Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Commitment to Women's Empowerment needed

Justify FullDaily Graphic, Tuesday, March 10, 2009 (Gender & Children) Page 11
Women’s Empowerment needs Commitment
Salome Donkor

The first world conference on the status of women was held in Mexico City to coincide with the 1975 International Women’s Year, to remind the international community that discrimination against women continued to be a persistent in most pasts of the world.

The conference led to the declaration of United Nations Decade for Women (1976-1985), proclaimed by the General Assembly which launch a new era in global efforts to promote the advancement of women by opening a world-wide dialogue on gender equality.

A process was set in motion to involve deliberation, negotiation, setting objectives, identifying obstacles and reviewing the progress made.

Despite these efforts, many women around the world continue to suffer discrimination and challenges posed by social attitudes and policies that continue to condone and perpetuate violence against women and girls.

The 1992 Constitution of Ghana provides a framework for equality of all persons and outlaws discrimination on the basis on gender/sex. It promises to protect and promote all human rights and also prohibits all harmful customary practices.

However, the Network of Women’s Rights in Ghana (NETRIGHT), a coalition of organizations and individuals advocating for gender equality which made an assessment on issues of concern to women in Africa in 2008, has established that discriminatory practices against women in the name of culture still prevailed in Africa while increasing efforts are being made to address them

Making a statement in Parliament to mark this year’s International Women’s Day on March 8, on the theme, “Women and Men United to end violence against women and girls,” the Member of Parliament (MP) for Twifo Ati Mokwa, Mrs. Elizabeth Amoah-Tetteh, observed that women empowerment continued to be a central feature of the United Nations efforts to address socio-economic and political challenges confronting women across the world.

To add her voice to the calls on the need to get more women involved in politics and decision-making, an American philanthropist, writer and gender activist, Dr Swanee Hunt has urged Ghanaian women to be firm and resolute in the use of the imaginative and visionary qualities to promote the interest of women and other vulnerable groups in the society.

She describe Ghanaian women as energetic people with strong, imaginative and visionary qualities which could take them far if they received that necessary support to develop their capabilities.

Speaking to the Daily Graphic after a meeting with 30 Ghanaian women, made up of parliamentarians, lawyers and representatives from non-governmental organizations, during a three-day visit to the country recently, she said Ghanaian women have made giant strides in national development, despite the challenges.

Dr. Hunt, who is a Lecturer of Public Policy, is committed to the attainment of gender parity, especially as a means to end war and rebuild societies, as well as to alleviate poverty and other forms of human suffering.

She served as President Clinton’s ambassador to Austria from 1993-1997, where she hosted negotiations and international symposia, which focused on stabilizing the neighbouring Balkan states. She had also worked extensively Rwanda, Sudan, Uganda and a little in South Africa and Liberia, and notably with the most strong women all over the world.

Ambassador Hunt was the Founding Director of the Women and Public Policy Programme at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, where she also teaches, “Inclusive Security,” exploring why women are systematically excluded from peace processes and the policy steps needed to rectify the problem. She has conducted research, training and consultations with women leaders in some 60 countries.

She pointed out that as a gender advocate and women’s rights advocate, she decided to visit the country, to learn more about the roles of women in the country.

She described Rwandan women as strong women who played a crucial roles during the ethnic genocide and pointed out that with the Hutsi, Tutsi conflict some key women in Rwanda, namely Inyumba Aloisia and Rose Kabuya, played crucial roles.

Dr Hunt said 14 years after the genocide, Rwanda’s constitution adopted after a referendum held in 2003 guaranteed 30 per cent quota of the 80 seats in the Chambers of Deputies, for women.

The also created women councils in villages where they run offices and they got themselves in the constitutional committee with 30 per cent set aside for women who only contested those seats. Their strategy, she said, worked fantastically and after the country’s 2008 elections, the country became the first nation in the world whose legislative assembly had the majority of women when the ruling party of the ruling government headed by President Kagame endorsed, 35 female candidates in an inter-party coalition, adding that “if you want to look for a mother for Africa, look from Rwanda.”

She said Ghana lagged behind in representation of women in governance, explaining that in the US as of 2008 elections, there are 74 women serving in the current House of Representatives while the Senate had 17 women.

On the perception that ‘politics is a dirty game,’ she said it would continue to be so until women got actively involved and indicated that like other countries, women in the US women would be prodded many times before they will decide about politics.

She said such women should believe in women’s rights and concerns. She advised women not to think that they do not have the capabilities and were not qualified to contest elections and advised women to look at the EMILY’s List that helped to elect progressive female candidates who were pro-choice into office.

EMILY’s List, which is an acronym for “Early Money is Like Yeast,” is a political action committee (PAC) in the United States, founded by Ellen Malcolm in 1984. From the common political saying that, “Early money is like yeast because it helps to raise the dough,” the concept encourages women who want to enter into politics to start mobilising funds early.

Dr. Hunt advised Ghanaian women, who want to contest in elections at both the district assembly and national level to take the decision now by starting to organise immediately, so that they can contest the elections and win.

In another interview, Mrs. Gifty Kleman, the Member of Parliament for Lower West Akyem, who was meeting with Dr. Hunt, described it as fruitful and said it provided a congenial atmosphere for deliberations on women in politics, trafficking and the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325, (UNSC Resolution 1325) relating to women, peace and security.

The Resolution, which tasks the UN Systems and Member States to ensure gender considerations are thoroughly integrated into all aspects of its security platform from conflict prevention to post-conflict reconstruction, was unanimously adopted by the Security Council in October 2000. She said they deliberated on the negative effects of child trafficking in the country and the need to assess the cause of child trafficking in order to come out with workable solutions to the problem

She also said the meeting deliberated on the need for gender advocates to also contest in elections after doing their advocacy work to as serves as an inspiration to women.

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