Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Ban on Widowhood Rights

Ban on Dehumanising widowhood rites in Bongo

The Ghanaian Times, Tuesday, February 26, 2008. Page 25 (Regional News)

The paramount chief of the Bongo traditional area in the Upper East Region, Naba Baba Salifu Aleemeyaarum, has banned the performance of widowhood rites in the area, which human rights activists describe as dehumanising.

Under the widowhood rites, widows are forced to strip naked in public and undergo other unpleasant exercises that abuse their right to dignity.

In light of the ban, the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ), on Wednesday commended Naba Salifu for placing the ban on the performance act. Mr. Sulemana Abdul Hakeem, Acting District Director for CHRAJ, made the commendation when he delivered a lecture on the topic “Female Genital Mutilation, the Law and Human Rights,” at a one-day information and communication workshop for the media on female genital mutilation (FGM).

The workshop organised by the Ghanaian Association for Women’s Welfare (GAWW) was to sharpen the skills of the media in championing the fight against FGM.

He urged other paramount chiefs to emulate the chief of Bongo and pointed out that certain negative cultural practices such as FGM and widowhood rites among others constituted the violation of human rights and have to be abandoned or modified to suit modern society.

Mrs. Eunice Maasodong, Secretary of GAWW, entreated the media to focus more on issues affecting the dignity of women and expose those who abuse them, so that they could be dealt with according to the law. -GNA

LEAP is our own money

A discerning reader contributes to media discussion about LEAP:

LEAP is our own money

Daily Graphic, Tuesday, February 26, 2008. Page 9 (Features)

Livelihood Empowerment Against Poverty (LEAP), according to proponents, is to cater for those who fall under a dollar a day, those who are considered extremely poor, orphans, or those who are 65 years and above, or those with severe disabilities, etc. According to them, GH¢8 and to GH¢15 or even more willed be doled out to such groups every month for this upkeep.

This programme came under heavy criticism, especially from the main opposition party, the NDC. They saw it as a ploy by the ruling administration to buy votes in the nest election. Other says that the said money could be invested in productive ventures so that the poor could make a living on their own.

Listening to these arguments, I would like to ask a few questions. When was the money meant for the exercise realised? Was it in 2007 or before the? Jesus said, the poor will continue to be with us, meaning they must be catered for always. When did the ruling administration realise that there are poor people who need attention? Is this programme better late than ever?

Well, whether good or bad, the money is for us Ghanaians, therefore those who receive the money should not see it as a favour done to them or thank those who give them money. This is because the gesture is a duty neglected by the leaders of our government for too long.

S.K. Arthur


Friday, February 22, 2008

British Minister Visits DOVVSU

British Minister Visits DOVVSU

Daily Graphic, Friday, February 22, 2008. Page 34 (News)

Mary Mensah & Davina Darko-Mensah

The British Deputy Minister for International Development, Ms Gillian Merron, has paid a familiarisation visit to the Domestic Violence and Victim Support Unit (DOVVSU) of the Ghana Police Service in Accra.

The visit was to enable Ms Merron to have a first-hand knowledge of the operations and activities of the various units within DOVVSU following the passage of the Domestic Violence Law (DVL). She said an effective judicial system would help minimise domestic violence in the country and commended Ghana for the passage of the DVL, saying that the move would go a long way to ensure that justice was done.

Ms Merron said violence against women affected their lives and those of their children, saying that hindered the development of the nation. The Under Secretary urged DOVVSU to continue with the good work it was doing by providing shelter for the victims of domestic violence and putting smiles on the faces.

The National Co-ordinator of DOVVSU, ACP Beatrice Vib-Sanzani, who briefed the British deputy minister, said the unit, which started in 1998, had expended over the years and currently had 75 desks in various districts throughout the country. She said unit handled issues that related to child abuse, domestic violence and other forms of inhumane treatment among women and children.

She observed that DOVVSU received support in the form of counselling and legal assistance from both local and international bodies such as UNICEF, UNFPA, NGOs, among others. Additionally, it currently had five clinical psychologists who counselled the victims of the reported cases.

One of the clinical psychologists, DSP Angela Obeng, explained that some cases that DOVVSU had processed were still pending in court due to delays. That, she inidicated, resulted in most victims preferring out-of-court settlements to punishing the offenders of the violence.

Some officials from the British Department for International Development (DFID) accompanied Ms Merron.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

‘LEAP is not for political votes’

‘LEAP is not for political votes’

The Ghanaian Times, Thursday, February 21, 2008. Page 12 (Political News)

Kingsley Asare

The government’s Spokesperson on Social Services, Kofi Amponsah-Bediako, has dismissed media reports that the Livelihood Empowerment Against Poverty (LEAP) is a political gimmick meant to buy votes for NPP during the 2008 elections.

“If some people think we are in an election year and so government is using this programme to buy votes, then no development programmes such as road expansion, electricity and water projects should be implemented,” he argued.

