Unjustly Accused – Divorce, Alcoholism, and the Alcohol Treatment Trap

"Two things will be believed about any man whatsoever, and one is that he has taken to drink." -Booth Tarkington

It is not unusual for people to seek treatment for their alcohol abuse problems when divorce is looming on the horizon. Indeed, probably two thirds of our clients come to us with crumbling marriages. What is surprising is that at a few of these clients do not really have an alcohol problem and many of the rest are abusing alcohol, but are not alcoholics.

How does that happen?

Simply put, the treatment industry has promoted a Catch-22 model: if you're accused of being an alcoholic and you agree, then obviously you are. But if you do not agree then you still are – you're just in denial. As Mr. Tarkington observed long ago, it's a label that can be hurled at anyone and it will stick. And divorcing spouses like to use it just for that reason, it will stick and they will be able to leverage it to get what they want or at least make your life miserable for a while longer.

What is the reality? At a recent conference in western Canada, one presenter after another pointed out what a few of us have known for a long time, most people seeking help with their alcohol problems are not alcohol dependent "alcoholics" – they're alcohol abusers who can be cured. But you will not hear that if you go looking for help, or, God help you, an honest evaluation.

Why not? Because over 95% of all alcohol treatment programs are based on the assumption that you're a powerless and diseased alcoholic, or you're an alcoholic who's in denial. Regardless, the outcome of any evaluation will be to put you in one of those two categories and "treat" you accordingly. It's not an attractive prospect for anyone who actually cares about their future.

Options On? Your choices are few and far between, and you're probably in a vulnerable state, too. Not the best circumstances for making life altering decisions. But before you allow yourself to be labeled through a process that has only one outcome and one prescription, protect yourself by doing at least a bit of research.

First, simply go to a few AA meetings. You will know almost immediately whether or not this model will work for you. If it does, then simply continue. You do not need to waste tens of thousands of dollars on 12 Step based treatment that's already available to you for free right in your own neighborhood.

Second, if you do not find yourself at home at these meetings, then there's little point in going to traditional treatment. Paying to go to meetings is not going to make them any more effective – just the opposite. Most treatment programs will also leave you with a permanent, and public, label. That's something that can come back to haunt you in the future whether you decide to run for public office or buy life or health insurance.

Third, consider the options. Read through the web sites of organizations like Moderation Management (moderation.com) and the non-pathologizing Good Therapy site (goodtherapy.org). Both have listings of programs and individuals who do not ascribe to traditional – and ineffectual – treatment.

Finally, resist being labeled, demeaned, and railroaded. Regardless of whether you are being smeared, or are abusing alcohol, or are indeed alcohol dependent, you deserve to be assessed and helped with respect, care, competence, and confidentiality. Do not allow yourself to be diminished and manipulated by others' agendas.

Remember, there are alternatives, and you are not powerless.

What Is Motivation? A True Story to Illustrate the Meaning

What is motivation? It's a question I have been asked so many times. I have been working in the field of motivation for 17 years now. It is not only my career it is my passion and something that I enjoy both educating and improving in others and also studying myself.

I feel driven to write this article due to what I see happening around me now on a daily basis. So many are suffering and feeling battered and bruised due to the incompetence and greed that now seems to govern our world. From self-serving politicians and the privileged few who seem to run our governments for personal gain to the large corporate machines that seem intent on fleecing every penny from us mere 'common folk' it can be hard just to keep yourself going.

In this series of articles I will endeavour to help you understand;

· What motivation is and the mechanics that drive our own motivation

· How we can ensure we are 'Positively Motivated'

· How to overcome the barriers that can so often dampen and dilute our 'positive' motivation

I do this because I genuinely care, I do this because I know that your life, my life and everyone's life can be so much more fulfilling and rewarding with only a few very simple little tweaks to the way we perceive ourselves and the world around us .

So 'What is Motivation?'

Firstly 'motivation' is just a word, the dictionary definition is;



  • 1 a reason or reasons for doing something.
  • 2 desire to do something; enthusiasm.

The first definition 'a reason to do something' is the most accurate and concise definition. In all the years I have been working with individuals from a huge spectrum of backgrounds and professions it is so evident that we are always motivated. With every action and behaviour we give clues to our motives and what we are motivated by or to do. Even as you sit here now reading this you are motivated!

The point being that motivation is a constant, it drives everything we do and all of the results / outcomes we achieve. This is such an important point if you really want to understand motivation. So often people wrongly associate motivation with positive actions and positive results / outcomes however even when we are acting and behaving in a way that serves no tangible benefit to ourselves we are motivated to do so.

You see motivation is driven by our emotional state and how we perceive both ourselves and the world around us. Recently I have been working pro-bono with some long-term unemployed clients. My clients are genuinely intelligent, capable and competent individuals who have been caught in the centre of the economic storm that has engulfed nearly all of us in some way. One man in particular, I shall call him Adam for this article (an alias to protect his identity), is a good example of both positive and negative motivation.

Adam was a successful and driven professional. Until the end of 2009 he was a performing sales director in the printing industry. He played golf, had a nice company car, went on two holidays a year and lived a very comfortable life with his family. Then the business he had helped develop and grow got into financial trouble. They were performing and had a good client base and his sales team were performing well, however, the company had expanded in 2008 and borrowed the money from the bank to increase their production to meet demand. This debt eventually engulfed the business and the bank was unwilling to renegotiate their terms even considering the temporary difficult trading conditions. Sadly, and quite abruptly, in November 2009 the business was forced into insolvency. Adam lost his job.

I first met Adam just after he was made redundant. He came to an executive job club I had set up for one of my clients. My first impression of him was that he was hugely experienced, competent and very marketable. He was confident that he could find a new job quickly and looking at his CV I had to agree that he would be an excellent candidate for any business looking to improve their sales function. Adam was confident and positive and a joy to work with. He not only played an active role in the job club for himself but was excellent working with and advising some of the other members. Then one day he stopped coming. I heard nothing from Adam so assumed, understandably I am sure you will agree, that he had found another job.

I next encountered Adam in May 2011. To be honest I did not actually recognise him. He was a shadow of himself. He looked dishevelled, beaten up and brow beaten. His positive air and drive had deserted him and he now had an aura of cynicism that followed him into the room. We sat and talked and I saw such a difference from the person I first met just a few years before. Gone was his positive outlook and confidence. Gone was the smile and desire to help others and share his experiences. All of these positive attributes had been replaced with a bitterness that seemed to take over his whole being.

I share this story with you because it illustrates the good and bad of motivation. It shows how our perception of ourselves and the world around us directly impacts on our behaviours and our motivators that in turn impacts on the results we can, and do, achieve. You see Adam had stopped coming to the job club not because he had found a new job but because he had run out of time and money. The bank was trying to repossess his house and push him into bankruptcy. Adam stopped coming, as he later admitted, because he was ashamed of the situation he found himself in and genuinely believed that he could no longer be of assistance to the other members and the group as a whole (pride works in funny ways sometimes!) .

The Adam of 2011 was, as I mentioned before, engulfed and overcome with bitterness. We sat and chatted for a couple of hours and I heard, sadly, what I here so often from those caught in similar situations. Adam unleashed a tirade of negative vitriol against what our society had become. He lambasted the banks and corporations for destroying the fabric and stability of our economy, he viciously attacked the government for their pandering to the banks and corporations whilst leaving the honest hard working individuals to suffer and lose their homes and their pride. He was, on face value, a changed man.

