The First Lady, Mrs Rebecca Akufo-Addo, has honoured the first woman to become a Brigadier General in the Ghana Armed Forces (GAF) and seven others for their various roles in society, to climax the celebration of this year’s International Women’s Day (IWD) in the country.
Brig. Gen. Constance Ama Emefa Edjeani-Afenu was promoted to the rank in 2017 by the GAF and the First Lady honoured her with the Outstanding Leadership Award.
The other awardees were Ms Veronica Bekoe in the category of Social Invention for inventing the Veronica Bucket; Ms Bernice Dapaah was awarded in the Social Enterprise category, Ms Edna Ayeley Attoh received an award in Academia, with Ms Catherine Krobo-Edusie receiving an award in the Women in Agriculture category.
The rest are Naa Amanua Dodoo of the Wulomei musical group, who received the award in the Arts and Culture category, Professor Awo Renner received an award in the Medicine and Healthcare category, while Ms Serwaa Quaynor was awarded for Advocacy.
Achieving gender balance
Marking the celebration on the hashtag ‘BalanceForBetter’, Mrs Akufo-Addo, who reiterated Pope Francis’ call on February 5, 2019 to balance the scale for women and men, said, “I dare say humanity has not matured, if we cannot ensure gender balance.
“As we celebrate these women, let’s remember a simple truth: We can find inspiration in our abilities and in the stories of other women. The time has come when we must recognise that balance is desirable, balance is vital, balance is humanity's cry for greatness,” she said.
In that regard, Mrs Akufo-Addo singled out Barclays Bank for commendation, saying, “that is why I was pleasantly surprised to learn that the executive leadership of Barclays Bank of Ghana is balanced with 50 per cent women and 50 per cent men.”
She called on the government, civil society and businesses to set standards for more balance in the business environment. “We must empower female entrepreneurs with training and resources as well as social support, if we have to do better,” she said.
“The women pioneers, shakers and movers in our corporate and business space, must share principles and best practices on what works,” the First Lady added.
She also called for the continuation of the development of male leaders as advocates and allies for their female counterparts, by sharing the strong business case for empowering women. “We must build support networks for women, establish mentoring initiatives, enrol high-potential women in leadership development initiatives and align sponsors with them,” she urged.
“Let’s speak against imbalance. Let’s demand for spaces, let’s identify the spaces and let’s be bold to occupy the spaces and give hands up to other women,” she emphasised.
Mrs Akufo-Addo commended a team of successful women from diverse fields, who, she said, were partnering her to provide skills training and mentorship to some young ladies, as well as other mentors for in-school girls who would ensure that girls were focused and inspired to unleash their greatness.
The Country Representative of the United Nations Fund for Population Activities (UNFPA), Mr Niyi Ojuolape, who spoke on the benefits of mentorship under the First Lady’s “Because I want to be Initiative,” said it was a powerful career tool which would enable dropout school girls to go back to school.
He said mentorship helped in building the confidence of people, saying the UNFPA currently had 16 girls in its establishment who were being mentored to acquire clerical skills.
The Chief of Staff, Ms Frema Osei Opare, who spoke about her experiences, called for the foundation to be laid for women to compete equitably with men.
She commended the government’s ‘Free Education’ policy, saying it would remove the barrier that limited women’s education.
The Business Development Minister, Dr Ibrahim Mohammed Awal, for his part, said the ministry was in the process of training 2,000 Ghanaian businesses out of which 1,200 were for women.
He advised women not to give up when they failed in their attempts at businesses and encouraged them to continue trying until they succeed.
The Police Band, the Tagoe Sisters and Obaapa Christie treated guests from diverse social backgrounds to some feet-throbbing tunes, as they danced along with Mrs Akufo-Addo, Mrs Samira Bawumia and former First Lady, Nana Konadu Agyemang Rawlings.