In an interview with the Times on negative comments about the LEAP, he said that the programme formed part of the National Social Protection Strategy (NSPS) and was therefore not intended to buy votes. “The NSPS seeks to provide support for the socially disoriented citizens,” he said.

The LEAP, Mr. Amponsah-Bediako said, was aimed at assisting the extremely poor people and the vulnerable in the society. Under the programme, the beneficiaries, including orphans, the aged above 65 years and people with severe disabilities would be given between GH¢8 and to GH¢15 for their upkeep, the spokesperson said.

Mr. Amponsah-Bediako explained that some of the socially disoriented citizens do not have productive capacities and cannot stand on their own. In view of this, he said such people ought to be assisted for them to have a feel that society has not neglected them.

“For those who say the amount to be disbursed is inadequate, it is important for them to note that the monthly stipend is not meant to turn the extremely poor into rich citizens overnight,” he stated. Mr. Amponsah-Bediako explained that in case of the extremely poor, what to eat is even a major problem and so teaching him or her to fish becomes practically impossible. “Such people ought to be assisted financially to a certainly level before they can be helped to learn how to fish,” he stated.

He intimated that similar programmed had been implemented else where in the world to alleviate the plight of the poor so Ghana is not an exception. He added that the LEAP programme will offer skills training to the beneficiaries and provide them with micro-finance credits to set up their own businesses.

LEAP grant disbursement February ending

LEAP grant disbursement February ending

Daily Graphic, Thursday, February 21, 2008. Page 47 (News)

Kwame Asare Boadu, Kumasi

Disbursement of grants under the Livelihood Empowerment Against Poverty (LEAP) programme is to start at the end of February this year. Beneficiaries will converge on elected pay points in the communities to receive their grants, to be paid every two months.

The Assistant Director at the Head Office of the Department of Social Welfare, Ms Victoria Natsu, said LEAP, which is being piloted in 21 districts for three years, after which there will be re-targeting, had the potential to transform the Ghanaian society. Ms Natsu, speaking at the opening of a sensitisation workshop on LEAP in Kumasi, said the social grant to be provided under the programme was not meant to make beneficiaries lazy, as some people sought to portray.

Participants at the workshop were drawn from District Assemblies, the Department of Social Welfare and other related organisations.

The LEAP is intended to reach out to an estimated 164,380 extremely poor households (about 19 per cent of the extremely poor households in Ghana) with the provision of social grants and complementary services.

Ms Natsu said in coming up with the programme, the government drew examples from other countries that the grants should not be too attractive sp that people would be discouraged from seeing them as a source of employment.

In a speech read on his behalf by the Deputy Ashanti Regional Minister, Mr. E. A. Owusu-Ansuh, noted that social intervention mechanisms were developed by governments to enhance the capacity of the poor and vulnerable. ‘These interventions are, therefore, meant to improve and increase the livelihoods of target groups by reducing the impact of various risks and shocks that adversely affect income levels and opportunities to acquire sustainable basic needs,’ he said.

Mr Owusu-Ansah noted that provision to less privileged groups through cash transfers could give the poor the security to look for work that would enable them to cater for themselves and their families. The regional minister observed that the intervention was necessary “because of the possibility that uncontrolled distribution of the national resources can be skewed against the poor and vulnerable.”

He noted that social protection was not a new concept in Ghana and it had manifested in various ways over the years. He mentioned the Programme to Mitigate the Social Cost of Adjustment (PAMSCAD), THE Village Infrastructure Project (VIP), the Social Investment Fund (SIF), among others as some of the social protection programmes that Ghana witnessed.

Mr Owusu-Ansah said the government deserved commendation for coming up with policies and programmes geared towards addressing poverty. He urged those implementing the programme to ensure that it was done effectively.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Domestic Violence cases drop in Accra

It is only for Accra that cases seems to be dropping. Might the case be that people were unwilling to report violent cases in Accra? It is a wonder what the statistics will be at the end of 2008 and for other towns and cities in Ghana as a whole.

Domestic Violence cases drop in Accra

Daily Graphic, Wednesday, February 20, 2008. Page 29 (Metro News)

Justina Ampadu-Nyarko

The number of domestic violence cases reported at the Social Welfare Division of the Domestic Violence and Victim Support Unit (DOVVSU) last year at the Ministries Police Station alone reduced to 3,273 in 2007 from 4,897 the previous year. The reduction was as a result of the awareness created in connection with the Domestic Violence Act consented in May 3, 2007, which was meant to provide protection from violence particularly for women and children.

The officer in charge of the unit, Mr. Dela Ashiagbor, told the Daily Graphic in Accra that the cases covered child abuse, paternal irresponsibility, child welfare, access and custody of children. He said last year saw a significant increase in the number of reported cases of assault of men against women to the unit, indicating a satisfactory response to the call for the public to report domestic violence cases.