Now, I am not in any way criticising Adam. In fact I totally agree that we do live in an epoch where we, the people, play second fiddle to those in power as you will no doubt surmise from my opening gambit to this article. The problem was simple, what good was this doing for Adam? How was it serving him? And, most importantly for this article, how had it effected his motivation?

I asked Adam about his current job hunting activity. What was he doing to improve his situation? The answer I got is all too common in the present climate "Nothing, I gave that up months ago. I mean what's the point! There are no jobs out there and definitely not for a 52 year old man like me. No-one wants a 52 year old working for them when they can have some young graduate at a much lower salary! "

NB: at this point I feel it important to point out that I encounter as many 'young graduates' who can not find suitable work as I do people of Adam's age. Age is definitely NOT a barrier unless YOU perceive it to be.

So, how does this illustrate what motivation is?

As I wrote earlier: 'motivation is a reason for doing something'

Even if that 'something' is nothing! Adam, like so many, had allowed his situation and all of the negative / painful experiences to affect how he saw himself. His perception of himself had been muddied by the external influences and the reality of existing, and being directly caught up in, the most dramatic economic slump any of us have experienced in our lifetime. The impact of this had changed his motivation because it had changed his view of the world he lived in. Where prior to all of this happening he had looked out on the world and seen hope, opportunity and possibility he now only saw suffering, pain and anguish. Where before he was motivated to achieve and find solutions for both himself and his business now he was motivated to do nothing and to wallow. His actual driver for this change in motivation is extremely common (some of your reading this will see similarities in your own experiences) he, like all of us, was motivated to prove himself right!

Now, this is no different to when he was a performing sales director. He believed in himself and that he was a competent and high performing executive and his actions and behaviours enabled him to prove himself right by developing a successful career and sales team. However, with his change in how he now perceived himself, "a 52 year old man on the scrap heap of life" (NB: his words not mine) his actions and behaviours now followed again to prove himself right.

I worked with Adam for the next three weeks and he attended my course 'Breaking your shell'. He started to realise what he was allowing to happen to himself and he started to take ownership of his own self-perception. Over those weeks he (the man I met in 2009) came back, he started to realise that actually he had a lot to offer any business, he was highly skilled and extremely capable. He could be a valuable asset to any business and he was both marketable and employable. He got a job after four weeks. Not because of our conversation, even though sometimes we all need a little subjective feedback to kick start our rehabilitation to what we truly are and can be, but because he remembered who he was. A good and capable man who finds solutions and delivers positive results and he went out and started to prove himself right.

So in conclusion the answer to 'What is motivation?' the answer is as simple as 'the reason for doing something'. What I hope you get from reading this article is that it is up to you to decide what it is your do. My advice is simple, remember who you are, think about what you have done and can do and see yourself in the most positive way this will ensure you go on to prove yourself right.

I hope you find this article useful in some way.

Regards and good fortune,


Emerging Technologies in Supply Chain Management

The Internet has an enormous impact on how people communicate, shop, and work. This technology has also created changes in how companies conduct business in the 21st century. One of the areas of business that is likely to see tremendous change in the coming years is supply-chain management. By harnessing the power of the Internet, supply-chain management will continue to evolve in ways that will enable enterprises to change the way they manage inventory, place orders with suppliers, and communicate critical information with each other.

While some of these technologies have existed for years, or decades in the case of radio frequency identification tags, the harnessing of the Internet to these technologies offers the potential for transforming supply-chain management. Improved supply-chain management also means improved inventory control and increased profits.

In 2001, Nike missed its revenue target by a significant dollar amount. The shortfall was explained in part by a failed supply-chain automation project. "Some estimate that new technologies could strip out more than $ 30 billion in excess inventories" (Fonstad). The term e-business – as distinct from e-commerce – can be used to describe the adoption of the Internet to accelerate the goal of supply-chain integration (Lee) Four emerging technologies and practices in e-business will have a dramatic impact on supply-chain management.

o Virtual marketplaces

o Radio frequency identification tags (RFID)

o Synchronized planning

o Supplier performance management


MetalJunction is the virtual marketplace owned by two of India's largest steel producers. Tata Steel and Sail Steel traded more than 5,000 tons of steel in March 2002. By March 2003, tonnage had increased to 43,000 tons per month (Mills).

What is a virtual marketplace and what are its applications to industry? Virtual marketplaces have many names such as e-markets, net market places, and electronic markets. These markets all have common characteristics.

o Reliance on the Internet

o Buyers and Sellers come together without an intermediary

o Neutrality (all buyers and sellers are treated the same)

o Information is provided about sellers and products

In its most fundamental form, a virtual market place brings together buyers and sellers through the internet. At its highest level, a virtual market place gives a purchaser and supplier the opportunity to re-engineer the sales administration process, improve forecasting and scheduling, renew its go-to-market approach, shorten its order-to-cash cycle, and enhance customer service (Steel24-7). Ideally, virtual market places are centered on a particular industry. Some prominent examples are steel, agricultural products, and automotive parts. In addition to providing information on vendors and general information about its products, a virtual market may also offer product specifications, side-by-side comparisons, technical papers, and market analysis.

Many challenges exist in setting up an e-marketplace. Primary among these are identifying the tools necessary to use the market, providing a secure environment, pricing, payment, and fulfillment. For an orderly marketplace, Internet protocols must be selected. The cost of the technology to access and engage in the market must not be prohibitive. Security and privacy must be adequate to ensure confidential transactions. Authentication and authorization of users from many organizations must be possible. Private communication must be assured.

Pricing policies may be set or bartered. A common example of bartering, or auctioning, is E-Bay for consumer products. Payment procedures can be predetermined or arranged between the buyer and the seller. Finally, fulfillment of orders must be insured. As in the case of traditional marketplaces, failure to deliver in a timely manner will result in firms losing market power and ultimately may lead to failure (McKnight).

A final issue of concern in virtual markets is jurisdiction and governing law. Virtual markets place its members in the global trading community. Since e-markets are a recent phenomenon, defining the legal system responsible for settling disputes is an evolving process. Current legal reasoning places jurisdiction in the locality of the market. In a virtual market, however, one must ask where the market actually exists. While the FTC has attempted to exert control over on-line transactions, a definitive ruling on the jurisdiction for international e-market places has not yet been made.


In November 2003, Wal-Mart gathered together its 120 top suppliers to announce it would require radio frequency identification tags (RFID) on shipping pallets and cases of merchandise. Wal-Mart set a deadline of January 2005 for its top 100 suppliers. The remaining suppliers will had until the start of 2006 to meet the requirement (Sliwa).

A basic RFID system has three components.

o Antenna

o Transceiver

o Transponder (tag)

The antenna activates the tag, reads, and writes data to it. When an RFID tag moves past a reader, its information is transmitted to a host computer for processing. Most common RFID systems are passive and contain their own power source, have a short transmitting range, operate at a low frequency, and have a low cost. While RFID has existed since the 1960's recent technological changes have reduced the cost and allowed the technology to be used in more applications.

A common everyday use of RFID is the automatic reading of prepaid passes on toll roads. The advantages of RFID are many fold. For example, RFID is extremely fast, non-contact, does not require line of site, and can operate in a variety of weather conditions. In the case mentioned above, the benefits of RFID will go to Wal-Mart, while the costs are the responsibility of the suppliers. Kara Romanov, an analyst with AMR Research, Inc., estimates the start-up costs for a supplier who ships 50 million containers per year will run between $ 13 million and $ 23 million. These costs include RFID tags and associated hardware and software (Sliwa).

