Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Statistics on gender needed

Statistics on gender needed
Daily Graphic, Tuesday, February, 23, 2010; Page 11
Rebecca Quaicoe-Duho

Gender statistics are the body of statistics compiled, analysed and presented by sex, reflecting gender issues in society. This statistics needs to be produced in close co-operation with users to respond to the needs of policy makers, planner, researcher, the media and the public.

According to statisticians, in order for users’ needs to be fully considered, it is necessary to examine gender concerns and goals in society and identify the necessary statistics and indicators to address them with adequate policies and plans to assess and monitor related issues.

The United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) defines gender statistics as a field of statistics that cuts across the traditional fields to identify, produce and disseminate statistics that reflect the realities of the lives of women and men and policy issues relating to gender. Gender statistics, it says, allow for a systematic study of gender differentials and gender issues.

Gender issues are determined by gender-based and/or sex-based differences between women and men and it encompasses all aspects and concerns with how women and men interrelate, their differences in access to and use of resources, their activities and how they react to changes, interventions and policies.

According to gender advocates, gender issues exist in all spheres of society and are therefore relevant to the production of statistics in all fields and intervene at every step of the production process. Gender statistics, according to advocates, are not necessarily and not only statistics disaggregated by sex.

Producing statistics that adequately reflect gender issues implies that all statistics are produces taking into consideration the different socio-economic realities women and men face in society. This means that data, both on the individual as well as those not directly related to individuals, are collected, compiled, and analysed taking into consideration that gender-based factors influence women and men differently – this, according to advocates, can be called gender mainstreaming of statistics.

The impact of data collected on women and men needs to be considered in every step of statistical production and all statistical fields. Concepts and methods used in data collection need to be adequately formulated to ensure they reflect existing gender concerns and differentials. Additionally, social and cultural factors, according to gender advocates, must be taken into consideration as they can result in gender-based biases in data collection, analysis and presentation.

They say that although the presentation of information on women and men follows the general rules for statistical presentation, one must keep in mind that the presentation aims at facilitating comparisons between women and men, as well as increasing the awareness of gender differentials.

Advocates further contend that the main point is not the mere existence of such differences, but the fact that these differences should not have a negative impact the living conditions of both women and men, should not discriminate against them and should contribute to an equal sharing of power in economy, society and policy-making processes.

Some policy areas where gender statistics have been identifies to influence include population, families and households, work and the economy, education and communication, public life and decision-making, health, crime and violence.

It is inline with ensuring that gender statistics are incorporated in data collection in that country that they Ghana Statistical Service (GSS) with support from the United Nations Fund for Women (UNIFEM) has set up a gender statistic working group made up of experts from government and non-governmental agencies to identify gender gaps in the production of statistics in the country.

The group, which was launched in Accra, held its first meeting and made of researchers, gender advocates, UN agencies, civil organization and academia, will also outline how gender statistics should be produced and used and how it use should be promoted by government, planning bodies, the media, research institutions and other stakeholders.

The Government Statistician, Dr Grace Bediako, in an address said the Beijing Platform for Action adopted for nations 15 years ago emphasized the need to disaggregate data by sex across board so as to produce data by sex.

She said there was a need to re-look at the statistical system in the country, since a change in the way of data collection would be met with some resistance as new forms would have to be designed for administrative purposes.

She said the time had come for the country to move the issues of gender statistics forward by striving to ensure that a conscious effort was made to bridge the knowledge gap in gender mainstreaming.

The UNIFEM Country Representative, Ms Afua Ansre, in a remark said Ghana had acceded to all international requirements to make gender equality a reality in the country.

She said a sex disaggregated data was needed in all areas of policy making in the country, saying, that without such data, the country could not meet its international obligations with regards to gender mainstreaming.

She also called on the government to make use of such data when they are generated, saying that although the GSS had some genders disaggregated data it was underutilised.

A director at the Ministry of Women and Children Affairs (MOWAC), Ms Patience Opoku, in a remark said developing a sex disaggregated data would help the ministry to achieve its mandate of ensuring that issues of women were given the needed priority.