According to Mr. Ashiagbor, over 500 of the cases were reported by men as compared to the previous year when 437 reported cases. “The men have now understood the importance of DOVVSU and will not hesitate to report their partners when the need arise,” he added. Mr. Ashiagbor pleaded with families and victims to expose violent issues but not to settle them among themselves in the quiet as that could sometimes cause emotional trauma to the victims.

At the time of visiting the unit, only few people mostly women, were at the unit to report cases or for counselling.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Nzema E. selected for pilot LEAP

Nzema E. selected for pilot LEAP

The Ghanaian Times, Monday, February 18, 2008. Page 4 (News)

The Nzema East District has been selected for the pilot phase of Livelihood Empowerment Against Poverty (LEAP). Ms Joanna Mensah. Western Regional Director of the Department of Social Welfare, told the Ghana News Agency in Sekondi, last Wednesday, that they district is the only one chosen for the project in the Eastern Region, adding that 10 communities will benefit from it.

Ms Mensah mentioned eligible beneficiaries of the LEAP grants as orphaned and vulnerable children, extremely poor persons with severe disabilities without productive capacity.

The grant provided between GH¢8 and to GH¢15 every two months to beneficiaries.

The LEAP programme which was recently introduced by the government, involves the direct transfer of money to people considered extremely poor in the country. The programme targets identifiable households who find themselves in extreme poverty situations. The amount ranges from GH¢8 and to GH¢15 depending on the level of need as households having orphans, aged people and people with disability will benefit more.

The technical definition given for a ‘household under the project is “all people who eat from a pot.” It will be implemented within an initial five-year period with a total budget of GH¢25 million.

The latest Ghana Living Standard Survey document indicates that nearly 30 percent of the population is extremely poor, and this is the target group of the project, which is aimed at protecting them from shocks.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Gender and the Democratisation Process

Gender and the Democratisation Process

Daily Graphic, Thursday, February 14, 2008. Page 23 (Features)

Bernice Sam

Democracy and development are the two ideals being championed the world over by international organisations and civil society. Democracies in Europe, America and India have stood the test of time producing benefits that spill over as aid to many African countries.

Though some part of Africa are coup-proof, (Tanzania, Zimbabwe) others are coup-prone (Ghana until 1992, Sierra Leone and Liberia). Unfortunately, in Africa, many countries are still struggling to keep their democracies from tottering.

Stories of military take-overs of constitutionally elected governments, ethnic strifes that spill across borders, of an enhanced income through trade in small arms and mercenary activities, present a picture that makes Africa an interesting yet challenging continent to the Western world. Darfur the recent catastrophe, Liberia and Cote d’Ivoire are all sad examples. For those countries that are experimenting with democracy, some sustaining democracy, the process presents challenges that thought not alien to our cultures, must nevertheless be tested periodically through elections, the electoral system with its intricate process has its biases towards particular groups of people.

This article looks particularly at the electoral from a gender perspective outlining the differing ways in which women though protected by sates constitutions are discriminated against in political life. Various steps in the process including the registration of voters, civic education campaign, voting and how political parties operate are analysed. It also looks at factors that militate against an equal participation by women and man in politics. The article ends with some recommendations for enhancing female participation in politics.

Traditional Undertones

‘Within man African societies, patriarchy, subordination of women and the deep rooted perception that the public domain is reserved for man and that the social contract is about the relationship between men and government and not between citizens and government, come together to exclude women-not withstanding the rights guaranteed in law and the political rhetoric of good governance and participatory democracy’ (Ginwala, 1998). The State has an androcentric character with state administrations headed by males.

In many leadership positions with state bureaucracies males are heads which reinforces the recognition of male as head of the household. At the informal level such as in families, chieftaincy, community leadership and churches, though there do not exist any written rules of how the game is played, societal norms and values equally exclude women. Thus there are very few women as heads of families, there are few paramount chiefs who are women; northern part of Ghana for example does not have female heads of clans; nor does the National House of Chiefs in Ghana admit queens.

Women are disadvantaged in household decision making. They have weaker voice where decision regarding fertility and production are concerned. Customarily, the social demarcation of household expenditure gives men the responsibility for visible, formal and predictable expenditure like school fees, utility bills, acquisition of land, etc., while women are confined to non-predictable and invisible responsibilities such as providing food and clothes. These gendered divisions of responsibilities disadvantage women in terms of ability to marshal resources and to negotiate matters of vital concern to their well being (Tsikata, 2001).

In this culturally male dominated environment, women find the political environment alien to their nature and their experiences. They there either reject politics or when they do participate, the numbers are small. Women find it exceptionally difficult to make inroads into various decision-making positions.

Gendered Democracy

In almost all African countries women make up more than half the population. Larger numbers of women are also illiterate compared to men. In Ghana 41.1 per cent of women have no formal education compared to 21.1 per cent of men (GLSS 2000). The private informal sector where women congregate has 45.1 per cent of females and 2.4 per cent men.