SamSys Technologies of Richmond Hills, ON and ThingMagic, LLC of Cambridge, MA are two leaders in the application of RFID to supply-chain management. Sam-Sys is dedicated to an open system environment that will not limit RFID to a single protocol or range of frequencies. This philosophy is based on the premise of many vendors and readers that will work seamlessly together (SamSys).

ThingMagic was founded in 2000 by five MIT graduates. It has developed low cost RFID systems. Presently, ThingMagic is developing and marketing protocol agile RFID tag readers (ThingMagic). In addition to Wal-Mart, the Department of Defense (DOD) is a key player in RFID development and deployment. The Department of Defense has issued a new policy, which requires all suppliers embed passive RFID chips in each individual product if possible, or otherwise at the level of cases or pallets by January 2005. In February 2004, the DOD hosted a summit for its suppliers to discuss its RFID plans (Broersma). To quote Colin Cobain the Chief Technology Officer of Tesco Stores: "The question is not will RFID change the way you do business. The question is will you be ready" (ThingMagic).


"Synchronized planning, in the form of collaborative forecasting and replenishment, coordinated production, inventory and capacity plans, information integration, and direct linkages of ERP systems, is one of the most exciting developments in supply chain management in many industries" (Synchronous). Synchronized Planning involves key steps (Lee).

o Information integration

o Planning synchronization

o Workflow coordination

o New business models

First, information integration requires information sharing and transparency. It is the sharing of information among the members of the supply chain. Information exchanged may include inventory levels, production schedules, and shipment schedules. The benefits include better job scheduling and a reduction of the bullwhip effect. "The effect indicates a lack of synchronization among supply chain members. Even a slight change in consumer sales ripples backward in the form of magnified oscillations upstream, resembling the result of a flick of a bullwhip handle" (Chase 335).

Planning synchronization defines what is to be done with the information that is shared. This can include collaborative planning and joint design. The benefits are lower cost and improved service.

If planning synchronization is the "what" is to be done with shared information, workflow coordination is the "how" it is done. Operations that can be coordinated include procurement, engineering and design changes, and production planning. Benefits include early time to market, improved service, and gains in efficiency. Synchronized planning can lead to new business models. Not only can these new business models redefine workflow, they can lead to changes in responsibility for different parts of the supply-chain. A redefined supply-chain can jointly create new products and lead to expansion into new markets (Lee).

Synchronized planning, however, can not be accomplished without a tight linkage of all companies in the supply chain. Channels of communication must be well defined and the performance of each member in the chain must be monitored. The integrated supply-chain must hold members responsible for their part in the process. As product life cycles grow shorter and shorter, efficient synchronization of the supply-chain grows in importance. To ensure that the supply-chain is driven by consumer demand, and to decrease the bullwhip effect, synchronized planning is critical (Lee).


As the supply-chains of different organizations become tightly intertwined, it becomes necessary to measure the performance of each member of the chain. Former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan testified before Congress in February 2001 that businesses were unable to anticipate the economic slowdown of the last recession, overbuilding inventories despite significant supply-chain automation (Fonstad). Even the use of the latest technology, therefore, may not guarantee that a supply-chain is operating efficiently.

One way to answer the question of how well a supply-chain is functioning is to develop supplier scorecards. There are five steps in developing an effective scorecard (Golovin).

o Agree on what is important and how to measure it

o Use web based incident reports to communicate problems as they occur

o Engage in continuous supplier management

o Measure to prevent rather than react

o Use web based software that all suppliers can utilize without making expensive investments in software and training

It is important that the buyer and seller agree at the outset on what is important and how it is measured. This is critical because once decided upon, the supplier will optimize its work to the designated criteria. If just in time delivery is a priority, the supplier may concentrate on this aspect of the order to the detriment of other factors. In addition, benchmarks to measure supplier performance must be realistic and attainable.

Actual performance should then be consistently tracked against these benchmarks. The manufacturer and supplier should work together to develop benchmarks that are consistent with industry performance and product specifications. The use of web based incident reports is important in keeping track of problems as they occur. Incident reports should not be used only to track problems, but should be used to resolve the problem in real time. It is also important to measure the time it takes the supplier to correct the problem.

Continuous supplier management, sometimes referred to as supplier engineering, has become more important as manufacturers outsource more of their operations. A 90-day review cycle can be ruinous when you are manufacturing an innovative product. "Innovative products typically have a life cycle of just a few months" (Chase 337). A 90-day review cycle may come close to exceeding the competitive advantage of an innovative product. Effective continuous supplier management must be geared to specific periods and tolerances. This is then tied to web based incident reports that enable alarms to ring when products, or delivery, are out of agreed upon tolerances.

An effective supplier scorecard should be set up to prevent problems as opposed to reacting to them. The sooner you know there is a problem the lower the cost of resolving it and the greater the chance of preventing it altogether. The best scorecard not only measures events after they have happened, they continually monitor performance in real time. The use of automation is key to making this happen. For example, a system that matches invoices with purchase orders will catch pricing errors before a check is cut and a manufacturer's money is out the door. Utilizing web-based software not only decreases the cost of a supplier integrating with a manufacturer, it speeds up the integration process. Web-based software also enables suppliers both small and large to participate in the supply-chain.

The other four points listed above all rely on the ability of a manufacturer and a supplier to participate in the planning, sourcing, quality control, and delivery of a product. The Internet enables all members of the supply-chain to collaborate and work together as a team. Finally, by making supplier performance web-based, suppliers are able to participate in their own performance improvement (Golovin).


Supply-chain management is an interesting and complex subject. It goes to the core of new business methods in the 21st century. The near universal availability of the Internet is the enabling technology for changes in how the supply-chain of an enterprise is managed. The Internet also allows organizations to adopt new business practices and enter new markets. By harnessing the power of the Internet, supply-chain management will continue to evolve beyond the changes being implemented today.

E-business has been the logical outgrowth of e-commerce. E-business adopts the power of the Internet to accelerate the growth of supply-chain integration. While E-business has had a tremendous impact on supply-chain management, it also can be adapted to both front end and back end business operations (Lee). Improved inventory control and increased profits are two of the benefits of improved supply-chain management. As noted in the introduction, Nike missed its 2001 earnings targets due in part to the failed implementation of a supply-chain automation project. It has also been estimated that more than $ 30 billion dollars in excess inventories can be eliminated through improved supply-chain management. These real savings can be brought straight to the bottom line.

Four new technologies and business practices that harness the power of the Internet are virtual market places, radio frequency identification tags, synchronized planning (RFID), and supplier performance management. Virtual markets enable buyers and sellers to come together 24/7 in effect creating a store that never closes. The additional advantages of virtual marketplaces are the elimination of an intermediary, access to product and vendor information, and a neutral market where all buyers and sellers are treated equally. Virtual markets give both buyers and sellers the opportunity to re-engineer their sales administration process.

As noted above, RFID has existed since the 1960's, however, improvements in technology and paring RFID with the Internet has expanded this tracking method beyond its limited past in manufacturing plants. The three components of an RFID system are an antenna, transceiver, and a transponder (tag).

Synchronized planning when applied across a supply chain consists of collaborative forecasting and replenishment, coordinated production, inventory and capacity planning, information integration, and direct linkage of ERP systems. The four key steps in synchronized planning are information integration, planning synchronization, workflow coordination, and the opportunity to develop new business models. Key to synchronized planning is using the Internet for information sharing. The benefits of synchronized planning include better job scheduling and reduction of the bullwhip affect. The bullwhip affect magnifies oscillations upstream in the supply-chain caused by a change in consumer sales. Synchronized planning also defines what is to be done with shared information and how it will be done. As product life cycles grow shorter, efficient synchronization of the supply-chain rewards firms who seize its potential.

