Saturday, September 26, 2009

How Nkrumah Empowered Women

How Nkrumah Empowered Women
Daily Graphic, Saturday, September 26, 2009, Page 32
Salome Donkor

The role of women in politics and other public offices is one of the burning governance issues, largely because of the perceived and acknowledged potential and contribution of women to governance.

A recent study by Dr Beatrix Allah-Mensah of the Political Science Department of the University of Ghana, Legon, on Women in Politics and Public Life indicated that there was ample evidence to substantiate the indispensable role women played in the prelude to independence an immediately after it.

The study revealed that role of women was evident in they support they gave to the main political party of the time, the Convention People’s Party (CPP), and it is also on recode that women traders were keen supporters of the CPP government and also offered financial assistance and supportive services.

Soon after the formation of the CPP in 1949, for instance some of them, notably Akua Asabea, stood shoulder to shoulder with their male counterparts like Kofi Baako and Sacki Scheek as they toured the country and addressed large rallies to spread the message of ‘Independence Now’ for Ghana.

Hanna Cudjoe, for instance, did not only heroically rally the people behind the independence struggle, but also went a step ahead in establishing day care centres and day nurseries.

She worked extensively in the northern Ghana under the direction of Dr Nkrumah, who gave her the task of convincing women in certain parts of northern Ghana to discard some outmoded cultural [practices] in the area.

During the early period of the struggle in May 1951, the CPP appointed Hanna Cudjoe, Ama Nkrumah, Letitia Quaye and Sophia Doku as propaganda secretaries with the responsibilities of organizing the CPP Women’s League.

Under the League, the women were divided into subsections at branch and ward levels. They organized rallies, dances, picnics as strategies to mobilise more people for early independence delayed by the colonialists for about a century.

Hanna Cudjoe was the Head of the Ghana Women’s League, and in 1960, the Women’s League and the Ghana Federation of Women, led by Evelyn Amartefio were merged to form the Nation Council of Ghana Women (NCGW) to replace the women’s section of the CPP.

The women’s movement was inaugurated by Dr Nkrumah on September 10, 1960 as the only organization under which all Ghanaian women were to be organized to help achieve government post-independent political, social, economic and educational development of Ghana. The party leadership, therefore, institutionalised the initiative by making constitutional provisions for women’s league at the branch and ward levels as the main organising framework for women in the party. It was, therefore, not surprising that the party gave credit to women for the internal solidarity, cohesion and success of the CPP.

Mention could also be made of the role of Dr Mrs Letitia Obeng an educationist, and other women who were nurses, broadcasters, judgers and lawyers who became part and parcel of the independence struggle.

Though not visible like their male counterparts in the frontline, the female politicians, nonetheless, provided a vanguard force, rallying their families, communities, trade and various interest group s to join the struggle for national independence.

Allah-Mensah’s writing on ‘Women and Politics in Ghana 1993-2003,’ cited in a book titled “One Decade of Liberal State” and edited by Kwame Boafo-Arthur (2007), states that the action was largely responsible for the development of the women’s wing of the party and also for youth organisation. She records that women were efficient organisers who could bring thousands of people together for a rally at very short notice.

A paper written by Ms Joyce Rosalind Aryee, the Chief Executive Officer of the Ghana Chamber of Mines, on the “Contribution of Women to Ghana’s Independence and Democratic Governance,” dated March 2007 and quoted in the study by Dr Allah-Mensah, pointed out that Dr Nkrumah’s political success was based on the foundation set for women by the CPP.

It said in 1949, many benevolent and mutual associations, credit unions and market voluntary groups sprang up and became staunch supporters of Dr Nkrumah and the CPP in general. It said those, though were not the forefront of the independence struggle, were involved in activities which were politically significant.

The contribution of women to the political struggle caught the eyes of the leadership of CPP and by May 1951, the party had appointed four women, namely Letitia Quaye, Sophia Doku, Hanna Cudjoe and Ama Nkrumah as press secretaries charged with the duty of organizing women.