These factors have an impact on how many women, the calibre and status of those who enter political life. Constitutions are clear as far as the position of women’s participation in decision-making is concerned. There should be no discrimination on the basis of gender. Equal opportunities are offered as far as state constitutions are concerned for both men and women to participate in political life. This is only rhetorical since they are impressive on paper- but practicalisation is extremely difficult. Additionally, other countries have policies and mechanisms that mandate the incorporation of wome into politics and mainstream decision making roles.

‘Democracy without women in no democracy’ (Nelson and Chowdhury, 1994:18). The exclusion of women from the political arena deprives government of half of its citizens’ contributions. Gender balance in the political process legitimises the system and it processes and serves as a process of ensuring good governance (Ayee, 2001:126).

In Ghana, several efforts have been initiated in the last three elections by several non-governmental organisation including WiLDAF, FIDA, WOMEC, ABANTU for Development and the Gender Centre including capacity building for political aspirants and general education on voter rights.

A Women’s Manifesto for Ghana, an initiative of a coalition of civil society groups and spearheaded by ABANTU for Development was developed in 2004. The Women’s Manifesto is a tool for getting political parties not only to address women’s concerns in their manifestos but also for monitoring performance of government in the year ahead.

Seeing women as partners in the democratic process and thus development has implications for policy formulation, implementation and evaluation for all segments of the population (Ayee, 201: 132). The bottom line of democracy is where in free and fair elections all citizens (men and women 18 years old and above), have equal voting rights.

The political party level

Politics is ‘masculine.’ Political life is organised according to male norms and values. A women’s chances of winning elections depend on her party affiliation. Candidates from ruling parties are better placed and equipped to contest elections than those in opposition or independent candidates (Ayee, 201: 124). Women have a much lower possibility of being selected as party candidates when they contest against men. There are huge resource demands by political parties which discriminate against the poor, especially the poor women.

Within political parties, women’s wings are created to give legitimacy to the party’s existence; and to ensure that parties will have ‘mobilisers’ and will be able to capture women’s votes. Women play important roles in campaigning and mobilising support for parties but rarely occupy decision-making roles within the party structure. Less than 11 per cent of political party leaders are women in the world. Men dominate the political space, men formulate the rules of the game and define standards for evaluation.

Often having a women’s wing or league gives political parties the erroneous impression that it is enough to proclaim the gender sensitivity within gender paradigms. But the creation of such a unit within the party does not necessarily make the party gender-friendly.

Such units should not been seen as ‘token,’ thus isolated by pushing everything women and gender into its plate, but should be integrated into party structures though holding positions within the party leadership, taking part in all party activities and importantly providing opportunities to listen to concerns of women that need to be addressed by the party.

For the few that succeed to become political leaders, there must be a sense of having done so by their own choices and for causes in which they believe. In a study of South African countries, some of the women in political office felt that they were there to represent their party and not the women’s cause (Foster, Makenya, Mukutukwa, (undated)).

In Ghana, at the 2004 elections, only 25 women out of 100 women who had contested the parliamentary elections made it into Parliament.

In the 2000 elections, female parliamentary candidates fielded by some of the parties were are follows: There were 99 women and 9991 men who contested for elections. Out of that number NDC 22 (32:2); NPP 17 (17.9 per cent); NRP 20 (21 percent); CPP 16 (16.8 per cent). Source R &M Dept. Electoral Commission). What is crucial is how women of these women made it into Parliament. At the end of the day8 Parliament had 129 women out of a House of 200. Unfortunately, some men within politics are ‘politically correct’ by being theoretically and superficially gender-sensitive but practically gender blind.

Women need to be supported financially to compete fairly with their male counterparts. Sometimes party support to its female candidate comes not in financial support but by party paraphernalia. Women have to ensure that they know the rules of the game, which party to join and need to ensure they qualify at party level.

The electorate will not vote for a candidate simply because she is a woman. They look out for certain leadership qualities. Women who want to go into politics should be interested themselves first, not simply that others thing they are good. It takes a lot of wit, training and strength to appreciate parliamentary proceedings and to participate effectively in deliberation infusing gender dimensions to debates. Political parties should endeavour to enhance the status and role of women as a first step within their parties towards empowerment for the long term (Ayee, 2001; 139). Parties could also have quota systems.

The Registration Process

Several questions are raised regarding the registration process. Who registered and who did not register and why? Were times conducive to women? Were women visible in the registration teams? What kinds of messages were sent out, were they gender sensitive or neutral? What factors prevented women from registering?

In almost all West African countries that are grappling with poverty, high indebtedness, where transportation and communication infrastructure are not highly developed, it is not unreasonable to be pessimistic about the success of registration of voters.

In the past, the registration process in Ghana was fraught with problems where people were unable to take tie pictures; and some could not register because the time frame was limited. The kinds of material and the form of informing people need to emphasise women’s equal rights to registers. For the majority of women who are illiterate and live in rural areas, forms of messages inkling pictures of cartoons, posters that at a glance tell a story must be encouraged.