Supplier scorecards are a method of evaluating members of the supply-chain in increasingly intertwined organizations. As Alan Greenspan pointed out in 2001, many firms were unable to anticipate the last recession and continued overbuilding inventory despite having invested heavily in supply-chain automation. This statement underscores the need develop the tools to monitor the performance of firms up and down the supply-chain. The five steps to develop an effective scorecard are agreeing on what is important and how it will be measured, the use of web-based incident reports, engagement in continuous supplier management, measuring to prevent problems, and the use of web-based software. In rolling out these tools, it is imperative that both the buyer and the seller first agree on what is important and how it will be measured. The other steps flow from the first.

The Internet has had an enormous impact on the personal and professional lives of businesspersons. On the business side, the Internet has brought new life to existing technologies and offered businesses the opportunity to engage in the world marketplace. The harnessing of the Internet by business has enabled greater cooperation and information exchange up and down the supply-chain. The Internet has enabled businesses to improve the supply-chain by the way they manage inventory, place orders, and communicate critical information with each other.

Works Cited

Broersma, Matthew. "Defense Department Drafts RFID Policy." CNET News. 24 Oct 2003. 5 Dec. 2003.

Chase, Richard B., Nicholas J. Aquilano, and F. Robert Jacobs. Operations Management for Competitive Advantage. 9th Ed. New York: McGraw-Hill / Irwin, 2001.

Fonstad, Jennifer. "From the Ground Floor: How to Manage Inventory on Demand." Red Herring. 31 May 2001. 5 Dec 2003.

Golovin, Jonathan. "Five Keys to a Successful Supplier Scorecard." Vigilance, Inc. 5 Dec 2003.

Lee, Hau L., and Seungjin Whang. "E-Business and Supply Chain Integration." Stanford Global Supply Chain Management Forum. Nov 2001. 22 Nov 2003.

McKnight, Lee W., Diana Anius, and Ozlem Uzuner. Virtual Markets in Wireless Grids: Peering Policy Obstacles. TPRC 30th Research Conference on Communication, Information, and Internet Policy., Oct 2002. Vienna, VA: Telecommunications Policy Research Conference.

"Mills Warm to Online." Steel Business Briefing. 1 Jul 03. 22 Nov 2003. SamSys. 4 Dec 2003.

Sliwa, Carol. "Wal-Mart Suppliers Shoulder Burden of Daunting RFID Effort." Computerworld. 10 Nov 2003: 1+. Steel24-7. 22 Nov 2003.

"Synchronous Planning Across the Supply Chain." Stanford Global Supply Chain Management Forum. 27 Jan 1999. 22 Nov 2003.

ThingMagic. 4 Dec 2003.

Custom Software Vs Canned Software Solutions – Pros and Cons

When your business requires a software solution, you have several directions in which you can go. A credible custom programming firm can help you decide by completing a detailed needs analysis so that they can provide you with the information needed for you to make the best business decision for your company.

It's not always easy to decide which application is right for your business. Below are a few pros and cons that may help you decide.

Customized Software – PROs:

# 1. Customized software can provide exactly what you need. The actual users are very good at describing the work flow and as a result, the software can be more effectively designed to increase user efficiency.

# 2. You own the software and the code behind it which affords you more control over future enhancements so the software can change as your business changes.

# 3. Custom software allows for the creation of meaningful reports that are used to make intelligent business decisions.

# 4. Once the software is developed the programmer will be familiar with your work process and will be better suited to provide the best technical support understanding common issues, traps, and work arounds and provide continuous improvements to your software. Unlike an off the shelf software technical support person who usually deals with generic issues.

# 5. Since the users will have input into the design, employees will be more readily accepting of the new system. They will also require less training because they were involved in the development.

# 6. Your improvement dollars are wisely spent on the functions you actually need to improve your process.

Customized Software – CONs:

# 1. Custom Software is customized to fit your needs; therefore you should expect to pay more. How much more depends upon the scope of the software's capabilities. Keep in mind the money you will save in the long run from duplicated work.

# 2. Custom software is not readily available like an off the shelf software. The time frame will depend upon the scope of the project. The time to develop the software could be reduced by using experienced developers with proven software development practices.

Off the Shelf Software – PROs:

# 1. Off the shelf software is readily available for use upon purchase.

# 2. The initial cost will almost always be less than a custom software, however you may have licensing fees where you must pay a fee for each user of the software.

# 3. Technical support is usually free.

Off the Shelf Software – CONs:

# 1. The software may not be able to expand to create other functions that you may need therefore many companies use two different software applications to complete their task resulting in redundant data entry.

# 2. You will have to adjust your current workflow instead of the software meeting your process needs resulting in "work arounds" and you not getting the reporting results you want.

# 3. If you are experiencing a specific issue with the software, the manufacturer of the software will address the fix or upgrade at their time schedule not yours.

# 4. Since the users have no input in how the software would function they may be more reluctant to the change and will require training which can be costly depending upon how many users you have.

# 5. Some software manufactures charge annual license or subscription renewal fees.

Importance of Supply Chain Management in Modern Businesses

Supply Chain Management (SCM) as defined by Tom McGuffog is "Maximising added value and reducing total cost across the entire trading process through focusing on speed and certainty of response to the market." Due to globalization and ICT, SCM has become a tool for companies to compete effectively either at a local level or at a global scale. SCM has become a necessity especially for manufacturing industry when it comes to deliver products at a competitive cost and at a higher quality than their competitors. Here are some of the reason SCM has become important to today's manufacturing industry: –

Competitive Edge through Core Competencies

Today's business climate has rapidly changed and has become more competitive as ever in nature. Businesses now not only need to operate at a lower cost to compete, it must also develop its own core competencies to distinguish itself from competitors and stand out in the market. In creating the competitive edge, companies need to divert its resources to focus on what they do best and outsource the process and task that is not important to the overall objective of the company. SCM has allowed company to rethink their entire operation and restructure it so that they can focus on its core competencies and outsource processes that are not within the core competencies of the company. Due to the current competitive market, it is the only way for a company to survive. The strategy on applying SCM will not only impact their market positioning but also strategic decision on choosing the right partners, resources and manpower. By focusing on core competencies also will allow the company to create niches and specialization of core areas. As stated in the Blue Ocean Strategy outlined by Chan Kim, in order to create a niche for competitive advantage, companies must look at the big picture of the whole process, and figuring out which process can be reduce, eliminate, raise and create.

As an example stated by Chan Kim, the Japanese automotive industries capitalise on its resources to build small and efficient cars. The Japanese automotive industries gain competitive edge by utilising their supply chain to maximise their core competencies and position itself in a niche market. The strategy works and now Toyota Motor Corporation, a Japanese company, is considered to be the number one auto car maker in the world beating Ford and General Motors of the United States.

Value Advantage

SCM has allowed business nowadays to not just have productivity advantage alone but also on value advantage. As Martin Christopher in his book, Logistics and Supply Chain Management: Strategies for Reducing Cost and Improving Service 'states,' Productivity advantage gives a lower cost profile and the value advantage gives the product or offering a differential 'plus' over competitive offerings.' Through maximizing added value and also reduce the cost in the same time, more innovation can be added to the product and process. Mass manufacturing offers productivity advantage but through effective supply chain management, mass customization can be achieved. With mass customization, customers are given the value advantage through flexible manufacturing and customized adaptation. Product life cycles also can be improved through effective use of SCM. Value advantage also changes the norm of traditional offerings that is 'one-size-fits-all.' Through SCM, the more accepted offerings by the industry to the consumers would be a variety of products catered to different market segments and customers preferences.