In spite of the roles of women in the political struggle, there was no woman in Cabinet when Ghana attained republican status, but the contribution of women to Ghanaian politics after independence, resulting in the introduction of the Representation of the People (Women Members) Bill in 1960. The bill was passed and it received the Governor-general’s assent of June 16, 1960.

Through the act, 10 women were elected unopposed as Members of Parliament (MPs) in June 1960. They were Susana Al-Hassan, Ayanori Bukaru and Victoria Nyarko, all representing the Northern Region, Sophia Doku and Mary Korateng, Eastern Region and Regina Asamany, Volta Region.
The rest were Grace Ayensu and Christiana Wilmot, Western Region, Comfort ASamoah, Ashanti Region and Lucy Anim, Brong Ahafo. That made Ghana one of the first African countries to introduce a quota system for women.

In 1965, Dr Nkrumah appointed Madam Susana Al-Hassan as the Minister of Social Welfare and Community Development, while others were appointed as district commissioners.

Over the past five decades after Ghana’s independence, the representation of women in local and national level politics as well as in others areas of decision making indicated that there is still much to done to ensure an effective representation of women in politics and other equally important sectors.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Do pastors really have the cure for HIV/AIDS?

Commentary: Do pastors really have the cure for HIV/AIDS? Cultural beliefs and often times lack of funds prevent ordinary Ghanaians from seeking medical help when they get sick and for a long time. For some, it's much cheaper and easier to consult a pastor or a herbalists with often results in no recovery. The article below is an interesting read, especially with the current trend where pastors claim to have 'cures' for all kinds of diseases and their followers believe them. In most of such churches the majority of the followers and therefore, victims, are women.

‘My pastor said he’d healed me of HIV’

The Ghanaian Times, Wednesday, September 16, 2009, Page 7
Titania Kumeh

Akrong Seth’s pastor at church told him that he had cured him of HIV and then assured him it was not necessary to visit a clinic.

When Seth visted a doctor and was informed that he was still HIV positive, he called the physician a liar. “The pastor has cured me,” he said. “And I kept pumping into women.” He did not use condoms.

He attended the church for two years, and spent more than GH¢4,000 paying the pastor for various treatments. Seth finally confronted the pastor after his wife became infected with the virus. “When I told [the pastor] that I was HIV positive and my wife as positive, he (pastor) told me that foreign blood had come to me.”

It wasn’t until Seth witness the death of hundreds of people that he finally returned to his doctor to be placed on anti-retroviral drugs, which he has been using for five years. The 57-year-old has been infected with HIV for 17 years, and continues to live with his wife at Korle-Bu. His experience motivated him to campaign for HIV awareness. “In 1982, I was going around churches and villages telling them that HIV is real. If you follow the pastor, you will lose your life. Anyone who tells you that ‘I have a cure’ is a liar.”

Despite the high knowledge of how to prevent and treat HIV/AIDS infections, many Ghanaians continue to relay on traditional cultural beliefs to avoid the disease, according to UN officials. This misinformation and denial is killing people.

Esi Awotwi, National HIV/AIDS Programme Officer at the United Nation’s Fund for Population Activities (UNFPA), says reducing the stigma associated with the illness, encouraging people to get tested and improving access to anti-retroviral medications and other HIV services are the primary ways of fighting the spread of HIV?AIDS in Ghana. She acknowledges that some cultural ideas and behaviours are impeding these remedies. “We will still have some people visiting herbalists, people still visiting prayers camps for a cure,” she says.

Gifty Torkunu, went to a church to get anointed for a cure when she was diagnosed with HIV six years ago. “I was given two bottles of anointed oil and I drank and I vomited and the pastor told me that I had vomited the virus,” Torkunu, 45, says. She repeated the practices five times, returning to the church for the treatments, before she learned of her HIV-positive status from a doctor, joined a support group and began to take conventional medicine.

“Because of my denial,” she says, “my son died four months ago after becoming infected through my breast milk.”

“The problem we have in this country is that we are God-fearing people,” Torkunu says. “Any problem we have to take it to God, so whatever pastors says, we do. Some people are convinced that if I pray or if I do this without the anti-retroviral drugs, you will be cured. But if God will cure me, it will surely come from above not from the pastor.”