She said the ministry was preparing to actively showcase its achievements at the forthcoming women to be held in New York next month.

The Regional Coordinator, Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations, Ms Diana Tempelman, who was the guest speaker at the launch of the group, said the lack of gender statistics was a major constraint in developing gender responsive policies and programmes.

She said statistics and indicators on gender relations were needed for informed policy decision and monitoring of programmes, saying that the group would help improve the capacity of both producers and users of gender statistic to produce and use gender-sensitive indicators and sex disaggregated data to inform policy formulation, monitoring and reporting.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Women Sweep Awards

Women Sweep Awards
Daily Graphic, Monday, February 22, 2010; Page 57
Adwoa Buahema

Out of 30 entrepreneurs who participated in a rigorous three-week training exercise, 15 qualified to partake in a competitive 13-week TV reality show for a winning prize that will uplift their business game.

In a novel state-of-the-art Bullseye Marketing initiative dubbed Lift Your Game (LYG), women swept five final positions.

This is the first of its kind known in Ghana, LYG’s goal is to unleash business potential and create at least 100 new direct and indirect jobs in Ghana.

The initiative responds to several present and pressing market needs across Africa, explore real yet often elusive basic requirements in business, commands attention and indulgence from seasoned practitioners, questions prohibitively rigid credit policies for MSMEs in our financial institution, and challenges the ordinary folk in the informal sector to dare ‘fall off their cliff’ and glide into astounding returns.

And astounding indeed have been the results. The participants, who came from a diverse mix of ages, locations and industries, interacted with a team f experienced local resource persons chosen for their extensive filed knowledge, experienced, proven integrity and track record.

They expressed profound satisfaction and unqualified gratitude to the organisers, first for a uniquely enriching learning experience, and secondly for the positive exposure the programme has brought to their businesses.

Transformed through the renewal of their business perspectives, self-esteem and confidence, many of these participants have already taken new actions such as cutting down on production costs with compromising value, improving staff and client relations, streamlining legal and financial processes, strategic marketing and targeted selling, offering free services alongside the optimisation of sales, and pursuing strategic alliances which have significantly increased returns, even up to a projected 400 per cent increase.

Of particular interest, however, is the impressive performance of the female contestants which highlights an issue of global development interest: Empowering women.

Out of a total of nine women, five of them took the finalist position by storm. The Guest of Honour at the ceremony, the Minster of Trade, Miss Hannah Tetteh, congratulated the finalists for demonstrating exceptional business acumen.

They were: Vida Sarpong, CEO of Visap Seafood Enterprise, who is in the business of fish processing and distribution; Rosemond Asamoah, CEO of Women’s World Beauty, in the business of personal grooming and care; Christine Osie Doe of Unique Coffee Shop who processes mango jam and distributes to retail stores; Horlase Anku is a moringa farmer who wants to extend the benefits of moringa to her community; Jessie Bartels, who won the competition, is the CEO of Renom Food Farm, a mushroom and grasscutter farming company in Dodowa.

A panel of judges accounted for 70 per cent of votes, while the general public carried 30 per cent.

So given equal opportunities and socio-economic incentives, are women better entrepreneurs?

A study using an Austrian economic model of entrepreneurship analsyed why women in enterprise is still a relatively untapped economic resource. It discussed a list of obstacles women face in entrepreneurship process such as lack of role models, type of education, gendering of entrepreneurship, weak social status, competing demands on time (such as family responsibilities), and access to finance.

In response to research results by the Centre of Asia Pacific Studies on GE Money Bank (GEMB) targeted women, whose anecdotal evidence showed continued to be disadvantaged because of their gender, with many parents, especially in the rural areas, still preferring to send males to school, often at the expense of females; and in 2006, partnered with Let’s Go Foundation, a non-profit organization that focuses on entrepreneurship education, to develop its corporate citizenship programme that focuses on empowering women through entrepreneurship.

They created a curriculum for entrepreneurship training programme specifically tailored to the needs of would-be women entrepreneurs, and partnered with other women groups to implement the newly devised curriculum.