As an example, the Toyota Production System practiced in Toyota, evaluates its supply chain and determines what is value added activities and what is not value added activities. Non added value activities are considered to be 'Muda' or waste and therefore must be eliminated. Such non added value activities are overproduction, waiting, unnecessary transport, over processing, excess inventory, unnecessary movement, defects and unused employee creativity. The steps taken to eliminate waste are through Kaizen, Kanban, Just-in-time and also push-pull production to meet actual customer's demands. The Toyota Production System revolutionise the Supply Chain Management towards becoming a leaner supply chain system that is more agile and flexible towards meeting the end users demands.

The Commitment Principle In Doing Business

There is this principle in management that we refer to as the "commitment principle." The commitment principle simply says that if at the start of any plan you have not made any resolve to pursue the plan to its successful conclusion which is, of course, to realize a goal or an objective, then in reality it is as if you have not made a plan at all! You may have conceptualized something in your mind and even put that thing in writing with all the attendant facts and timetable but if at the very start you have not really committed yourself to pursue it, then you have not really planned at all. And having no real plan, you will not realize anything in the near or far future.

Commitment is the real driving force in anything we need to accomplish. Just think about it. You undertake to run in a 10K marathon. You have everything in you to complete the run. You're in perfect health, have had a good breakfast to fully energize you, and a good pair of running shoes. But you have no real commitment to finish the race so at the first instance you felt the muscles in your legs tighten, you slowed down and ultimately quit the race. You had no real commitment to finish it. In that fable about the race of the turtle and the hare, it was the hare's lack of commitment to win that caused him to rest

In the post war analysis of the protracted Vietnam war, many analysts believe that one of the things that ultimately led the Americans to defeat was lack of commitment to win the war. America had all the firepower it needed to win the war. What was lacking was real commitment brought about in part by ambiguity of overall objective. In contrast the North Vietnamese and the Vietcong never wavered in their commitment to unify their nation.

If you want to accomplish anything in your business plan, then commit. Commitment may come in stages. You can start with small things. As your confidence level increases, then you can have a corresponding increase in your level of commitment in time, effort, money and other resources. Many successful businesses have grown in this way. You may start part-time and as you begin to generate profit from the business, your level of confidence and commitment increase until you may reach the point where you may decide to devote yourself full-time in doing it.

Since commitment is basically a subjective state, can you have an internal barometer, something that can give you an indicator of your commitment to a business? I suggest a simple litmus test. If you yourself are not patronizing your own products or services, then you are not committed.

Always refer back o the commitment principle in doing business. Do not embark on business you know you can not be committed. But once you have made up your mind to do the business, be committed.

Using VBA To Determine The Page Size And Required Column Width In Excel

Because Excel is primarily an application for data analysis, sometimes its presentation tools suffer by comparison. For example, sometimes your data has text of various length and might exceed the available printing space.

This article will show you how to calculate the correct column width to ensure the text fits within the page. A typical scenario might be 2 standard columns and then a 3rd column displaying comments:

Name, Date, Comment

Although Excel has some tools available, such as the auto-fit feature there's nothing like being in control of your application to get the outcome you need.

We're going to write some code which will calculate the width of the available printing space, so we can determine the column widths to ensure efficient printing.

Calculating The Available Printing Space On The Page

One of the problems is that the units of measurement for page size, margins and columns are inconsistent and we need to standardize the units before determining the correct column width.

One way forward is to convert all the units into points, rather than inches or centimeters. The page size is initially returned in inches and is converted, while left and right margins are already in points.

pgWid = Application.InchesToPoints (ActiveSheet.PageSetup.PaperSize)
leftMargin = ActiveSheet.PageSetup.LeftMargin
rightMargin = ActiveSheet.PageSetup.RightMargin

Therefore, some simple maths will give us the available printing space and this is the width we need to fit our third column into.

content = pgWid - leftMargin - rightMargin
col3 = content-columns (1) .Width - columns (2) .Width

Now we've got the width required for column three in points and that's fine, except that column width is not measured in points, but in Excel's own unit based on font sizes. So, we'll create a factor to convert the width based on the measurements in cell 1.

'Width in points - read only.
pts = Columns (1) .Width
'Width in Excel's measurement unit
wd = Columns (1) .ColumnWidth
factor = pts / wd
col3 = col3 / factor

Finally we have value for the width of column three and we use that in the following code plus setting word wrap to true and the row height to auto fit.

Columns (3) .ColumnWidth = col3
Columns (3) .wrapText = true
Rows (3) .EntireRow.AutoFit


While the calculations for page size and columns can be a little confusing, it's worthwhile persevering. A good knowledge of how the different elements of a spreadsheet are measured enables easier preparation of data for printing.

Defining Social Algorithm

The word social is currently in vogue, we have social networking, social software, social bookmarking, and now social algorithm. Social networking is the activity, social software are the tools which make social networking possible, but what is a social algorithm?

The following tries to define what a social algorithm is.

Social Networking.

Let us look at the examples. Famous social networking sites include Flickr, YouTube, MySpace, Friendster, Wikipedia, Facebook, del.icio.us and the the virtual gaming world of Second Life. Bookmarking and tagging are considered social network activities. The purpose of the network is for people to rendezvous, collaborate, or just sharing something (photos, music, movies, information, etc).

Social Software.

Social software are the tools which make it possible for people to network. These range from email, mailing lists, RSS, IRC, instant messaging, Napster like P2P, blogs, wikis, AJAX, Web 2, etc. Their characteristic is that the networking must be interactive, and bottom-up (users provide content). These software used to be called group-ware. Some of these software are quite old, but some others like blogs are more recent. Wikis have been around ever since Ward Cunningham, the father of Wiki started it, but it was then considered for geeks only, and have been accepted widely only in the last couple of years. Some software are documented using wikis, and businesses, educational institutions have started to make use of it.


So, what is a social algorithm? An algorithm is like a cooking recipe or computer program with step-by-step instructions to execute a procedure. Algorithms are stated in pseudo-code, easy for people to understand, and are more abstract than computer programs. The programs are said to implement some algorithm, being a machine level translation of the pseudo-code.

Although most algorithms are numerical, they need not be, as shown in cooking recipes, logical unification algorithm, string matching, face recognition, etc.

Agent based.

Social algorithms differs from general algorithms in that they involve agents, and the algorithm is the result of the interaction of the agents. The ant colony algorithm is an example, with ants as the agents, and used to solve some problem, such as the shortest path or the traveling salesman problem. Social algorithms can used for distributed problem solving as the ant colony algorithm, but need not be.

It is said that Google's PageRank algorithm is the decisive factor for Google to win the battle of the web. The PageRank algorithm ranks websites using many criteria, including the number of inbound links, each with a weight which is the PageRank of the referring site (the algorithm is recursive and almost real-time).

To have an idea of ​​the algorithm, here is a description:

The original PageRank algorithm was described by Lawrence Page and Sergey Brin in several publications.

It is given by

PR (A) = (1-d) + d (PR (T1) / C (T1) + … + PR (Tn) / C (Tn))

PR (A) is the PageRank of page A,
PR (Ti) is the PageRank of pages Ti which link to page A,
C (Ti) is the number of outbound links on page Ti and
d is a damping factor which can be set between 0 and 1.

