Ghana has made progress in integrating population and development - Prof Takyiwaa Manuh

BY: Isaac Yeboah

Prof Takyiwaa ManuhGhana has made significant progress in the implementation of the Programme of Action (PoA) of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) which seeks to promote sustainable development for countries.

Presenting Ghana’s report of the implementation of the PoA at an Economic Community of West Africa (ECOWAS) Experts’ Consultative Workshop on ICPD+20 Action Review for the West African Region held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, a Commissioner of the National Development Planning Commission (NDPC), Prof Takyiwaa Manuh said that over the years, successive national development frameworks in Ghana have sought to integrate population issues into the nation’s development planning efforts.

“Ghana’s current development policy framework—the Ghana Shared Growth and Development Agenda, 2010-2013—is strongly oriented towards ICPD goals, with the chapter on “Human Development, Productivity and Employment” outlining goals and strategies for addressing many of the challenges that have been identified.”

In addition, she said the country’s effort at the implementation of the PoA of the ICPD is strategically linked to on-going activities towards achieving the 2015 Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in the country, adding that Ghana plans to sustain efforts towards achieving the goals of the ICPD PoA as well as the MDGs by ensuring the effective implementation of population policies within the context of national development policy frameworks.

The meeting,  convened by ECOWAS and the United Nations Population Fund’s (UNFPA) West and Central Africa Regional Office (WCARO) was to demonstrate achievements and document positive impact of ICPD implementation, identify lessons learnt and good practices, develop strategies to address emerging issues and challenges in the region and develop an ICPD sub-regional common position.

Ghana’s achievements

Prof. Manuh, who is also leading Ghana’s high level delegation to the Africa Regional Conference on Population and Development currently taking place in Addis Ababa said through concerted efforts, the country has made several achievements which include improving literacy levels from 45.7 per cent to 62.9 per cent, with a narrowing of the gender gap between 2000 and 2010. Some of the delegates at the ECOWAS meeting.

There is also increased awareness among the general population about issues of the rights of women and children, Prof Manuh said, while patronage for institutions established to safeguard these rights such as the Domestic Violence and Victims Support Unit (DOVVSU), the Anti-Human Trafficking Unit of the Ghana Police Service and the Human Trafficking Secretariat has increased.

“Incidence of poverty among female-headed households has decreased from 43 per cent in 2000 to 19 per cent in 2010 and there is sustained advocacy for policy and legislative reforms to safeguard the rights of women and children across the country,” she added.

In addition, social interventions such as the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) and the Livelihood Empowerment against Poverty (LEAP) programme as well as strong partnerships and collaboration with non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and civil society organisations (CSOs) have yielded positive results.

Health, including Reproductive Health

Following the adoption of the ICPD PoA, a number of policies, strategies and programmes were revised or adopted to promote and safeguard the reproductive health and sexual rights of Ghanaians thus making reproductive health an integral part of basic health services, she said.

Consequently, there is an increasing awareness among the population, including the youth of their reproductive health and rights.

To improve  maternal and child health, efforts have been made to increase family planning, skilled delivery, comprehensive abortion care as well as neonatal and post-natal care, Prof Manuh said.

Population and Development

Ghana, Prof Manuh reported, is experiencing a demographic transition with both fertility and mortality rates declining as a result of programmes implemented over the past twenty years.

The changing population structure, she stated presents a window of opportunity for Ghana to reap the demographic dividend associated with a growing working age population, and as a result, the country is positioning itself to capitalise on this advantage by adopting relevant policies and programmes to hasten fertility decline, improve human capital development, and create jobs, all of which are essential to accelerating economic growth towards achieving national development goals.

Constraints and challenges

She said despite the good progress made, the country still had challenges to overcome to fully realise gender equality and women’s empowerment in Ghana.  

These challenges, Prof Manuh told the meeting, include weak coordination, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of policies and programmes, inadequacy of sex disaggregated data, and limited knowledge and analytical skills for gender programming, in addition to socio-cultural barriers.

Lessons Learnt and Good Practices

Prof Manuh indicated that in implementing the ICPD PoA the country realised among others the need to involve all sectors in planning and also to back laws, policies and strategies with sufficient human and financial resources to ensure effective implementation.Some of the delegates at the ECOWAS meeting on Population and development.

The country also learnt that the introduction of social programmes such as capitation grants, school feeding programmes, school uniforms and exercise books have the potential to increase enrolment, but needs to go hand-in-hand with reducing poverty.

The Introduction of free maternal health programmes under the NHIS and Community-Based Health Planning Services (CHPS), the move to provide free family planning services under the NHIS and the provision of Legal Aid to the poor, especially women are also some good practices by the countries.

Recommendations of the meeting

Following the presentations and deliberations by the ECOWAS member countries, the meeting  recommended that governments must commit themselves to understanding and recognising population as a cross-cutting issue that must be linked and addressed with other sectors such as housing, education, health, agriculture, energy, environment, gender, food security, youth development, security of life and property.

They empasised that ECOWAS should be involved in the implementation of  the ICPD PoA beyond 2014 and to promote and strengthen South-South Cooperation in the implementation of the  PoA.

Each country, they further said  must address maternal mortality as a matter of urgency, and adapt interventions on sexual reproductive health and rights, including Adolescent Reproductive and Sexual Health to their socio-cultural environment .

In the area of Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment, the meeting called for the strengthening of   enforcement mechanisms for policies and laws on girls and women’s rights.

Parliamentary committees on health, gender and population, they said, should also be strengthened to advance gender issues.

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Written by Rosemary Ardayfio, ADDIS ABABA
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