THE first of three dialogues to explore the difficulty of women in accessing justice within a plural legal system in the country and ways to address such challenges, opened in Accra yesterday.
Organised by Women in Law and Development in Africa (WILDAF), in collaboration with the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice and the Federation of Women Lawyers, the dialogues will critically examine a number of concerns within the legal system.
In an address read on her behalf to open the dialogue, the Chief Justice, Mrs Georgina Theodora Wood, underscored the need for women to be informed about their rights, responsibilities and obligations in society since that is the only way they can enforce their rights.
'When women are fully equipped with knowledge of their rights and responsibilities as well as their duties and obligations, they can seek for redress whenever any of their rights is violated,' she stated.
Mrs Wood also urged women to access the court’s Alternative Dispute Resolution Mechanism in seeking redress which, she explained, is 'very informal' and timely.
She highlighted the significance of empowering women economically, saying that, it would enable them to stand firm and insist on their rights.
The Chief Justice noted that a strong, transparent justice delivery system is essential to affording women access to justice since the courts are to enforce the rights of persons and thus give meaning to the various pieces of legislation.
Since that requires capacity building, Mrs.Wood said that, the judicial service has embarked on an extensive programme to reform and modernise the judicial system, saying 'continuing judicial training programmes have been put in place for all levels of the judiciary.'
In spite of the strides made in the system, there is a myriad of problems, which are cultural, economic and educational which must be pulled down.
She said that it is important that the courts, in the adjudication of matters concerning women, should let the basic rights enshrined in the various documents that Ghana has acceded to, reflect in their decisions.
Dr Nii Moi Thompson, Executive Director of Development Policy Institute, said Ghana’s Vision 2020 contained important and interesting proposals for improving the welfare of women and enhancing their access to justice.
He said the authors of the document had a fairly good idea of the nature of the challenges faced by women in Ghana and how best to address them, but unfortunately 'we missed the opportunity to see how those otherwise lofty proposals would have impacted on the lot of women in Ghana.'
'It appears that even in its grave, Vision 2020 continues to shape the direction of public policy on women in Ghana,' he said.
He said the denigration of women in whatever form must be the concern and collective responsibility of all Ghanaians, saying 'after all, weren’t we each born of a woman?'
The Deputy Minister of Women and Children’s Affairs, Daniel Dugan, noted that Ghana has since independence made enormous progress in the introduction of legislations to protect and advance women’s rights.
That notwithstanding, he said that a lot remained to be done to educate Ghanaians on these legislations to ensure their enforcement.
He said that within the difficult socio-economic and financial constraints, it has still been possible to create the legal environment to enhance the status of women in Ghana.