The goal was to teach women to venture into entrepreneurship even before finishing school so that they could become, after schooling, not job seekers but job providers.

Curiously, in the same year, out of 40 countries studied, the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) 2006 discovered that only in the Philippines were women significantly more active in starting up businesses than men. Could this be a result of the developmental initiatives to uplift their quality of life and that of others, while generating the revenue of the Philippines?

In Ghana, it is recorded that women more often satisfy loan obligation than their male counterparts, yet they continue to face rigid read tape, counterproductively high interest rates, and sometimes rejection by financial institutions.

Often the industries chosen by women, primarily retail, education and other services are perceived to be less important for economic growth and development than the male predominated high technology and manufacturing industries. But the trade-offs of these “less important” trades, both tangible and intangible, are enormous for communities.

By all count, Lift Your Game is innovative, proactive, powerful, relevant and spot-on responsive, and needs to be sustained to enrich our society; and certainly, such laudable initiatives require committed partnerships with financial institutions to thrive.

Would our established financial institutions be willing to seriously bank on MSME’s, specifically women entrepreneurs, as exemplified in the Philippines to encourage them to create jobs?

But be it as may, more and more women are venturing into venture capital. With training they are better poised to embrace and overcome some of the gnawing bottlenecks in today’s market for MSMEs in general, and women in particular, and Bullseye Marketing is committed to helping transform those who dare to start into successful job creators through cutting edge entrepreneurial training.

Lift Your Game was sponsored by MTN and supported by the BDS Fund. Bullseye Marketing is also the brainchild of the popular, award-winning “M’asem” programme on TV 3.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Group to Generate Statistics on Gender

Group to Generate Statistics on Gender
The Ghanaian Times, Thursday February 18, 2010; Page 16
Edmund Mingle & Benjamin Sekyere Owusu

A Gender Statistics Working Group (GSWG), a group of gender development experts working to enhance statistical data on gender, was launched in Accra with a call for the provision of accurate data on gender.

The GSWG, an initiative of the Ghana Statistical Service in collaboration with the United Nations Developmental Fund for Women is aimed at facilitating the development of statistical data to aid effective planning for the growth of both the male and female gender.

The launch which was also to kick-start the meeting of the group had the theme, “Gender mainstreaming for equitable development,” Dr. Grace Bediako, Government Statistician in her address, called for improvement in the development and use of statistics on the gender in the country was not impressive.

That, she said, was affecting the implementation of national planning programs, especially those relating to poverty alleviation, since the present data on women and children was not adequate.
Even with the existing data, she said not much was being used for the development of women and children saying there was the need to maximize the use of data.

“We must make headway” she stressed, adding that without that, the objectives of the Beijing Platform for Action would not be attained in Ghana.

Ms Diana Tempelman, Regional Coordinator of the Food and Agriculture Organization in her keynote address, lauded the formation of the group indicating that without accurate data three would not be effective planning for gender development. “This is the ground breaking event in the area of gender data development," she said.

Describing the work of the group as an absolute necessity for gender planning, Ms Templeman was hopeful that the provision of accurate data would enhance Ghana’s attainment of the Millennium Development Goals.

Mrs. Benedicta Kwame, Chief Economic Planning Officer at the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning, launching the initiative, urge all stakeholders to be committed and effectively contributed to towards achieving the objectives of the GSWG.

The members of the GSWG are drawn from the academia, government ministries, civil society groups security agencies and international development agencies.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Sexual Harassment in Tertiary Institutions- A myth or reality?

Sexual Harassment in Tertiary Institutions- A myth or reality?
Daily Graphic, February 11, 2010; Page 11
Rebecca Quaicoe-Duho

A report of a recent research by Professor Luoise Morley and Dr Kattie Lussier of the University of Sussex, UK, that established that some male lecturers in Ghana and Tanzania “consider it their right to demand sex for grades”, has stirred discussions in various circles. The two conducted 200 interviews with academics and policy makers and 200 life-history interviews with students. They wrote their study after encountering widespread reports of sexual harassment suffered by female students during separate research on widening participation in the two countries’ higher education systems.

