The First Lady, Mrs Rebecca Akufo-Addo, says she will support the government to deliver on its commitment to make Ghana a shining example of gender equality and women empowerment.
She said the government was already putting in place measures, including efforts towards the passage of the Affirmative Action Bill, to deliver on that commitment.
Addressing the opening session of the 32nd edition of Zonta International’s District 18 (African Chapter) conference in Accra yesterday, Mrs Akufo-Addo said Ghana had started very well with women empowerment and participation, particularly in politics, but it could do better.
Zonta International is a leading global service organisation of professionals working towards the empowerment of women through service and advocacy.
The theme for the five-day conference is: “Empowering women through education on safe motherhood and advocating against teenage pregnancy and the early marriage of girls”.
The conference has brought together more than 200 Zontians from East and West Africa, including Ghana, Nigeria, Cote d’Ivoire, Togo, Benin and Uganda, and delegates from like-minded global organisations.
The biennial conference will reflect on the activities, achievements and challenges of the group at the global and the regional levels and take further decisions to help empower women and children.
Ghana poised to do better
Mrs Akufo-Addo said although not enough, Ghana had a good number of women parliamentarians, ministers and leaders in key positions and was poised to do better in terms of gender equality.
“The proposed Affirmative Action Law mandates that women be given at least 40 per cent of all government appointments,” she said.
She was of the opinion that it was only when a critical mass of women was in governance that real change in the lives of women and children could happen.
Therefore, she said, the passage of the Affirmative Action Bill would mean a brighter future for Ghanaian women and children.
“The government has also taken a small but effective step to give women equal access to economic resources by removing market taxes that were paid by young female head porters (kayayei),” she said.
Mrs Akufo-Addo said the struggles of those head porters were unimaginable because they had to leave their communities and families for the urban areas to struggle for a living but had to pay tax on their little earnings every day.
“Let me be clear: we still have some really huge social challenges to women’s development to address,” she said, and called on all stakeholders such as traditional leaders, community leaders and other institutions to help address those social challenges.
She commended Zonta International and Zonta-Ghana for their achievements in Ghana, notably awarding scholarships to girls from poor homes.
The First Lady said some of those who benefitted from the scholarships had become medical doctors, engineers and researchers, while other achievements of Zonta include the rehabilitation of the Borstal Institute for girls, establishing reading clubs and promoting safe motherhood.
In her welcome address, the Governor of Zonta International District 18, Ms Anne-Marie French Cudjoe, said Zonta envisioned a world in which women’s rights were recognised as human rights and where every woman was able to achieve her full potential.
“In such a world, women have equal access to resources and are well represented in decision-making positions on equal basis with men, and no women live in fear of violence,” she said.
In her remarks as the guest speaker for the occasion, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the African Women's Development Fund, Ms Theo Sowah, underscored the need for gender equality to be seen as something that could drive the economic and the political development Africa.
She expressed dismay about the gloomy picture painted about the African woman and her capabilities, saying that more often than not, such a picture depicted a wretched woman carrying a baby on her back and a basket on the head, with flies all over her, to make her look incapable.
She called on women and women’s empowerment groups to help in the effort to present the true identity of the African woman.
“Until we tell and portray to the world the change African women had experienced long ago, no one will do it for us and we will continue to be portrayed as wretched and incapable,” she said.
In her remarks, the President-elect of Zonta International, Ms Susanne von Bassewitz, described the African Chapter as the most international chapter because it had the highest number of member countries.