For instance in Mozambique in the 1994 elections to combat discrimination, a strip carton was distributed to people registering which showed a son explaining to his father that this ‘new thing’ of democracy which meant that everyone had the same right. The father questions whether this applies to women and the son responds that certainly it does, being ‘being different sex doesn’t mean being either superior or inferior.’ The mother them joins them and points out that she has already been going to meetings about elections and that ‘I’m always telling your father to go to these meetings but he says he never has time!’

Women are used to being told by their husbands or someone in authority to do things. Whether they registered with an understanding of the process and its essence, or there is an apparent apathy to the process because it is tedious, time consuming and takes them away from their economic activities; or of their own volition are considerations during the registration process. It will be interesting to have an analysis of the numbers of registered persons in typically patrilineal and matrilineal communities in any West African country. There has to be an established practice of compilation of gender-disaggregated figures of registration.

In rural communities within West Africa given that some parts of the population would not have access to information; there is likelihood that the first point of contact for many women with the entire registration process would be the registration teams, these teams would play an important symbolic and technical role, therefore it is important to ensure a gender balance. In 2004, a cursory glance at many of the registration centres in Accra, Ghana during the May registration exercise showed women were in the minority and many teams had no women at all. Logistics in the registration exercise is likely to exclude women, especially those with children and younger women even if they qualify to be registered agents, because of the perception that they would not be able to cope with tough travelling and accommodation conditions in some parts of the country.

The Civic Education Campaign

Though in many countries there are constitutionally mandated bodies, that is the Commission on Civic Education and Electoral Commission which have the responsibility to carry out civic education and particularly education on elections, women’s organisation are crucial for the success of the civic education process because they are able to provide information to their constituencies mainly in the rural areas most of whom may be non-literate.

In Ghana, many women’s right organisations are involved in the electoral process through collaborating with these constitutionally mandated agencies to educate women. These NGOs are however limited in available resources to target as many rural and illiterate women as possible.

A useful tool could be training manuals for literate women can touch on their human rights including heir civic rights. These manuals could be used by women’s rights groups in their training and education.

It is important to emphasise that casting one’s vote is a free choice; that women do not have to be influenced by other person to ‘buy’ their votes. Neither should women be influenced by their husbands to choose for particular candidates. It must be stressed that women need to be objective as they assess which of the candidates would present women’s concerns in Parliament. When this message become part of civic education, a nation stands a better chance of getting elected representatives that can be held accountable and would be accountable to women.

Media, election and women

Importance of media as a factor to women’s success or otherwise in politics cannot be overemphasised. It has been found in Sweden that the media carries less coverage of women than of male politician. In the media, stories that sell are those that ofte perpetuate gender stereotypes.

A study by the Media Institute of South Africa (MISA) and Gender Links in Southern Africa showed that while on the average women comprise 19.4 per cent of members of parliament in the region; only eight per cent of parliamentarians whose views are sought for comments were women. This could be true of many countries in West Africa. A similar study in South Africa of the 1999 elections, found the following;

While women comprise the majority of voters in South Africa and the largest number of people registered to vote, men are targeted in election news coverage. Of 6,440 election items, only 42 focused on gendered discrimination.

Political parties were seldom asked to account for their policies on gender. Women politicians were regularly demonised and infantilised by the media. They were branded as ‘unfeminine’ or ‘iron women.’ Women politicians were regularly identified by their marital and family statues whilst men were not.

During elections, it can be observed that many would have radios as the results are announced. Though inroads have been made in Ghana regarding the media’s role in democracy particularly at elections time, there nevertheless exist communities across some West African states like Liberia where access to information is limited. Often radio sets through which information is transmitted in very remote aeas would be in the hands of men.


Training women in leadership skills, public speaking, fund-raising skills, the electoral process and how to avoid, monitor to eliminate rigging in election process is highly recommended. It is important to de-politicise gender issues and women’s concerns, because doing so heightens the imbalances.

Women should be fielded in safe seats where victory is more likely. It is crucial to train the media before a country embarks on elections. In such training programmes, the media needs to be given a checklist of what to do to promote gender balance in their reportage during the entire elections process.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Fighting HIV: Should Prostitution be Legalised?

The Ghanaian Times, Wednesday, February 13, 2008. Front Page

Edmund Mingle

Professor F.T. Sai, chairman of the Ghana AIDS Commission (GAC), has called for a national debate on whether or not prostitution should be legalised in the country. He said the issue of whether should be legalised or decriminalised as part of measures for fight HIV spread, was one that should be discussed for a consensus to be reached on which way the country should go. He, therefore, encourage professional bodies, particularly the Ghana Journalists Association, to facilitate such a debate with experts.