In a paper, Sex, Grades and Power: Gender Violence in Africa Higher Education, they said the “hierarchical power relations within universities appear to have neutralized a sexual contract in which some male academics consider it their right to demand sex for grades. This has led to the “constructive of negative female learner identities”, they added, and explained that “if women fail, this is seen as evidence of their lack of academic abilities and preparedness of higher education. If they achieve academically, this is attributed to prostitution”.

A survey conducted by the African Women Lawyers Association (AWLA) in 2003 defined sexual harassment as any unwelcome conduct, comment, gesture or contact of sexual nature, whether on a one time basis or a series of incidents, that might cause offence, humiliation, awkwardness or embarrassment, or that might reasonably be conceived as placing a condition of a sexual nature on employment, opportunity for promotion, grades, etc.

Sexual harassment negatively affects a woman’s psychological and or physical well being and or leads to negative job or academic environment-related consequences for her. In the educational environment, the phenomenon which normally affects girls and women more than boys and men, has a potential to erode the future of many female pupils and students who are mostly the victims but do not have access to any counseling or channels for redress.

Professor Morley, Director of the Centre for Higher Education and Equity Research at Sussex and lead research, said sexual harassment in universities was not limited to Africa. “It’s a global issue,” she told Times Higher Education. “It’s about power and the abuse of power.” Professor Morley, who hopes to research the issue further, said the interview showed that sexual harassment had become “normalized” within some universities. Male students’ assumption about “prostitution” among their female peers “diminished women’s achievements,” she said recent findings by the United Nations suggest that sexual exploitation and abuse within schools is widespread but largely an unrecognized problem in many countries. The closed nature of the school environment according to the UN meant that students could be at great risk of sexual exploitation.

However the Vice Chancellor of Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) Prof. Kwesi Kwarfo Adarkwa, according to media reports, had denied that such a thing existed in that particular university. Prof. Adarkwa said female students were outperforming their male counterparts, adding that the university’s quality assurance office ensured students got quality education.

Some lecturers and students, however, think otherwise and a family life counselor and lecturer at the Engineering Faculty, Vincent Akwaa, said his encounter with female students indicate widespread harassment from male lecturer, and points out that some female students who were faced with academic challenges approached lecturers for such favours. Some students who were interviewed on a Kumasi-based radio station also confirmed that sexual harassment of female students by male lecturers was real. “It’s not a perception, it’s a reality. It goes on in every campus and the lecturers cannot deny it,” one student said.

The 2003 AWLA survey involved a total of 789 women respondents made up of 440 (56 per cent) workers and 349 (44 per cent) students. It called for awareness creation on this phenomenon and to combat the incident at the workplace and academic environment. It also recommended the need to formulate ‘based practices’ in the workplace and academia to minimize the incident of sexual harassment.

It also advocated co-operation between key players and stakeholders in a formal workplace environment and academia, and to sensitize the government to adopt a zero tolerance policy towards sexual harassment. Among some of the most common effects experienced by respondents in the AWLA survey were anger (48 percent), followed by surprise, disgust, indifference shame and fear. A total of 29 per cent of respondents said their experience of sexual harassment had a detrimental effect on the productivity and described loss of concentration, loss of interest, and low academic performance among other as some of the effects on productivity. Seventy-six respondents (15 per cent) expressed fear of losing their jobs or academic standing. When asked whether or not the experience had been reported to a superior person, 360 respondents (73 per cent) responded in the negative and 129 (26 per cent) responded in the affirmative. Only 19 per cent of the 129 respondents who reported the conduct to their superiors received a positive response. While 24 per cent of these respondents indicated that their harassers were queried.

