King Peggy: A Woman Leader

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King Peggy
"Lady King Peggy and Miss Africa USA Page" (CC BY 2.0) by MDGovpics

What is the best way to choose a leader? Liz Waid and Ryan Geertsma tell the story of a woman who became the king of her tribe.

Voice 1 

Welcome to Spotlight. I’m Liz Waid.

Voice 2

And I’m Ryan Geertsma. Spotlight uses a special English method of broadcasting. It is easier for people to understand, no matter where in the world they live.

Voice 1 

It is four o’clock in the morning. The city is Washington, DC in the United States. Almost everyone in the city is sleeping. The government buildings along the streets are quiet and empty. Few cars are on the roads. And the city is dark. In a home near the middle of the city, a telephone rings. A woman answers. The woman’s name is Peggeliene Bartels.

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The man calling Bartels is a family member.  He is from her family’s village of Otuam – in the country of Ghana. He is calling with some strange news. This telephone call will change Bartels’ life forever.

Voice 1 

The man explains that the village of Otuam needs a new king. And he tells Bartels that local officials have chosen her. Bartels cannot believe it. She is tired. And she thinks it is a joke. But it is not. Today’s Spotlight is on King Peggeliene Bartels, or King Peggy.

A street in Ghana; Image by jozuadouglas from Pixabay
Voice 2 

Peggeliene Bartels was born in 1953, in Takoradi, Ghana. As a young adult, she studied in England. When she finished university, she moved to the United States. Bartels began working at the Embassy of Ghana in Washington DC. There, she is a secretary. She answers telephones. She types documents and e-mails. And she serves Embassy officials and visitors. Bartels enjoys her job. She has worked at the Embassy for more than 30 years. And in 1997, Bartels became a United States citizen.

Voice 1 

While Bartels lived and worked in Washington, DC, her uncle was king of Otuam.  Her mother’s brother ruled the village for many years.  But in 2008, the king died. And leaders in the village had to choose a new king. The leaders suggested names of people that might replace the king.  One person suggested Bartels.  This was an unusual suggestion. Past kings had all been men.

Voice 2 

The village leaders performed a ritual to choose the new leader. This religious tradition involved pouring liquid on the ground and then saying the name of each possible king.  If the liquid quickly evaporated after one of the names, the leaders would choose that person to be king. The ritual confirmed that Bartels should be king. The village leaders were not sure about choosing a woman to be king. So, they performed the ritual three times to be sure. Finally, the leaders agreed.  They would offer the king’s position to Bartels.

Voice 1 

When Bartels’ family member called, he told her that her uncle had always wanted her to be the next king. Bartels never knew that. And she was not sure if she should accept this new job. She had a job in the United States.  And as king she would be responsible for Otuam’s 7000 villagers.  Bartels thought about the offer for many days.  Soon, she felt like God was telling her to take it. She told the news organization NPR:

Voice 3

“When they told me, I was a little afraid to accept it. It comes with responsibilities. And I have a job as a secretary in the United States! I have my own responsibilities and bills to pay! And to become king, you have to be really rich. But then, it was like someone was talking to me. A voice said, ‘Accept it. This is what you are supposed to do. You will have help so you can help your people.’”

Voice 1 

So Peggy Bartels accepted the job of king. People usually only use the term “king” for male leaders. “Queen” is the word for female rulers. But Bartels did not want her people to call her “Queen Peggy.” She wanted them to call her “king”. She told the news organization, CNN:

Voice 3 

“Most of the time, a king is the one who has all the power to do things. The queen has power over children’s issues. And the queen reports to the king.”

Voice 2 

Bartels knew that the term “king” would communicate power. So having this title was important for her. When Bartels told the men she wanted to be called king, they were surprised. She told NPR:

Voice 3 

“When I said this, all the men stood up. They said, ‘A woman is speaking like this?’ And I said, ‘Yes, I am serious. Treat me like a man because I am a man… Do not look at me as a woman. If you understand me as a man, then we can move forward. But if you think I am a woman, we are not going to be able to work together.’”

Voice 1 

Today, the people of her village respect King Peggy. And she is beginning to change minds. She told NPR:

Voice 3 

“They are beginning to accept me for who I am. The women are trying to understand me. They see that as a woman, you can do a lot. You do not have to sit down and wait for a man to succeed in life. If I am a woman and I am doing this, they can also do it.”

King Peggy at the Baltimore book festiva” (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) by Tommy’s Flickr site
Voice 1 

King Peggy has worked hard to improve the lives of people in her village. Since becoming king, she has raised money for the village. This money has helped send children to school. It has helped buy computers for the school classrooms. The village now even has an emergency vehicle!

Voice 2 

King Peggy still lives in the United States. And she still works as a secretary at the Embassy. But she remains connected to her people. She visits Ghana for one month each year. And every day at 1:00 in the morning, she calls her representative in Otuam. This family member tells her everything that is happening in the village.  And he tells the villagers what she says.  King Peggy hopes to move back to Otuam when she retires from her job at the Embassy.

Voice 1 

King Peggy did not expect to become King of Otuam. But now, she believes it is her calling. She has faith that God meant for her to be king. And she believes God gives her strength to lead her people. She told CNN:

Voice 3 

“I recognize that we all have a calling. We have to be ready to accept it. Helping my people has really helped me. I know that I can really touch and change their lives. I would have really regretted not accepting this calling.”

Voice 2 

The writer and producer of this program was Dianna Anderson. The voices you heard were from the United States and the United Kingdom. All quotes were adapted for this program and voiced by Spotlight. You can listen to this program again, and read it, on the internet at www.radioenglish.net. This program is called “King Peggy: A Woman Leader.”

Voice 1

You can leave your comments on our website. And find us on Facebook – just search for Spotlight Radio. We hope you can join us again for the next Spotlight program. Goodbye.

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