknown Speaker 40:54
Well, you know, originally, I I thought it’s something to do with being fleeced or duped or conned, after an incident, myself that I experienced in Ghana regularly go back to visit once or twice a year. And it wasn’t an any online thing. It was actually a involvement with fraud on a vehicle I had bought. And that’s kind of beside the point because although I decided to write about my own experiences, I kind of I realized now and I but I had been familiar with this online fraud that has been going on for decades now. And everybody knows the so called 419. scams out of Nigeria, which began quite some time ago, decades ago, but you know, now it’s so much more sophisticated and internet scams or you can use the word better than ever before and So I came on to this idea of having this kind of scam that involves a man who has experienced Ghana and loves Ghana, back in the Peace Corps days and like 1970s 1980s. And so when he meets this charming woman, Ghanian woman, online is just so drawn to her and he has such a strong urge to visit a country that you know, he loved. And so he goes back with this expectation of love from a Ghanian woman. And since he had married a new woman before back in the Peace Corps days, he has who has who later died. Gordon tilson is a widower and he goes back to Ghana to hopefully experienced a new love with the Kenyan woman. And unfortunately, that turns out to be not not the case. And that’s where we go into all these complexities with these con artists that work the internet and have been come to be called our boys sekolah meaning people who use magical powers to get more out of their, you know, victims their targets online, most of them, you know, overseas in the US, and sometimes in Europe as well.

WT: 43:28
And you seem to be saying, as you look at recent elections, not only specifically in this case related to Africa about the issues of corruption, the issues of abuses of power, the issues of strong man, the issues of election, you seem to be making a statement about your contemporary country of Ghana or your contemporary continent of Africa. Is that a good read on it quiet

KQ: 44:02
Yeah, I

am struck by the unfortunate amount of corruption that goes on in the Ghana police service. And I think my preoccupation with corruption is partly inherited from my dad, who my late father who actually who is who was the man and to railed against corruption on the soil to his life. So I think I got that sensitivity. And so it’s a constant theme that comes up. Because, you know, how do you how do you honestly solve crimes if the police system is so corrupt that you know people get away scot free and this is this is the case. It’s so easy to bribe your way out of prison and a lot of jail. And all this corruption goes, you know, pretty high up and as you read the missing America And you you understand just how high up it goes and how much an honest person is really up against the system. And of course, the system against the single a single person in this case a woman is it’s a valiant fight. And but it’s an important one as well. It’s just important to stay with your values, your morals, your standards, and that’s something that Emma Jan, in this first mystery the mystery American comes up against.

WT: 45:38
You know, I like the part we’re speaking with Dr. Clay quarter a quarter He is the author of this is his six crime fiction mystery novel. It is a missing American. It’s being released at the beginning here of 2020. I think the piece I really loved having an impact Thank you for giving kpfa and Africa day a chance to talk with you on all of these. I think the piece I really loved is the way that you have the connections with families, with Ms family and with the people who run the Center for children and with Gordon’s family and Gordon’s friend and the other piece I love to was where you began to put in the emails. As part of the text you do a good job with the family connection. Was that a challenge to have everybody hold on their own lane, but at the same time move with the story?

KQ: 46:39
Yeah, there are a lot of catches and this particular mystery and on the face of it, especially when you’re starting the novel. You wonder how all these connections are going to be made that you have Gordon tilson that they widow are those back to Ghana. Nice Derek, and then you have the object of his, what he thinks is the new love interest, Helena. And all the all the characters have they own family background that either complicates or adds to the story. So whether it’s the protagonists and or our, you know, our various suspects all have these family connection and of course, you know, in Ghana in other parts of sub Saharan Africa, families is key. It’s so important. And the other side of the coin is that because family is so important, it can also be a great motivator for evil because you know, you can The other side of love is you can really detest your family members and that’s why in almost all my my novels you see this strong line of family because it’s it’s really indispensable in Sub Saharan Africa so you can’t have a mystery story without those relationships very strongly set up.

WT: 48:25
You have so much culture and when is the when is the movie coming out quick? Lizzie Darko am a movie series coming out so we can associate ourselves with some favorite franchise. Yeah, the franchise? Yes, yes, yes, yes.

KQ: 48:45
Well, that it looks as though Fingers crossed. The missing Americans going to be options. Certainly that this this year and hopefully get to Netflix. The idea is to get it to Netflix. But lousy. I don’t want to jinx myself. But you know, fingers Fingers crossed, something will move forward. This This year we have a screenwriter and hopefully some interest of one of our, you know, major female stars in Hollywood or even a lead female from Ghana as well.

WT: 49:22
Okay, okay, I’m definitely open to a bit part. I mean, I can come in and be in the crowd or, or something like that.

KQ: 49:29
I how I will

WT: 49:33
look forward to it. And the rallying around the the is there’s an audience, obviously, I see you in a number of events. You’re doing book reading. There’s a group of followers. They’re coming around, you’re riding and Darko Dawson and that’s something is that, is that correct? Read clay.

KQ: 49:54
Well, you know, I think what is happening is that you know, Emma’s time Come, probably five years ago, I wouldn’t have been able to create her and I think what’s been going on is that, you know, between to 2017 and 2019, there’s been a lot of important events and occurrences of prominence to do with women. I mean, just this year, last year now 2019 Person of the Year that they time Person of the Year Time magazine Person of the Year is a fierce Swedish teenage girl bonia 16 or so. And leading up to this period up to 2020, which which I feel will be the real year of the woman is a lot of significant political movement. And of course in particular, we think of me too and I believe that over the last two years, Emma has been sort of growing in my my subconscious kind of spurred on by a lot of this meat to movement so that the time for a woman protagonist is now with ever. And so, for me writing her is just the perfect time for me and I’m ready for her and she’s ready to take on the world if that makes any sense.