The Women’s Commissioner on the National Union of Ghana Students (NUGS), Ms Evelyn Ampomah Nkansah, in an interview with the Daily Graphic, said most tertiary institutions in the country did not have a sexual harassment policy to address such sexual advances in schools. According to her although some lecturers may be at fault, it could not be ruled out that some female students also indulge in the practice of ‘sex for grades’ because they did not want to learn.
According to her, such issues, when reported to the authorities, were normally dealt with as and when they happened without the schools having any proper or laid down guidelines to tackle them. The Women’s Commissioner said so far many of such reports were informal as students who became victims were not bold enough to report to the school authorities for fear of being victimized in their examination and therefore most of them suffer in silence.

As a way of helping to curb the issue, Ms Nkansah said her outfit undertook seminars and programmes on the various campuses to educate female students on their gender and reproductive rights, unsafe abortions among other, to ensure that the young ladies were empowered to know their rights sexually.

Most of the tertiary institutions in the country do not have comprehensive policies on sexual harassment and this therefore makes it difficult for such situations to be handled professionally. Also with the springing up of many diploma awarding institutions and private universities, the issues of sexual harassment has become more complex as it is difficult to track what goes on in all the institutions. Speaking to some heads of faculties in some tertiary institutions, the general consensus was that they did not have separate laws to tackle sexual harassment but that laws on sexual harassment were captured in the schools general policies that dealt with other issues such as drug abuse, misconduct, among other deviant behaviours.

A Human Rights Activist and Lawyer, Nana Oye Lithur, in a reaction to the UK survey findings said there was the need for tertiary institutions in the country to have separate policy guidelines on sexual harassment as the issue has become rampant.

According to her, the National Council on Tertiary Education which had oversight responsibility for the tertiary education in the country should come up with a law that would mandate all tertiary institutions to have separate policies on sexual harassment, since the issue has become a pervasive one affecting most tertiary institutions in the country.

She said international practices has clear policies on sexual harassment, which according to her were gender neutral and could be accessed by all. She explained that the issue of sexual harassment in schools has become one of power relations where the vulnerable ones had no alternative but to accept such proposals from their superiors. “We need such policies to give victims the provision on what constitute sexual harassment and how victims could report so that students who fell victims would be able to report to the school authority for the appropriate action to be taken.

Nana Oye said making a sexual harassment policy part of the general policy of an institution was not good enough and termed it as a “weak policy”, which according to her would not encourage students to report the conduct of their lecturers for fear of being failed or referred. She reinforced the AWLA survey which said “the fact that very few women will report sexual harassment to the police or to an investigative or advocacy institution suggests that the profile of these institutions must be raised so that more people are aware that they may bring complains to them. However, the ability of these institutions to deliver satisfactory responses to complainants must also be improved.”

Friday, February 5, 2010

CHRAJ intervention in a case of forced marriage

But for the intervention of CHRAJ, a 15 year old girl would have been forced to marry a 70 year old man, as his fourth wife. Read the rest of the story here.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Rescue women from religious charlatans

Rescue women from religious charlatans
Daily Graphic, Tuesday, February, 2, 2010; Page 9
Kofi Bentum Quantson

This is not about women physically locked up in prisons or police cells through a default of the criminal justice system.

Neither is it about women virtually physically confined to homes of abusive and violent men courtesy of an outmoded cultural environment that bars them from breaking free into freedom.

And it is not about women burdened with totally collapsed or clearly unworkable marriages from which they cannot escape because of ancient religious taboos imposed by male chauvinist centuries ago. Nor is t it about women, who out of fatal love, or actual compassion, have rescued themselves to the domination of men who treats them like beasts of burden or men or articles of decoration to satisfy social commitments, or equipment for their crude sexual appetites.

This is about women in the captivity of organized and commercialised religious crooks and charlatans. These are vulnerable women whose truck loads of spiritual, psychological and emotional problems drive them into deceitful but welcome arms of spurious pastors, prophets, miracle-working evangelists and so on.

These women are easily identifiable. The form the bulk of the membership of the so-called spiritual or charismatic churches and a host of prayer camps and temples all over the country.

You will find many them on Wednesday, Thursdays and Fridays, in white headgear or white tops, hugging bottles and containers of “holy water” for drinking and for washing away evil.