Speaking at the media launch in Accra yesterday, of the 2nd National HIV/AIDS Research Conference (NHARCON) which is aimed at enhancing the fight against the spread of HIV in the country through the use of research, Prof. Sai said it was important that an effective framework be developed to deal with the issue of prostitution which facilitates the spread of HIV/AIDS.

The conference, slated for Accra from March 3 to 5, aims to bring together over 400 researchers, scientists, policy makers and implementers to share ideas and discuss ways of improving research in the fight against the menace. It is on the theme, “Sustaining a comprehensive national response to HIV.” Prof. Sai urge the media to support the campaign against the disease saying, “The fight cannot be won without the full support of the media.”

He called for the debate after Prof. Matilda Pappoe from the School of Public Health and a consultant with GAC, in an answer to a question on whether prostitution should be legalised so that it could be controlled, suggested that prostitution should be decriminalised.

She explained that without necessarily legalising the profession, it could be decriminalised for practitioners who are currently practising under cover to come out to be provided with the necessary protection against infection. “We should allow people to work with these prostitutes for them to do the proper thing by protecting themselves and their clients,” she stated.

There have been divided opinions on the issue of prostitution which is a contributor to the spread of HIV/AIDS. While one school of thought believes there is the need to legalise it for it to be properly regulated and for practitioners to be provided the necessary health care and protection, another school of though, from the religious point of view, believes prostitution is evil and should not be approved of.

Dr. Sylvia J. Annie-Akwetey, Director of Policy Planning, Research, Monitoring and Evaluation of GAC, giving a brief on the conference, said the thematic areas for discussions include HIV prevention among women and vulnerable groups, treatment, care and support interventions and legal issues on HIV/AIDS. The Commission, she said has approved 56 abstracts on various topics to be presented by experts from Ghana and around the globe at the conference which would also feature exhibitions on HIV research activities.

The conference, which she said is in line with the national strategic framework on HIV/AIDS seeks to encourage coordinated research toward managing and preventing the disease. Sharing lessons from the first conference in 2004, she said it was found out that there was need for Ghanaian researchers to meet often. As a result of that revelation, she said a network of researchers was established for more collaboration among themselves, while an HIV/AIDS database was set up to know what every researcher was working on.

Prof. Sakyi Awuku-Amoa, Director General of GAC, answering a question about the outcome of the free condom distribution during the Ghana 2008 tournament said over four million pieces of condoms were distributed to hotels, the stadia and in public and private institutions. He described the exercise as successful.

As to whether or not the condoms were actually used by the beneficiaries, he said the Commission cannot tell, but added that he believes “the objective was achieved considering the way people were clamouring for the condoms.”

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Rooting for Leonora as running mate for NPP Presidential Candidate

NPP women root for Leonora as vice

Daily Graphic, Tuesday, February 12, 2008. Page 11 (Politics)

Kobby Asmah

An ardent women pressure group of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) has called on the party’s flag bearer and its leadership to nominate Mrs. Leonora Kyerematen, National Governance Programme Co-ordinator, as running mate of Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo.

The group, which stormed the offices of the Daily Graphic in Accra, yesterday, said it had a lot of confidence in her personality and capability to partner the flag bearer to victory in the December presidential and parliamentary elections. Explaining the rationale for its action, the group said Mrs. Kyerematen was a tower of support to women even before she took up appointment as a public officer, explaining that she was also a serious political activist. The group described hr as one of the few party supporters who had undergone formal training and studies in political campaign.

As a strategic planner, the group pointed out, that she has also lectured many of the party hierarchies in the art of political party activities. In addition, the group said women had contributed substantially to Ghana’s development, and 50 years down the road, “we deserve this recognition.”

“Since independence, apart from Nkrumah’s bold initiative of creating space in Parliament for women (affirmative action), the driving principle in politics equity has been regional balance,” the group advocated. It added that the political game in the country had been all about men, and women had been effectively bowed out.

Members of the group pointed out that during the congresses of the various political parties, there were 17 male aspirants in the NPP, four in the National Democratic Congress (NDC) and five in the Convention People’s Party (CPP), stressing that even campaign teams formation did not name women. They said Ghana was a panoranomic view of our individual homes and “surely it is women who keep, nurture and manage homes,” saying that good home managers would be good country managers. They said as the adage goes, “behind every great man, there is a great woman,” adding that “out President-in-waiting is a great man, and Mrs. Kyerematen is also a great women who will be a good support.”

The group stated that in the last seven years or so, the national vision to reduce poverty and empower the vulnerable while we grow to share, it stated. “Women, the youth, children and the disabled are the poorest and the most vulnerable in society, and it is for this reason that a youthful women as Mrs. Kyerematen must be brought to the centre stage to give a human face to the national vision.”

The group again noted that Mrs. Kyerematen was of a true blue-blooded NPP pedigree who had deep roots in the UP tradition. Members of the group were of the view that as Ghana continued to seek the face of God, they must equally look not just for a competent party woman, but a faithful one.

