Celebrate Women & Human Rights in International Women's Month

Since gaining independence in 1957, Ghana has undergone many transformations in the areas of gender, economic and social rights. A lot of work has been done in ensuring that the framework of human rights in Ghana is respected and laws concerning human rights revised and improved to meet changing local and international trends. For instance, Ghana’s Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ) has successfully collaborated with numerous organizations like the Women and Juvenile Unit of the Ghana Police to handle cases that show gross disregard for humanity. Unfortunately these small triumphs usually leave in their wake a thousand more human rights abuse cases and the crusade against human rights violations continues.

As with most African countries the subject of gender rights is somewhat of a ‘taboo’ topic in Ghana. One could attribute this to the highly patriarchal nature of the Ghanaian society and most African communities. In addition to this, I believe that the reluctance of many African communities and governments to hold strategic forums on gender rights issues and ensure gender equality stems from an inherent fear of change. The idea of change as we know it in many African communities is a delicate one due to the history of often violent and sporadic changes on the continent. Instead of keeping silent about these issues, it is important that we discuss them so as to not only help deal with gender-specific human rights abuses, but to also build up one another to play our respective roles in the development of our communities and the African continent as a whole.

Due to the fact that most African nations have growing populations, women and children constitute the greater percentage on individual national levels as well as on a continental level. Our failure in implementing and adhering to laws that encourage gender equality and respect for women’s rights contributes to the ever-worsening rate of human rights abuses and hinders what potential African nations have for developing. One area where the efforts of Ghana and other African nations are seriously lacking is in the area of education. Kwegyir Aggrey’s insistence on girl-child education is just as valid today as it was a decade or two ago; the difference now is the fact that time is running out for Africa’s children- both present and future. Education is an essential tool for development and unless African communities are willing to sacrifice what is necessary and work hard towards making it a permanent and integral part of our societies our individual and collective quests for development will be futile.

Women’s rights issues is another area that needs to be taken into serious perspective in Ghana and throughout the African continent. With the implementation of institutions that encourage the participation of women in strategic areas of leadership and governance for instance, a more balanced approach to governance and development will be achieved because the concerns of both men and women will be taken into context. Even though Ghana has had and continues to have revolutionary women leaders like the late Honorable Hawa Yakubu (a former Member of the Ghana’s Parliament and the Minister of Tourism from 2001 to 2002), the percentage of women’s participation in issues directly related to Ghana’s governance and development is discouraging. To make matters worse women leaders who are able to make it into the proverbial ‘men’s world’ are restricted in the impact they can have since they are usually appointed to positions that have to do with just women and youth issues and that don’t have far-reaching influences on strategic areas of development. Her Excellency Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf’s ascension to Presidency in Liberia is not only a confirmation of the need for dedicated African women leaders, but is an indication of the potential African women have for advancing development in their respective countries.

Poverty is most likely the worst problem in Africa as it succeeds in crippling not only the physical abilities of a person, but also the mental and spiritual facets of a person’s life. The destructive abilities of poverty makes it imperative that African nations commit to coming up with sustainable solutions for the issue of poverty and its attendant factors. In order to ensure economic rights in African communities, it is necessary that economic and financial management be taken seriously.

Each African nation has government financial institutions that are charged with maintaining equilibrium and developing the economy. Unfortunately many of the economic policies that are implemented are not geared towards the specific economic situation(s) of the African country. More often than not, they are recommendations or proposals set forth by international organizations like the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank. Global partnerships are important to a country’s development, but when these same partnerships critically impair the development of an African country it is time to take a step back and carefully assess the long-term goals of that particular African country. African nations must take it upon themselves to analyze their economic situations and to develop and implement economic policies that work for and not against them.

The issue of unfavorable terms of trade is one that not only affects individual African nations and the continent as a whole, but also makes a mockery of the hard honest work and efforts of many Africans employed in the primary sector. Due to the competitive nature of the global market, products from African markets suffer a great deal. This can be attributed to a number of factors, but is mainly because the greater percentage of African products is primary, unprocessed products. As a result, it is essential that African communities and governments work together to establish and develop strong secondary markets and institutions that can process the primary products and make them more competitive on the international market. This will also help control the skyrocketing demand for foreign products in our African communities, and consequently will reflect in the country deficits of African nations. The current trend of unfavorable terms of trade could also be reversed, and the profits of hard honest work realized.

Social rights are strongly related to gender and economic rights. In my opinion an important aspect of social rights that needs to be tackled in our respective African communities is the notion of Civil Rights and Responsibilities. As unfortunate as it is, the level of patriotism and dedication to country and fellow citizens that Africans have seems to be receding. This is most evident amongst the youth who are supposed to be Africa’s future leaders. While advocating for human rights in our respective countries it is important that we remember that the attainment of rights goes hand in hand with the fulfillment of responsibilities. By employing a level of civic responsibility in our deployment of our duties we not only do what needs to be done to achieve our goals but also prepare ourselves to remain steadfast when it would seem that all hope is lost.

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