She explained that traditionally in Ghana, people with HIV are thought to be bewitched. “they wouldn’t take you to the hospital. But if you don’t know your status, and think, ‘I don’t know, so I must be oaky,’ you are defeating yourself.”

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Five years after ‘Women’s Manifesto’

Five years after ‘Women’s Manifesto’
Daily Graphic, Tuesday, 1st September, 2009, Page 11, Gender and Children
Rebecca Quaicoe-Duho

Five years ago, a group of gender activists came together to compile a document which spelt out their concerns on the “insufficient attention given to critical issues affecting women” in relation to women in decision-making as well as socio-economic issues.

Known as the ‘Women’s Manifesto’ the document spells out issues that confront women in Ghana and makes demands on governments for addressing them, serves as a working document to the government.

The inauguration of the document on September 2, 2004, also gave birth to the formation on the ‘Women’s Manifesto Coalition,’ a group which seeks to monitor how the government addresses the needs fo women and also advocates the need for greater attention for women in all spheres of life.

As Ghana is a signatory to many international conventions and treaties, such as the Convention of the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), it behoves the government to ensure that it fulfills the mandates that it has assented in order to improve the lives of women in the country.

The Women’s Manifesto provides a platform of a common set of demands which are on ‘women’s economic empowerment,’ ‘women and land,’ ‘women, social policy and social development,’ ‘women in politics, decision-making and public life,’ ‘women, human rights and the law,’ ‘discriminatory cultural practices,’ ‘women, conflict and peace,’ ‘women with special needs,’ and ‘institutions with a mandate to promote women’s rights,’ all towards the achievement of gender equality and sustainable national development.

Initiate by ABANTU for Development, a non-governmental organisation, and supported by other gender-based non-governmental organizations and civil society groups, the manifesto aims at helping women to articulate their concerns during periods of election, provide information for people concerned about the need to achieve gender equity, and also to encourage political parties to be more accountable for respective needs of men and women as contained in their manifestoes.

Significant achievements made after the launch of the manifestos include the passage of the Domestic Violence Act, the Human Trafficking Act and the Disability Act. Furthermore the ministry of Women and Children’s Affairs (MOWAC) has set up a fund to support women who intend participating in local government elections.

A law has been passed to abolish Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), trokosi and other obnoxious cultural practices which are detrimental to the health and well-being of women.

However, according to the Convenor of the Women’s Manifesto, Mrs. Hamida Harrison, the biggest challenge currently facing the coalition in ensuring that gender equality and equity was achieved as spelt out in the manifesto, was in the area of women’s economic empowerment. She said although the Ghana Poverty Reduction Strategy II (GPRS II) factored in a bit of gender concerns, GPRS I did not, stressing that a number of women still encountered numerous challenges in their bid to access land and financial resources for viable projects.

She also said other socio-cultural factors made it impossible for the large number of women in the informal sector to compete with their male counterparts.

Through advocacy, some women have been able to break trough in the political arena but according to Mrs. Harrison, much still needed to be done through Affirmative Action (AA) to help ush more women into decision-making positions. She said as part of the celebration of the five years of the inauguration of the Women’s Manifesto, the coalition would intensify advocacy on AA to motivate political parties to initiate campaigns at the grassroots to field more women in areas considered safe seats.

She said the coalition was also in the process of reviewing the manifesto to ensure that it re-echoes some of the concerns which had not yet been addressed, as well as ensure that new demands were incorporated into the reviewed version, saying that the coalition, was “critical of the pace taken by authorities in promoting women’s rights and gender equality in the country.”

She expressed hope that as the government has indicated that there would be the need to review the 1992 Constitution, the process would be open, participatory, consultative and transparent so that ordinary people can also make inputs.