Since PageRank defines ranking of sites in a search, it affects many things, and in the last analysis, many people who derive income from the sites. Hence people, who are the agents here, try to modify their site parameters to increase their ranks. This is commonly known as SEO: search engine optimization.

This is an example where the algorithm provides rules for the social network, and in so doing modifies the agents behavior or actions. Abuse of the algorithm have occurred, in one case, someone builds websites based on (almost) links only with no content, but manages to get a high PageRank. Such anomalies will be probably be taken care of, as the PageRank algorithm is also evolving.

Internet auctions and reverse auctions such as provided by EBay, are also algorithms which provide the rules of the game, where we are the players.

Digg.com is a social bookmarking site, the original suggestion is given 1 digg, and people can digg again if they like the suggestion, or undug it if they do not. The number of diggs in indicative of the suggestion's popularity. This system will favor groups of people who collaborate to digg each other suggestions.

We see that social algorithms have weaknesses, often exploited by certain people. Hence the need for improving social algorithms.

Netflix is ​​a famous case, they have offered one million dollars to anyone who can improve the accuracy of their existing algorithm by 10%.

Non human players and avatars.

Back to the definition of social algorithm as a multi-agent based algorithm, where the agents are people, we feel that this definition must be enlarged to include cases where people are substituted by animals or software surrogates. I would consider a simulation of the Digg algorithm, or a simulation of market trading using intelligent agents as social algorithms. So is the ant colony algorithm, which substitutes animals for people. Likewise swarms, flocks, etc.

Cellular automata is a border case, it is agent based all right, but often used to simulate physical, and chemical processes. If use to mimic human activity, it would be a social algorithm.

The evolution algorithm as an abstraction of the Darwinian process is also a social algorithm.
Genetic algorithms and its variations are included here.

Evolutionary Game Theory.

The field of social algorithms intersects with evolutionary game theory. Game theory studies strategies use by the agents, for example in trading, auctions, marketing, voting etc. The prisoner's dilemma sets a game for 2 prisoners, but it can be iterated and played in a population, which then becomes a social algorithm.

If you have ever played Second Life, you know how complicated social algorithms can be. In the virtual world, the whole life, including economics, relations, and property, is defined by algorithms.

What is Sales Financing?

Running a business is a difficult process and one which is constantly fraught with unexpected financial difficulties. Balancing acts are constantly required to ensure there is enough money in the business coffers to cover wages, rent, tax and other regular bills, as well as stock and equipment purchasing.

For all businesses, one of the key factors of success involves ensuring the quick release of funds in order to enable further purchasing or investment decisions. If funds are tied up rather than available for use, then the entire business process can screech to a halt.

One of the most common problems in business usually occurs when large sales are successfully made and the work is invoiced to the client, but payment is not immediately forthcoming. This means that there is a lot of cash tied up in sales ledgers which are not available for use on other projects such as restocking. This is an all too common situation which can prove disastrous to many companies – especially smaller businesses and start-ups who are usually the least able to effectively deal with these types of situations due to generally low levels of liquid assets in the first place.

Has lead to this the creation of a number of business and sales financing products by vBulletin® larger institutions and specialist business finance Organizations to fill the gap in corporate finance. These days, many banks can provide business banking services such as factoring, invoice discounting, and stock finance to enable their clients to free up many of the assets that they normally have access to for working capital.

Sourcing a financial institution to deal with the recovery of funds tied up with stock or invoices and to help deal with sales ledgers can enhance a business on several fronts. Not only does the company not have to worry about chasing up debtors, but the money is quickly made available for reinvestment; and the risks of suffering from bad debt are significantly lowered, as it can become the province of the factoring company to pursue reticent debtors. Factoring companies will often also make available additional debt recovery litigation services if they should become required.

While some businesses may see the costs of using sales finance services as cutting into profit margins, the benefits of having funds made accessible for use towards working capital – rather than sitting with inaccessible funds which do not for the company – can prove to be invaluable in enabling company growth and stability.

How Did Colonial Rule Restructure the Gender Relations of Colonised People?

This article aims to evaluate the impact of colonial rule on the restructuring of gender relations with regards to Africa, paying specific attention to Ghana as a case study. It is widely agreed amongst political scholars that colonialism did significantly contribute to the reconstruction of gender relations in Africa. It is somewhat easy to make generalizations in the case of Africa, due to its vast continental size and several nation state divisions that each has its own background and religions. Moreover, Africa was not colonized by a single colonial rule but by a variety of European states that each had their own unique cultural backdrop and therefore left different impacts on distinctive regions of the continent. I wish to pursue the argument that colonialism did influence gender relations and most remarkably culminated in the demeaning and degradation of women's status in many spectrums.

Colonial rule reinforced the portrayal of women as being substandard and subservient, and depicted images of purity and propensity for child-rearing that did not have as much prominence prior to the influx of colonizers. Such exploitative gender relations were imposed during colonial rule with unfavourable outcomes for women. Unfortunately many of the prejudices have been maintained after decolonization, resulting in the discrimination of women in nationalist movements and in modern African institutions.

This article deals with analysis on how colonizers perceived the representation of women after arrival in Africa and how they went about restructuring and reinventing 'traditions' of social, economic, political, and sexual relations between the two sexes. In particular, I will investigate effects of altered gender relations in Ghana as a case study, with specific focus on women's perceptions of gender inequalities. Furthermore, I will explore the repercussions of the reconstructions in gender relations in Africa and furthermore the subsequent impacts on the status of women in post-colonial societies and the weakening of women's political institutions, and an examination of the work of nationalist movements to ameliorate gender relations of colonized peoples.

Various approaches used to analyze African colonial politics, economies, societies, and cultures are often gender-blind, tending to ignore women's experiences, contributions, voices, perceptions, representations, and struggles. This started to change following the rise of feminist movements, which emerged out of both localized and transnational trajectories and intellectual and political struggles. While the struggles to mainstream women and gender have been gathering pace, African women have become increasingly more noticeable in histories of colonialism, which has disrupted the chronologies that tend to frame colonialism in Africa.

As the field of women's studies has expanded, African women have become more differentiated in terms of class, culture, and status, and their complex engagements, encounters, and negotiations with and against the wide range of forces described as colonial are now clearer. From the large and assorted flow of theoretical and methodological literature that has been generated in the last thirty years, vigorous debates are evident. One of the most intriguing is on the validity of the term gender itself, with writers such as Amadiume stressing the relative flexibility of sex and gender relations in pre-colonial Africa, and denying the existence of gender categories at all.

Indeed, the historiography of colonialism in Africa, many authors have tended to dichotomize the colonial experience between two monolithic groups, the colonial state and its African subjects. In so doing, they obscure the contradictions from each side, thus denying the agency of people whose status did not fit within the normative boundaries of this distinction. Perhaps the greatest injustice of this colonial historiography is its negation of the experiences of African women. By taking the generalized experience of certain African men as a normative reference point, many historians have effectively written African women out of history. Though they present themselves as universal histories of colonialism, these accounts deal exclusively with men's experiences.

In the early twenty-first century it is well established that colonialism had a paradoxical impact on different groups of women, although the dominant tendency was to undermine the position of women as a whole. Colonialism combined European and African patriarchal ideologies to create new practices, relations, and ideologies. Earlier work on colonial gender regimes focused on women in productive and business-related activities in the rural and urban areas and the acute tensions in gender relations that were created, to which the colonial state responded by tightening already restraining customary law, leading to significant changes in family structure and new forms of patriarchal power.

