Delegates attending the two-week 51st session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) at the United Nations (UN) headquarters in New York have applauded Ghana for the passage of the Domestic Violence Bill.
Minister of Women and Children's Affairs, Hajia Alima Mahama, announced the passage of the law in her statement at a high-level interactive round-table meeting where member states focused on experiences, lessons learned and good practices in relation to the previous commitments affecting the situation of women or equality between women and men.
The CSW, which organises the annual event, was established by the UN Economic and Social Council as a follow-up to the Fourth World Conference on Women and to the 23rd Special Session of the General Assembly, entitled "Women 2000: Gender equality, development and peace for the twenty-first century".
This year, the priority theme was "elimination of all forms of violence and discrimination against the girl-child".
Hajia Mahama also announced that Ghana was celebrating its 50th anniversary of independence, whilst proudly waving miniature Ghanaian flags, together with Mrs Gifty Ohene-Konadu, Deputy Minister of Trade and Industry, and Ms Esther Obeng Dapaah, Member of Parliament for Abirem, to the admiration of delegates.
"I come to the CSW 51st meeting with great news. After years of extensive consultations with all segments of the Ghanaian society, the Parliament of Ghana on Wednesday, February 21, 2007, passed the Domestic Violence Bill into Law, marking yet another milestone in our commitment to human rights and specifically the rights of women."
In this connection, she said, the Ministry of Women and Children's Affairs would initiate the process to develop a comprehensive action plan towards eliminating gender-based violence in the county.
She emphasised that Ghana was identified with the assertion that achieving the millennium development goals for women and children, particularly girls, was contingent upon women's empowerment, gender equality, inter alia.
"To this end, the government has put in place policies and programmes, legal frameworks and other measures to protect children, especially the girl, child from sexual exploitation and abuse and from harmful cultural practices that militate against their development,” the minister added.
In addition, special social protection strategies, including community-based rehabilitation programmes, child rights protection programmes and juvenile justice administration programmes are being implemented with the aim of providing support to the most vulnerable and excluded groups in society, she said.
Hajia Mahama reiterated that the Government of Ghana was increasingly creating a conducive environment that did not tolerate violations of the rights of women and children, especially the girl-child, adding that this was being done with the strong collaboration and support of civil society organisations.
She elaborated that since the World Summit for children in 1990, and the 10-year review of implementation of Beijing Platform for Action, Ghana had placed the survival, development and protection of the girl-child on the national agenda and had accelerated action towards this end.
The minister mentioned some of the actions as the establishment of the Girls Education Directorate to promote and enhance access of girls to equal opportunity in education and the establishment of a Domestic Violence and Victim Support Unit with branches throughout the country which had generated a lot of data on violence against girls and women and consequent prosecutions.
Hajia Mahama further spoke about the measures that the Ministry of Women and Children's Affairs took to address women and children's issues. These include strengthening the policy of implementing departments of women and children to contribute meaningfully to issues concerning women and children.
The ministry, she said, was improving the socio-economic status of women and children through law reforms and economic empowerment initiatives such as the Women Development Fund and micro-credit schemes.
Gender and children's issues which are being 'mainstreamed' into the development and planning process to ensure equity and equality and the rights of women and children are being promoted through advocacy, legislations and sensitisation programmes.
Other achievements that Hajia Mahama mentioned were the passage of a law on human trafficking which was being implemented with the collaboration of key sectors.
She said An early childhood care policy and guidelines on orphans and other children made vulnerable by HIV/AIDS have been developed and were being implemented.
The minister said sectors such as health, education, youth and employment were making strenuous efforts to improve coverage of basic services to children and women. "while Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission of HIV/AIDS is an integral part of ante-natal and post-natal health care delivery programme.
Touching on the educational sector, Hajia Mahama said reforms in the educational system and the introduction of the Capitation Grant had resulted in an improved access to education in terms of school enrolment and attendance for girls.
She said the Capitation Grant, especially, had resulted in an increase of 18.3 per cent in school enrolment for girls and 15 per cent increase for boys for 2005/2006.
Other measures enumerated by the minister were the provision of on-site school feeding and food ration for girls, provision of bicycles for girls in rural communities who commuted long distances between home and school, and free bus service for schoolchildren.
Story by Rosemary Ardayfio