Mrs. Kyerematen is a practising Christian, and a member of the Executive Council of Christian Council of Ghana. A member of FIDA and the African Women Lawyers Association, championing the rights of women.

FIDA to the rescue

FIDA rescues women from trial by ordeal

The Ghanaian Times, Tuesday, February 12, 2008. Page 3 (News)

Abdul Majeed

But for the timely intervention of the police and the Northern regional Coordinator of Federation of International Women Lawyers Association (FIDA), a woman who had been branded a witch would have been lynched. Anger by the intervention, the youth of Gberimani, a farming community in the Tolon/Kumbungu District, attacked the FIDA official, Saratu Mahama, and destroyed her vehicle.

The woman, Fati Adam, 52, had been accused of bewitching a young man who died in the village recently. The youth dragged her to the chief’s palace and held her for three days without food, while taking her through some painful rituals to force her to confess.

Narrating her ordeal to the Times here yesterday, Fati said, “but for the timely intervention of the police I would have been a dead person by now.” She said for three days she was kept in the chief’s palace, the youth lashed her with a bicycle chain. At a point hey threatened to kill her if she did not confess that she killed the man. Her claim of innocence infuriated them the more.

Ms Mahama confirmed the story saying the youth nearly burnt her car. She recaleed that a good Samaritan from the village reported the matter to her office and she in turn reported it to the Tamale Police who detailed three policemen to accompany her to the scene. Ms Mahama said as soon as they got to the scene, the youth attacked them and smashed the windscreen of her vehicle.

Monday, February 11, 2008

A Reaction to a Sexist Remark by Mr. President

Women are not Sex Symbols

Daily Graphic, Tuesday, February 12, 2008. Page 11 (Women’s World)

Women and the Law -Nana Oye Lithur

I am sure many Ghanaians will experience a ‘morning-after’ syndrome this week. Thankfully or rather regrettably (depending on your interest), the last whistle has been blown, and the soccer fever should be dying down gradually.

After watching my first-ever live football match the opening ceremony a few weeks ago, I wondered hoe our numerous ‘armchair’ coaches develop expertise on selection of players for a football team, who should play in which position, etc. Please excuse my ignorance, but I believe some of what goes on during the match depends on luck and how the play develops. How does a player pre-empt or anticipate a kick or a header?

From what I watched, I believe it’s very important to know your opponents and prepare your team against all odds. It’s like writing exams; you have to revise all your notes and prepare for nay question. I could never revise the whole syllabus, I always selected five topics and actually answered four questions during my revision, based on listening carefully to the lecturer throughout the year and trying to gauge his/her interests and also studying the trend of past questions over a minimum of six years. It was like lotto, and by my Law School years, my study group was always consulting me for likely questions that I had selected for exams.

The radio commentary and phone-ins after the Black Stars had lost to Cameroun were very interesting. The most interesting ones were the ones on Meridian FM. On caller actually suggested that there are 129 ghosts standing on the pitch of Ohene Djan stadium as a result of the Stadium disaster in 2002, and unless the ghosts were exorcised, it would be difficult for Black Stars to win the trophy at that particular stadium. This comment gave me an idea of how pervasive religious beliefs are, and I am sure the caller would be able to explain why the subsequent Black Star’s victory at Baba Yara Stadium.

On the fringes of Ghana 2008, a sexist remark from President Kufuor to the Black Stars, and an attempt to hand over ‘human trophies’ to certain members of the Black Star football team, specifically Junior Agogo, got my ire.

Before the Ghana-Nigeria match, President Kufuor met the Black Stars and supposed motivated them. In motivating them, he advised to stay away from certain activities, including women,a nd that after the tournament, they would have access to all the women they want. Basically, his message was stay away from women until after the tournament, and when you win and succeed you can have your fill of women.

President Kufuor, that is a very sexist statement to make about women, coming after your comments at the Brong Ahafo’s People’s Assembly about Dr Anane, polygamy and our grandfathers. I do not know what lenses you look through, but women are not entertainment tools. Just walk around your Presidential Castle office this morning, and you will see your female Presidential advisers, your female lawyers and you female support staff.

They are all women who ensure that your office runs smoothly and they are definitely not providing entertainment for your office. I have looked at myself in the mirror this morning. Yes, I saw breast, hips, heavy eyelids from little sleep, a prominent tummy, a lawyer and a human rights defender; I did not look like a PSP play station, ludo board game or Oware when I checked myself out this morning. Don’t also forget that breast and hips are for the biological function of procreation and not wholly for sex as entertainment.

As for the 82-year old man who attempted to hand over his granddaughter to Junior Agogo as a wife and human trophy, the least said about him the better. If a President of a country, a former Minister of Foreign Affairs and now a presidential aspirant, a former presidential aspirant in the 2004 elections can all make sexist remarks about women on public platforms, how much more an 82-year old man?