The area that attracted by far the most consideration was that of women's resistance to colonial rule. Studies ranged from those that examined specific activists and events to general analyses of women's involvement in nationalist struggles in various countries that demonstrated conclusively women's political engagements and contributions. More recent work has focused on issues of sexuality, constructions of gender identities, and colonial representations.

African sexuality and its authority and representations were central to ideologies of colonial supremacy. In colonial discourse, female bodies symbolized Africa as the conquered land, and the alleged sexual profligacy of African men and women made Africa an object of colonial desire and disdain, a wild space of pornographic pleasures in need of sexual regulation. Sexuality was implicated in all forms of colonial rule as an intimate encounter that could be used simultaneously to maintain and to corrode racial difference and as a process essential for reproducing human labor power for the colonial economy, both of which required close surveillance and management, especially of African female sexuality.

Feminist studies on the construction of gender identities and relations have helped initiate increasing literature on the establishment and transformation of colonial masculinities. Research on Southern Africa suggest that the colonial divisions of class and race produced different masculinities, some of which were dominant and hegemonic, and others, subordinate and subversive, although the latter received a patriarchal surplus over women of their class and race. These masculinities were produced and performed in different institutional contexts, each with its own gender regime and power relations, from the state, church, and school to the workplace and the home. Undeniably, masculinities changed over time and manifested themselves differently in rural and urban areas, where different gender systems existed and patterns of political, social, and political change took place.

Prior to colonization

Sudarkasa describes, in "The Status of Women", how African women used to occupy advantageous positions within their communities prior to colonization. Referring to societies in West Africa, she argues that women occupied the status of 'queen-mothers, queen-sisters, princesses, female-chiefs, and holders of other offices in most towns and villages'. Furthermore, division of labour among gender lines promoted mutual efforts whether it was in farming, trading or craft production.

When European missionaries arrived in Africa in the 19th century, they could not help themselves but look at African culture with a sense of racial superiority and a biased masculine gendered perspective. In fact, when they saw that the division of labor was equally divided between men and women they were astonished by the hard labor effectuated by African women and their endurance. They viewed the participation of women in these difficult activities as a sign of inferiority when in fact this labor gave women pride and economic independence. They also saw bride wealth and polygamy as well as other African cultural practices as barbarous and detrimental to women and it confirmed their view that the African people needed to be civilized under Western ideals.

As a result, missionaries actively started to infuse gendered stereotypes, which portrayed African women as victims in need of protection, "primitives" in need of civilization and potential deviants in need of containment. The role of women was limited to being a good mother and an exemplary housewife while men were identified as farmers and workers. It was in fact essential for colonial administrators to control women's sexuality and reproductive capacities by keeping them tied to the household because it held them to a virtually cost-free system of subsistence agriculture in the region.

Being the primary food producers, women were made responsible for taking care of the home and feeding the male who workers could therefore work freely for the colonial economy and grow cash crops; therefore the role of colonized women had to bear the costs of subsistence and reproduction of the male labor force. This explains why so much emphasis was put on the importance of monogamy, obedience and dedicated domesticity and why rural-urban migration was excluded for women. Colonized men were soon made accomplices in the subordination of women.

National archives actually show reports of exchanges between colonial officials and native authorities on the problems of women's sexuality and the rights of male relatives to control and have exclusive access to women's sexual services and reproductive capacities. Punishments and legal pursuits were made official by state law against prostitutes and women committing adultery or desertion. Also, fines were distributed to prohibit the impregnation of unmarried girls and the beating of women. In South Africa on the other hand, control over colonised women was exercised by binding a woman's legal status to her husband's therefore the only means for women to have access to citizenship and residence rights and to housing was through marriage.

The exclusion of women from the labor force, especially agriculture, was not only directly promoted through state laws and open gender discrimination but was also indirectly advanced through the industrialization of labor and the modernisation of agriculture. Mackenzie describes how colonisers used the argument that African methods of agriculture were outdated in order to promote European technological farming methods and legitimize policies of land isolation.

Nationalist movements

Colonisers' methods were imposed without any regard to local gender knowledge or ecological specificities and so female farmers, for whom agriculture was an area of ​​expertise but also a source of income and subsistence, were made invisible and / or replaced by men. As a result, colonial influence on gender relations was incontestably detrimental to women as it precipitated their loss of political authority, their exclusion from agricultural and educational activities and led to the erosion of their rights and entitlements. Colonialism did not only alter gender relations during colonial times but it also affected women's representation and participation in nationalistic movements during and after decolonization. When nationalistic discourses and ideas started flourishing among male educated elites, they stressed the need to protect and free the nation from the colonizing forces.

The imagined home or nation was linked with ideas of security, familiarity and tradition and so women became central to the construction of nationalist discourses as biological reproducers of national groups, as reproducers of the boundaries of the nation and as transmitters of the cultural narratives of the nation. Thus, authentic culture became firmly attached to 'the body of the woman' and so notions of boundary, purity and chastity previously instilled by colonizers became closely linked with the idea of ​​national identity and with the appropriate behavior of the patriotic woman.

The participation of women in the project of nation building has thus remained symbolic in most cases. In Algeria for example, women's participation in anti-colonial struggles has been effectively erased from the history of Arab nationalism because it does not fit in with the prototype of the ideal Muslim woman that belongs to the private sector, the world of reproduction and motherhood. In South Africa on the other hand, women's participation and representation in the national struggle is recognized but their role within the movement has remained subordinate and auxiliary: their role is defined by motherhood and is confined to building a nation for their husbands and children.

As a result, women in post-colonial African societies are still viewed as inferior to men. A woman's role has remained that of a mother and a wife whose sole goal is to maintain and promote traditional values ​​because it is central to the survival of the authentic pre-colonial culture. To reject tradition would mean to reject nationalism and the risk of this is marginalization and de-legitimisation. The gender inequality maintained by African countries thus implies that citizenship has also remained differentially constructed for men and women.

In the next part of this essay, I will focus particularly on women in Ghana and various studies that have researched the their perceptions of gender relations and inequalities in the post-colonialist era in Ghana. Then I aim to explore the repercussions of the reconstructions in gender relations in Africa and furthermore the subsequent impacts on the status of women in post-colonial societies and the legacy left on women's political institutions.

Women's perspectives of gender relations in post -colonial Ghana

Women in Ghana, in a post-colonialist setting, still face discrimination and inequality in the Ghanaian society. This situation is still occurring decades after the first women's international conference and the United Nations CEDAW, as well as the Ghanaian Constitutional provisions of women's rights and equality.

Ghanaian women, in theory, have the constitutional right to enjoy equal rights and opportunities with their male counterparts, however, in practice they lag behind in almost all public spheres of life. They have lagged behind in political participation and decision-making, and also in expressing and enjoying their sexual and reproductive rights. Gender inequality has been attributed to institutional and structural barriers, in addition to women's multiple roles, cultural and customary barriers and negative attitudes and perception about women in general.

Since the first international women's conference in Mexico in 1975 and other subsequent conferences related to women and gender issues, the world has experienced profound political, economic and social changes that had implications for women everywhere. Ghana has a total population of 18,800,000 million people 51 percent of which are females and 49 percent of males. Many governments, including that of Ghana have endorsed various United Nations conventions and declarations to promote gender equality and to mainstream gender perspectives in all spheres of society. Sub-section 3 of section 27 provides that women shall be guaranteed equal rights without any impediments from any person.

