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19.11.2008 Elections

Women throw weight behind Akufo-Addo On Mmaa Nkomo programme, Nana Akufo-Addo Engages Women Voters on Access to Credit, Security, Making Woman-owned SMEs the Foundation of Ghana's Economy, and Women's Legal Rights

By The Statesman

On Sunday, November 16, Nana Akufo-Addo, the flagbearer of the NPP, engaged with a small forum of women voters during the taping of an episode of Mmaa Nkomo , hosted by Madame Efia Ansaa Ampene.

Women came from all over Greater Accra and beyond to participate in the forum, some arriving as early as nine hours in advance to assure themselves of a seat.

Women from all walks of life—including representatives of the Greater Accra Market Women's Association, church groups, and an association in support of the disabled—asked the candidate tough questions on issues important to women and families.

 They asked about education, healthcare, access to credit, security, and expanded legal rights for women.

Nana Akufo-Addo"s responses to these questions, which focused on strengthening women's rights, empowering women in Ghana"s economy, and providing free secondary education for all Ghanaian children brought long rounds of applause from the audience.

The host opened the programme by asking Akufo-Addo about his life as a family-man and the father of five daughters.

 The candidate responded with all the joy of a proud father, and said that watching his daughters grow up has made him think about how the new Ghana must give women equal access to Ghana's opportunity and prosperity.

The candidate listened to the concerns and suggestions of the women at the forum and promised concrete deliverables to address these concerns during his first term in office, if he is elected.

On strengthening women's roles in the economy, Akufo-Addo pointed out that in many strong economies, small and medium-sized enterprises comprise more than 60% of jobs nationwide.

 Women already play a vital role in SMEs in Ghana, he said, but they are prevented from expanding this role because they cannot access the credit they need to grow these businesses and they often do not have the necessary technical capacity to qualify for the loans.

 To address these concerns, Akufo-Addo promised to establish a $1 billion SME fund with favourable lending policies towards women-owned businesses, as well as provide major technical assistance programs for women to give them the training they need to bridge this gap.

When asked whether he would take serious steps to advance the Women's Manifesto and legal rights for women, Akufo-Addo responded: "Women's rights are human rights, and I have fought my whole life for human rights, so I don't have a problem supporting these vital initiatives.'

He emphasised the need to encourage lawmakers to take up and pass the Domestic Violence Act, the Human Trafficking Act, the Disabilities Act, the Act to Establish Women's Rights in Marriage, and other key laws relating to protecting the rights of women in short order.

He promised this would be a central goal of his administration.

In response to concerns about security in Accra, the candidate discussed his plan to double the size of the police force to 50,000 and improve salaries and training for police officers; this will drastically enhance the quality of security and protect all of Ghana's citizens.

He also promised to deploy an "army' of sanitation workers to clean up Ghana's cities and lay the foundation for a major program of urban renewal to make all of Ghana's cities more livable and beautiful. A key focus of this effort would be improving the conditions of markets.

Following the forum, women rushed to shake Nana Akufo-Addo's hand and thanked him for listening to their views and answering their concerns. 'He is the first candidate to come and talk to us,' said one market woman, 'and he is the first to care what we have to say.'

Mmaa Nkomo with Nana Akufo-Addo will air on Tuesday on GTV at 8:00 pm, and TV Africa at 9:00 pm. On Tuesday morning at 9:00 am, Akufo-Addo will deliver a brief statement on women's rights to the fishmongers