Or canes or leather whips for lashing the devil during All Night sessions. Also in the luggage will be olive oil and perfume, usually florida water for protecting against satanic spirits and attracting God’s angels like St. Michael, St. Gabriel and St. George.

Some of these women are full-time members of the spiritual groups. Others belong to the “Traditional Churches,” but patronize these groups on part-time basis. So typically on Sundays they would dress gorgeously “to go and worship God,” then on other days they would go for prayers.

But who have captured these women? They are the charlatans, crooks and fraudsters who have turned true religion into the unholy mechanism for deceiving and duping gullible people, especially our women folk.

You will hear some of them on the airwaves polluting the atmosphere with screams and threats of hell; advertising the awful powers of the devil and how helpless people are unless they, the religious crooks, intervene. That is the type of men of slavery which subjects the vulnerable and gullible into a state of chronic fear and despair that is fascism in perverted religion.

You can see some of them on television displaying swanky fashionable shirts or elaborated pontified costumes, some weird and ridiculous. And of course you cannot miss their very practiced sermonisation and their drama-style physical posturing.

You will find some of them too, the itinerant ones, in buses, tro-tros, at the market, lorry stations and so on. Some typify every aspect of negative aspect of religious practices that should not be encouraged.

Especially where because of the mounting craze for miracles, some resort to underhand satanic magical procedures to deceive people that is that power of God and the Holy Spirit in action. That is damnable miracles have become the trick for criminal exploitation.

All that aside, they way they scream out their skewed understanding of misinterpretation of scripture contains seeds for political trouble. In this age of ICT, how do go about preaching that some people are God’s chosen people and that all others are destined for the roaring fires of Lucifer’s hell.

How do you insist that we should all cross River Jordan to reach Jerusalem, the headquarters of Heaven, where on Judgment Day, we will all line-up to be judged? That is subtle religious subversion. Christians, Moslems, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, Agnostics, Athesists, Pagans, Nihilists and so on. As many people have traveled far and wide can confirm the kind of Christianity we are practicing and developing, can, if not checked, lead to serious religious consequences. The reason is clear. We seem to be drifting further from the very simple directive given by the Master Christian Himself, Jesus the Christ.

When asked by His disciples which is the greatest commandment, His answers was clear, simple and direct, Love the Lord, with everything you have. Then love your neighbour as yourself. I repeat. This directive is clear, very clear. So why are Christians creating and multiplying problems with all sort of theories and weird practices that are distracting us from the master’s path and actually leading us astray? No wonder the expensive joke that the devil in on vacation because organized religion is busy accomplishing the devil’s task.

Did the Master not teach His disciples that “if you ask my Father anything in my name, He will grant it”? So are not surprised to hear, in many churches, screaming appeals and supplications to the Master Jesus Himself, and not to the Father in
Jesus’ name?

The really distressing aspect is those who shout instructions to God, ordering Him on how He should run His would. As if it is mortal man who created the world. The most terrible part of this impudent blasphemy are those who actually order God to destroy or kill the perceived enemies.

Where is mortal man heading?

Indeed, it is baffling that we choose to ignore the central principle that God is one. That He is the Source of All Life and the Author of all Creation. His sun shines on everybody and everything. The Lord’s prayer taught by the Master should be better appreciated. “Our father,” not your father or my father, Our father… Amen.

But all that is not my immediate worry. My work is about the way some of our vulnerable women are being exploited by religious crooks, imposters and charlatans in the name of God. It is an enslavement more destructive than the physical bondage of chains and handcuffs. Because this works like an invisible poisonous tranquilising substance, eating away slowly but surely and subverting the very being of our women folk. It is a deadly cancerous danger.

I do not think all women’s rights advocates have fully comprehended this aspect of destruction of our mothers, our wives and our sisters. If they have, I wonder whether they are responding productively. We should not wait for some foreign-based NGOs to come and organise seminars and pay us per diem before we suddenly bristle with alacrity!

So let’s take a leaf from that wise man. Destroy man and you destroy an individual. Destroy a woman and you destroy a nation.