‘Don’t force children into marriage’

‘Don’t force children into marriage’
Daily Graphic, Tuesday, 1st September, 2009, Page 11, Gender and Children
Maxwell Adomilla Akalaare

A Senior Investigator of the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ), Mr Mohammed Tiamiyu, has reminded parents that it is a criminal offence for them to force their daughters aged below 18 year into marriage. He made the statement at a day’s sensitation forum on domestic violence organised by the Department of Women at Palengu in the Talensi/Nabdam District in the Upper East Region.

Mr. Tiamiyu re-emphasised that the 1992 Constitution, as well as provisions of the Criminal Code, the Domestic Violence Law and the Children’s Act, protected all children, particularly the girl-child, against such practices that constituted abuse of their rights, and warned that the Commission and the Domestic Violence and Victims Support Unit (DOVVSU) of the Ghana Police Service would not hesitate to prosecute perpetrators of such acts.

He said the Free Compulsory Universal Basic Education (FCUBE) policy made it mandatory for every child to be in school, adding that by the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Children’s Act, a child is a person below age 18.

The acting Upper East Regional Director of the Department of Women, Madam Mercy Atule, said the country ability to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MGDs) was being hampered by various forms of domestic violence perpetrated against the vulnerable group, especially women and children.

She said since women formed more than 50 per cent of the nation’s population, the nation’s development would be hampered if women were not empowered with the needed resources and given the needed opportunities to participate in the development process. She [expressed remorse at] the cultural set up in some parts of the country gave undue advantage to men to discriminate against women and violate their rights.

Madam Atule explained that domestic violence referred to in homes and communities that had physical, traumatic and psychological effects on the victims. She said the regional office of OVVSU recorded a high incidence of domestic violence and forced marriages within the Pelungu community, and had therefore, decided to educate and sensitise them to their negative effects through the forum.

In speech read on her behalf, the Talensi/Nabadam District Chief Executive, Mrs Vivian Anafo, advised parent to desist from hiding under the pretence of poverty to forcibly send the daughter to the southern part of the country to work as female porters (Kayayee).

As part of the programme, a drama was performed by the Palengu Young Drama Group on the effects of gild-child elopement on education and the community as a whole.

Stop violence against girls

Stop violence against girls
Kofi Asare
Public Agenda, 31st August, 2009

Located at the heart of Central Regional capital, Cape coast is the Adisadel Primary and Junior High School, one of the most popular basic schools in Cape coast, a city regarded as the cradle of education in Ghana. Cape coast boasts of the finest education institutions.80 kilometres afar towards the northern part of the region is a community called Tintimhwe, a cocoa growing community with a basic school-Tintimhwe D/A primary school. Unlike the usual characteristic differences between rural and urban schools-quality school buildings, qualified teachers school library etc, there is characteristic similarity between the two schools in question-The lack of school toilets.

Perhaps another similarity, neither structural nor physical but attitudinal is that girls in both schools visit the bushes to attend to natures call whenever they are in school, and exposes them to the dangers of sexual and other forms of physical and psychological violence. This writer is convinced that among the regular patronizers of the bush (popularly called free range) are narcotics and alcoholics who care very little about sexual rights and the dignity of girls. The fear of the above also affects retention in school.

The Big lottery (U.K) Funded Stop Violence Against Girls in School project is concerned about making the school environment safer for girls through the institution and enactment of the requisite policies and legislations that focus specifically on alleviating violence tendencies against girls in school. On the occasion of Children's Day in Ghana, it is time to pause and reflect on the state of child protection, survival and development policies and practices in Ghana, with a central focus, Violence Against Girls in school.

Article 4 of the International Convention on the rights of the child, which has been ratified by Government of Ghana states that "The State shall undertake all appropriate legislative, administrative, and other measures for the implementation of the rights recognized in the present convention....With regard to economic, social and cultural rights which includes the right to education. The right of access to free quality basic education for all children, especially girls is fundamental to promoting the survival and development of children in Ghana. Of tremendous concern however are issues of quality and gender. Ghana missed out of the gender parity target of 1:1 in 2005 and has since not been able to equate the number of boys to the number of girls enrolled in school. The issue is similar when it comes to retention. Boys have a higher retention and completion rate in basic schools than girls and this affect the performance of girls in the Basic Education Certificate Examinations (BECE).

