The United States (US) Embassy in Accra has named Ms Stella Saaka, a women’s right activist, as the 2019 “Woman of Courage” for Ghana.
Based in the Talensi District in the Upper East Region, she is the Regional Organising Secretary for “Women in Agriculture Platforms,” a northern Ghana governance activity sponsored by the US Agency for International Development (USAID).
Although land acquisition for women in the district and the Upper East Region as a whole is a difficult subject, Ms Saaka is on record to have persuaded the traditional and local authorities to part with 29 acres of land for 30 women farmers in the district, to help secure their livelihoods.
Under the Women in Agriculture platform, Ms Saaka manages over 1,170 women who she ensures work on productive lands rather than the ‘rocky’ ones which the traditional authorities usually allocated to women farmers in the area.
A home economics teacher by profession, the award winner is described by her students as a role model, the women she works with call her ‘a woman of courage’ but the men in her locality call her ‘iron woman’, due to her passion for women’s rights.
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Presenting a shield and a citation to her last Tuesday at her residence in Accra, the US Ambassador to Ghana, Ms Stephanie Sanders Sullivan, described Ms Saaka as an exemplary leader among USAID’s northern Ghana governance activity participants.
She said gaining access to land for women was a significant breakthrough which brought positive changes to their lives.
The USAID’s northern Ghana governance activity aims to address the issue of access to land in one of the densely populated districts in the region.
“Seeing an opportunity for women to gain access to land, Ms Saaka was the only woman who pushed the boundaries and long-held traditional customs by involving local chiefs and sparking conversation on why it’s so important for women to have access to land,” Ms Sullivan said.
This the US Ambassador said was significant because “land tenure consists of a layered system of traditional tribal ownership that has historically marginalised women”.
She also praised the role Ms Saaka played by convincing the leadership of Talensi to include women in the district’s development and decision-making process.
By this, she said Ms Saaka and her ‘Women in Agriculture Platform’ represented the district at the assembly’s medium-term development planning sessions, which affords the women an opportunity to contribute to their own development.
She said through the advocacy of the women, land tenure security for women, the provision of tractor for women and training for female tractor operators were now priorities of the district assembly and traditional and political authorities.
Receiving the award, Ms Saaka who said she was honoured for being recognised, dedicated it to the people of Talensi.
She said it was not easy as a woman working in an area where the people lived in a patriarchal system and the men owned everything especially land.
She said through advocacy, she had been able to break some barriers and her ambition was to change the perception in the locality, regarding women and land acquisition.