Despite these international conventions and constitutional changes, relatively little has changed in terms of Ghanaian women's life experiences. They still continue to experience gender-based discrimination, hopelessness and relative poverty and social and political exclusion from active participation in the national development of their country.

In colonial times, women suffered oppression and domination by the patriarchal society in Ghana. Women were taught to accept their position through the socialisation process, including their initiation rites. They were taught to be obedient wives and to respect their elders. They were told that a man could marry more than one woman.

A number of themes emerged from a study by Marie Sossou based on women's own views, description and understanding of their own living situations in terms of their work loads, sexual and reproductive rights, food and political decision-making in Ghana. The findings of the study revealed admission of all women in Ghana, rural and urban, educated and uneducated, the lack of gender equality in almost all aspects of their lives in Ghana.

The lack of gender equality for women in Ghana does not differ significantly in terms of education, income and social class. Most had at least post-high school and some college education and they worked as professionals and semi-professionals in their various occupations.

One of the major themes identified as a factor hindering the attainment of gender equality in Ghana is the gender role of motherhood and household duties and chores. The birth of a child is an important aspect of any marriage in Ghana because it ensures the continuity of the family lineage and proof of a woman's fertility and the number of children she could bear.

On the whole, childbirth was seen as an essential role for women in society, either for the benefits it bestows upon the mother or for the honour it brings to her family. They stated they do all the housework in addition to taking care of the children and their husbands and they have no full control over their sexual and reproductive issues. Reproduction and work experiences of the women in Ghana are mostly taken for granted and regarded as gender roles. A consequence of the motherhood role is that the responsibility for childcare is seen primarily as a woman's job, leaving few opportunities for the advancement of urban careers and city networking.

Another factor that women in Ghana did not fully enjoy is sexual and reproductive rights. The International Conference on population and development held in Cairo in 1994 has accelerated the importance of women's sexual and reproductive health issues and gender-based power dynamics with regards to sexual relationships between men and women and women's right and control over their bodies. Previous studies have indicated that within marriages in sub-Saharan Africa, men typically have more say than women in the decision to use contraception and in the number of children that the couple wants to have and most couples avoid discussing family planning issues for various reasons.

The determiners of reproductive decisions within the Ghanaian family are members of the conjugal family, the extended family, and certain persons outside the family circle and the authority structure weighs heavily in favour of the men. It is evident that gender-based power in sexual relationships is unbalanced and women usually have less power than men.

Beliefs exist that women are good as cooks, sex providers and juniors are still persistent. For example, women are given ministries that are considered useless to the economy and therefore not so demanding. This is simply to prove the point that women can not take on heavy time-consuming jobs. As a goal, it will not be reached overnight as a process and is ongoing.

The empowerment of women is not just an issue of women, but it is also a gender issue, which necessitates a re-examination of gender relations, which ultimately, will require changes made by men as well as by women. It is also a development issue, in that women who become empowered also become active not only in economic activities, but also active in exerting pressure and influence on political, social, and legal issues concerning women.

According to the Commonwealth Secretariat, patriarchy in addition to poverty, illiteracy and unemployment are other factors that increase women's vulnerability to gender-based violence and other related sexually transmitted diseases. It is significant that any meaningful engagement with sexual and reproductive rights should be addressed in reference to unequal gender relations between men and women.

The use of condoms by both men and women as a means for safe sex and protection has become a significant public health issue due to the HIV / AID epidemic. A number of educated urban women in Ghana regarded the issue of demanding safe sex as culturally sensitive and unacceptable to most men. Polygamy is common in many African countries including Ghana. The 1998 demographic health survey in Ghana indicates that 27.7% of women are engaged in polygamous relationships.

The 1979 Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against women (CEDAW), have been instrumental in putting women's socio-economic and political participation and human rights issues on the public domain. Since then, a number of African countries have experienced some high rates of increase in women's representation and participation in political decision-making and holding of political offices on the continent. For example, Rwanda has become the one African country with the highest of 49 percent of women parliamentarians during that country's 2003 parliamentary elections.

In Ghana, women have not been very successful in altering their political and economic locations and have not kept pace with their men in gaining much access to political decision-making and participation. In 1995, out of a total of 200 seats, women occupied only 16 seats or formed eight percent of the parliamentary seats. This number has been increased to 10.9 percent or 25 seats out of a total of 230 seats in the national election in 2004.

The case study from above revealed the problems Ghanaian women face daily in their lives and how these problems shaped their views and impressions about themselves. The comments, views and opinions provided and expressed by Ghanaian women have shown the extent of societal discrimination and domination that the women experienced as part of their everyday life. In order to overcome the institutionalised power relations and bring about total transformation in the system, actual processes of empowerment have to occur at several levels. The empowerment process must challenge and modify the set of ideas, attitudes, beliefs and practices in gender relations at grassroots level, in institutions and structures such as in the family, the household, the villages, the market places, the churches and in the local communities. That is to say that change must come from bottom up, targeted in particular at a local level.

Legacy of colonialism as a gendered form of rule

There are numerous post-colonial predicaments, which have left an enduring legacy on African colonized peoples and African institutions. There is a growing tendency that identifies a colonially constructed regime of customary law concerning Africa's authentic traditions. As colonial states simultaneously attempted to exploit the productive capacity of their colonized subjects and maintain social order, the status of women and the significance of gender changed drastically throughout Africa. Various pre-colonial gender norms interacted with new forms of European colonial sexism in order to create a new highly gendered socio-political context.

However, African women were active agents in this process and often worked to maintain their economic autonomy and contest the definition of African femininity imposed by colonial authorities. Though they have often been portrayed as a homogenous group, African women were divided by a variety of factors, including class, socio-cultural background and proximity to governing powers. Lovett concludes that analyses of African gender relations must take into account the specifics of each state of affairs.

This rejection of African women's points of view ignores the gendered nature of colonialism. Perhaps most importantly, the homogenization of African women's experiences obscures the other factors that influence African women's lives, such as ethnicity, nationality and class. As part of a broader denial of African diversity within colonial thought, many scholars have made gross generalizations about pre-colonial African societies, contending that all Africans encountered colonialism from similar or identical locations.

The flowing nature of African colonial societies must be emphasized, challenging the dominant colonial perception of African society as a static entity that had been thrust into contact with dynamic colonial powers. State policies aimed at economic exploitation habitually negated plans for social order by engendering adaptation, protest and resistance by those the state sought to control. The state's attempt to accomplish these goals over many different pre-existing forms of social and economic organization led to new contexts in which gender was redefined and its significance restructured.

Colonialism is often viewed, both positively and negatively, as a one-way process in which the colonial state acted upon malleable, compliant colonial subjects in order to achieve its goals.Colonialism had a profound influence on gender relations in Africa and most remarkably culminated in the demeaning and degradation of women's status in contemporary Africa, as demonstrated by various studies regarding Ghanaian women.

Colonial rule reinforced the portrayal of women as being inferior and subservient, and reinforced sexual domination and images of motherhood that did not have as much prominence prior to the influx of colonizers. Such exploitative gender relations were imposed during colonial rule with many unfavourable consequences for women's status in African society.

Unfortunately many of the prejudices have been maintained and sustained after decolonization, resulting in the discrimination of women in nationalistic movements and in modern African society. Perhaps the greatest injustice can be found in certain colonial historiography that presented negation of the experiences of African women. Women's participation and representation in nationalist struggles is recognized but their role within the movement has remained subordinate and secondary: their main role is still primarily defined by motherhood and is confined to supporting a nation ruled by their husbands and children.