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19.10.2007 Politics

Market queen roots for Alan

By Ghanaian Observer

The longest-serving queen on the nation's premier market, Makola, Madam Juliana Adjoa Mensah, has called on New Patriotic Party (NPP) delegates voting in the December 22 Congress to give the mandate to former Trade Minister Alan Kyerematen.

The billionaire tomato queen has also appealed to fellow women, particularly traders at the various markets and others in economic activities nation-wide, to support Alan Kyerematen's bid to lead the nation as President.

Madam Mensah, was speaking to the Ghanaian Observer at her Nungua residence where she had invited the paper to share with the public her opinions and sentiments on the economy and trade, and the compelling need for government to put women in the forefront of its agenda to make practical efforts at getting the informal sector play its true role as the engine of economic growth.

She told the paper, "I have lived through generations of governments and various political administrations ... For half a century now, I have been engaged in business as a vegetable trader - from the grass-roots - to the very position I hold as leader at the market... No politician or government official has approached us to share our concerns and inspire us in our efforts to contribute our quota to the economy ..."

Continuing she said "We have hit the front pages of various newspapers for all sorts of reasons, particularly the intrigues in the tomato trade and risks ordinary women go through to import tomatoes down to the various trading centres for national consumption ... No one has taken notice of our plight or seen the need to put in place interventionist measures to facilitate our economic activities, save Alan Kyerematen ..."

She recalled that within the few months that Alan assumed his position as Trade Minister, he was humble enough to come to them and have a chat with them. Alan, she added, assisted them by donating a PC and seed money to the traders to facilitate their administrative work.

"It was not heaven that he offered us, but we appreciated that humble gesture and the simple interaction, because it is only the leader with a vision who is sensitive to women's issues, and would put out a finger to help them."

Cited for deep and insightful economic sense and tactical trade chess moves among tomato traders throughout the West African sub-region, Madam Mensah told the Ghanaian Observer that, though women on the market had vowed never to follow politicians and their activities wholesale because they have always 'used' them for all sorts of political activities, without giving them the due recognition or assistance they needed by way of simple facilitation of their trading activities, she would recommend Alan to every delegate and voter in this country, because he has proven that he has women at the core of his programmes as a leader.

The tomato Queen however says she has a gripe with government, particularly the Accra Metropolitan Assembly (AMA). Accord¬ing to her, the tendency of government officials to ignore them or see them as pushovers in decision-making processes at the market is becoming intolerable and frustrating.

"It is becoming intolerable and frustrating, because most of us are self made and know what we are about ... Some of us women are what we are without bank or government support, like some of the big men in tie, who parasite on our scarce resources by taking loans and refusing to pay ... Some of us are people of substance in our own rights, who have natural experience in business and life and who therefore must be consulted on issues," she demanded, citing a recent case where a multi-billion-cedi project is reportedly getting off the ground at the Tudu Terminal, and arguing that whilst there are possibilities that traders will be relocated, the AMA has not seen it fit to discuss the issue with them or even formally inform them because of the emotional, economic and psychological stress the decision will put on the over 1000 traders.

"When you have this kind of attitude on the part of government, then all you are calling for is a revolt... The perception that women on the market are crazy and so should be ignored ought to give way to a more sane one, because some of us have children who are doctors and lawyers - all from simple trading activities that we have been engaged in for the past half-century," Madam Mensah said.

Out-doored as the Queen of the Makola Market by the Mayor of Accra in 1970, she has led the women on the Accra Markets in various developmental projects, including rehabilitating from their own resources, a badly rundown and mismanaged AMA toilet facility, which is now back in the hands of the AMA, after a feud on the part of the two leading political parties at the market over who to run it on the assumption of office by the NPP.