WT: 51:31
You know, I noticed and I, you know, I was people checks through the words there at some point, you have a glossary in there. At some point you mentioned that one of the lead actors is dressed in woo Dean, which is a, which is this fancy fabric that comes out of Ghana. But I noticed in the beginning that you dedicated the book to Akhmed Hussein and the Canadian journalist and why why Why I think he worked with Tiger I if I’m not mistaken and number, I think, why did you dedicate it to him? Quick?

KQ: 52:07
Well, I was struck by this young man named James Wiley, who works with one of the investigative journalists in Ghana by name of and last and last. And younger University educated. And the first of almost practically in the first few days of the new year in 2018. Was it 2018 or 19. I have to check on that. But he was assassinated, and in fact, he became the first journalists of that year to be assassinated. And I was just struck at how it looked as though this was an assault against journalism which is basically free in gun But then what happened? What exactly took place I’ve been, I think that the, the mystery is still on. So even though some have bitten somebody, they’ve been arrested, I feel like there’s more behind it than meets the eye. And so, to me, that was the person that most deserve dedication. And I did in fact write about him in a blog, one of my blogs on quake with You know, testifying to his very hard work in, you know, dangerous business of, you know, speaking truth to power and naming, jailing and shaming those who are in power in Ghana. And of course, that’s that’s part of my team as well. You know, expose the people that are that are high up. We’re supposed to be doing good and who are not

WT: 53:53
quite quota you’re doing, you’re doing great work. There is a blog, give us your blog site again. Clay.

KQ: 54:01
Yeah, it’s my name clay courts ak WQATY. Calm and yeah, they usually will blog once or once every couple weeks or so and have a lot of blogs on my visits to gonna the writing process and so on. So, yeah, so anybody interested? Check it out.

WT: 54:23
Yeah, I read to them I guess my thought was just warning us I know you always do some groundwork before you do a book and I’m figuring at this point you must you must be a private detective yourself you have private detective skills by now going to play.

KQ: 54:38
Yeah, well, you know, they the crossover between fiction and you know, reality is it’s not this not so great. There’s a very thin line between the two and, in fact, an interviewer who interviewed me back in July in Ghana asked Me, he said, How? How did you know that? There would be a, you know, a spate of crimes committed against, you know, expatriates or people coming from Canada or the US. How did you did you know this was going to happen before you wrote this book and actually use pure pure coincidence, I had started planning this book along before some of these incidents occurred in Ghana last year, involving, you know, people going back to Ghana. And what’s really fascinating is that the year of returned 2019 has been designated the year returned by the Ghana government. We’ve had a spate of people going over there, including, you know, cardi B looted, a ludicrous with Chris, and my year return has been, you know, everything Go two years since 2009 when I go back, you know, once or twice a year to research my, my book. So, yeah, this involves quite a bit of getting on the ground and talking to some of these frauds The so called sekolah boys in, in Ghana and there had helped with a local detective who introduced me to some of these guys and you know, these are these are smart young kids who are using the internet you know, for legal reasons for their for their game and I spoke to a few of them I also spoke with some of the fetish priests that appear in the in the book so that you know, most of it is I would say all of it is real, but obviously I take some creative license so that you know, it makes sense to to Western readers. Some of this stuff is is difficult to grasp. This cross between You know, the spiritual world and the physical world how those two abroad together it’s very unfamiliar for Westerners whereas in Ghana, it’s it’s a very seamless sort of switch back and forth you know, between traditional medicine and Western medicine or between daily life and spiritual beliefs. They they just occurred together the coexistence between the two of them, which is difficult for Westerners to, to understand and this book the time of the innocent Americans deals with you see all these beliefs between you know, spiritual ism, and at the same time, it’s that’s the pose with this very savvy use of software and the internet and, to me, it’s a it’s a fascinating, mix how those two blend together Whereas we would in the West and we tend to you know, separate them out. That that’s also been

WT: 58:08
a good job way you did very well thank you very good job and so look for it the missing American by quite quite a it’s on Soho press. It is hitting the streets in January of 2020. And play it again. Thank you for giving us the opportunity to talk with you around your work and I absolutely love the I love the book. It was just fantastic. So they are very, very impressed my brother Take good care. Thank you and listening to the voice of quite quite a quite quite a is going to be in the San Francisco Bay Area this week. He is going to be reading and in discussion about his book, newest book, the missing American. That’s going to be this coming Friday, January 17. To 6pm he’s going to be at book passage in San Francisco as quite quite a, a new African private eyes is a very interesting story. I, a woman, a private detective, I think this is his six novel that he’s done. He’s also going to be down I think in Orange County on the 18th. But he’s gonna be right up here in the Bay Area on the 17th at the book passage at 6pm in San Francisco. That’s quite court a great writers a great story. As I said, it’s a page turner and you want to get right back to it. Type book mini whenever you just eventually stop reading that evening. You want to wake up in the morning and read a couple chapters before you have to go on. Got a lot more coming from he’s been very, very kind to kpfa. We’ve had chance to talk with him from the beginning. And now he’s headed towards a big time probably here. We’ll see what happens there quite quite a this Friday 6pm

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