Women's Participation in Politics in Ghana

Ghana’s 2008 Elections and Women’s Participation in Politics

Daily Graphic, Monday, February 11, 2008. Page 27 (Features)

Bernice Sam

Ghana attained independence from Britain on March 6, 1957, and became a republic on July 1, 1960. Since then, Ghana’s political history has been chequered, with periods of democratic rule interspersed with periods of military rule.

From 1993 to date, Ghana has been under a democratic government. Like many military regimes across Africa and elsewhere, Ghana has endured periods of violations of human rights. Civil, political, social and economic abuses were particularly abundant during the periods of authoritarian rule.

In recognition of such abuses, the 1992 Constitution includes provisions dedicated to fundamental human rights and freedoms. It also establishes very important state mechanisms for promotion and protection of human rights, including the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice and the National Commission for Civic Education.

It is generally accepted that protection of human rights since Ghana’s return to constitutional rule in 1992 has been extraordinarily successful. This is seen as a departure from the military days when violation of human rights by the state and its agencies were common.

Throughout this difficult history, women suffered dramatically from abuses of the human rights. Form independence, through the authoritarian regimes, and to the present constitutional dispensation, the women’s human rights agenda has not attained the level of success achieved by other areas of human rights.

UN Commitments

Ghana has ratified the Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). Ghana has also endorsed the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action as well as the Millennium Development Goals.

At the Africa Union level, Ghana has adopted the Solemn Declaration in Gender Equality 2003; and also the African Charter Protocol on Women’s Rights (2003). (www.genderismyagenda.com)

The 1992 Constitution of Ghana (Article 17) prohibits discrimination on the basis of gender. An Affirmative Action Policy of 1998 provides for 40 per cent quota of women’s representation on all government and public boards, commissions, councils, committees and official bodies including Cabinet and Council of State.


In 2005, a report submitted by NGOs at Beijing +10 Review pointed out that despite progress made in some of the 12 critical areas such on the girl-child, there was still widespread violence against women, the majority of the poor people are women and there are a few women in decision-making positions. [Beijing Betrayed, Women Worldwide Report that Governments have failed to turn the Platform into Action, 1995, p48. Published by Women’ Environment and Development Organisation (WEDO) http://www.wedo.org]

In 2006, at the review of Ghana’s third, fourth and fifth Periodic Report to CEDAW, the Government of Ghana acknowledged that it had not done enough to increase women’s participation in politics.

The fact was endorsed in the NGO Shadow Report co-ordinated by WiLDAF Ghana. In the concluding comments, CEDAW recommended that the affirmative action policy should be implemented in a way that addresses the apparent gender gap in political participation and decision making. [Concluding Comments of CEDAW] [See also www.iwraw-ap.org]

In 2006, a survey carried out by WiLDAF on the implementation of the Solemn Declaration in 11 West African countries, pointed that despite efforts to promote women’s rights, low representation of women in political life and decision making was still a concern. [Implementation of the Solemn Declaration on Gender Equality-Shadow Report of West African Civil Society Organisations, 2007 p.2]

Situation on the Ground

Although there is no law in Ghana that prevents women from participating in politics or in areas of Ghana’s economic or social life, women are generally under-represented in politics and in public life.

There seems to be no long-term strategic framework put in place to address this failure. This failure had been attributed to a lack of political will and a deficient commitment to gender equality among political parties. The excuse has been the lack of a pool of eminent women. A databank has been accordingly been established. It remains inchoate, however, owing to weak capacity and ineffective co-ordination of data collection, collation and analysis by the Women’s Ministry.

Women in Parliament

First Republic (1960) ---10

Second Republic (1969) ---2

Third Republic ---5

First Parliament of the Fourth Republic (1992) ---6

Second Parliament of the Fourth Republic (1996) ---19

Third Parliament of the Fourth Republic (2000) ---19 women, 181 men

Fourth Parliament of the Fourth Republic (2004) ---25 women, 205 men

Activists reacted to the disturbing politics of the 2004 elections by bringing out a non-partisan document, “The Women’s Manifesto for Ghana.” It outlines broad issues of national concern to women that need to be addressed by government and other relevant agencies within set time frames. Seeking to address these challenges in the 2004 parliamentary elections, activists relied on government’s affirmative action policy of 40 per cent representation of women in decision-making structures. This seeming trump card did not help.

Women in the decentralised government structures

The introduction in1988 of district assemblies as part of a strategy to decentralised governance also provided an opportunity for women to become more involved in politics. Two entry points into district assemblies were available: as part of the 70 per cent elected members into the assemblies or as part of the 30 per cent appointed by government.

The government policy on the latter was to ensure that at least half of the government appointees would be women. Since this was a non-partisan system, any woman ready to serve the district could contest.


The Government of Ghana should implement the Affirmative Action Policy to increase the number of women in politics and decision-making positions. The government should agree to implementation of a quota system as a means of having more women in politics. Appointment of Ministers of State in the next government (2008-2012) should reflect government’s commitment to bridging the gender gap through a 50/50 policy.