A careful observation and analysis of the situation indicates the lack of separate toilets for girls as a major cause of absenteeism for girls in schools. Adequate toilet facilities require the provision of separate and decent toilets and urinals for boys and girls in school. In 2008, the Ministry of Education reported that only 48% out of the total number of 13,247 primary schools have access to toilet facilities in Ghana with the highest proportion of primary schools with toilets (90%) in Tema and the lowest (10%) in Kintampo South District. At the Junior High School Level, only 52% of public schools had toilets with the highest (93%) in Dangbe West in the Greater Accra Region and the lowest (9%) in the Juabeso district in the Western Region.

The absence of toilets for girls does not only affect school attendance but also contributes to the denial of their right to dignity and quality education. The national completion rate for boys at the primary level is 91% whereas that of girls is 79% which suggests that boys have 10% additional chances of completing primary school than girls. This is the reason why the gender parity ration is 1:0.96 as against the target of 1:1 that was missed as far back as 2005. The situation is attributed mainly to the absence of a comprehensive and operational infrastructural policy of the Ministry of Education and the Ghana Education Service, enventhough the ministry claims there exist one on the face but has seen little or no implementation and coordination.

The result of the apparent laxity in implementing and coordinating the said policy (if it exists at all) is to blame for the over 16,000 basic schools without toilets. Before i proceed to make any recommendations to the Government, i would like to humbly request of the Ghana Education Service to inform Ghanaians on what it has been up to all these years, until the realization that up to 48% of our basic schools have no toilets. Did this happen overnight? ...What about the past Parliamentary Select Committees on education and gender? .... And the Ministry of Women and Children. Were they aware our children, especially girls had no toilets in schools, and still expected them to pass and pass well? If they were aware, what did they do? What about the District Chief Executives who have led this county in the past....How did they feel in awarding school contracts that had no toilets at all? Children are a vulnerable group...with no voice and whose rights need to be protected and provided for. In that respect any person who attempts consciously or ignorantly acts in a manner as to deprive them of their right to dignity, development and survival cannot escape without blame.

This year's Children's Day should signal the time for action. First, no recommendation will work until our institutions are strengthened and do act professionally .Ghana needs strong institutions who can prevent even an N.G.O from building a school in a locality just because it has no toilet facility in its design ; a Ghana Education Service that can prevent District Assemblies from building schools without separate toilets for girls..or a Ghana Education Service that can lobby and advocate for the inclusion of girl friendly facilities at the District Level. This is what we need.....An Education Service that can leverage the political interest of politically motivated DCE's and the real development needs of the child ,especially girls...and a Civil Society that can monitor District Assemblies to make sure they implement infrastructure policies of the Ministry of Education.

The Ministry of Education should collaborate with the GETFund, Social Investment Fund, International Donors and other funding agency in basic school infrastructure to adopt a common school design which includes separate toilets and changing rooms for girls. The support of the Parliamentary Select Committee on Education could be sought n this respect, to facilitate the harmonization of institutional interests between the Ministry of Local Government , Education, Women and children. This should not be left for the Infrastructure Coordinating Unit of the Ministry. It should be at the Ministerial level with the participation of the Infrastructure Unit. After interagency consensus has been achieved on the policy, the Infrastructure Unit may now commence the actual work for which it was set up-monitor and coordinate compliance of District Assemblies to the infrastructure policy. The unit may seek a court order to prevent any District Assembly from putting up any school building without strict recourse to the infrastructural policy for basic schools.

What about the over 16,000 schools already built without toilets? District Assemblies should be encouraged to come out with collaborative strategies to construct separate toilets for girls in such schools. This could be done by community-District Assembly partnerships where the DA's will provide cement and roofing sheets for such projects, with the communities donating labour, wood, and other local resources available. On children's day, the 31st of August, the Ghana National Education Campaign Coalition as part of the Stop Violence Against Girls in School project wishes to entreat all and sundry to renew our commitment as a nation to making the school environment and the world a safer place for children. Long Live the Children of Ghana. Long Live Education For All. Long Live Ghana.