Nana Konadu Agyeman Rawlings' President of 31st December Wwomen's Movement appeared to be back in the old times yesterday when she pulled all the stops to fend off what she considered to be an assault on assets of the movement by the Finance Minister.
Looking and sounding defiant she called the bluff of Mr. Yaw Osafo Maafo over alleged threats to seize two of the movement' schools amidst a chorus of rejuvenated red bereted DWM women.
Supporters of the movement, spotting their usual red berets and revolutionary T-Shirts, thronged the International Press Center to send a strong signal of resurrection. The women sang praises to Nana Konadu who is President of the 31st DWM and insisted that she address them before leaving.
The former first Lady's press conference was set against the backdrop of signals that the government was planning to seize two vocational and technical training schools, on which the movement was laying claims of ownership Mrs. Rawlings defiantly protested against an alleged directive issued by the Ministry of Finance, instructing the National Vocational and Training Institute (NVTI) to cancel its relationship with the movement in respect of two vocational training schools at Dansoman and Kanda in Accra.
The said directive, which was published exclusively in the Daily Guide last week, indicated also that the government was planning to seize the two schools because they were government properties and chastised the movement for usurping government properties.
But the premier of the 31st DWM, Nana Konadu Agyeman Rawlings said the move by the government was nothing but a continuum of the government's persistent harassment and passion to discredit and collapse the movement because of her personal association with it.
Flanked by Mrs. Cecilia Johnson, General Secretary of the 31st DWM and former deputy Minister for Local Government, Nana Konadu expressed shock at the fact that a government, which saw the need to establish a Women's Ministry, was bent on destroying the 31st DWM, which had a record of helping women around the country.
"I cannot comprehend why the women in the Kufour administration would want to irresponsibly condone the attempt by government to undermine our developmental programmes. Why is Kufour so bent on destroying and discrediting the 31st DWM?" she questioned.
She complained that if President Kufuor's administration had personal scores to settle with her, it was prudent for the government to deal with her rather than derail the developmental programmes of women and children.
"No government or NGO can single-handedly solve all societal problems, therefore NGOs like 31st DWM need all the encouragement to continue rendering service to the society," stressing that, "we are willing to share our knowledge and experience with any one ready to listen," she added.
On the substantive issue of the alleged threats to seize the schools, Nana Konadu said, somewhere in 1989/90, some executive members, including herself and Cecilia Johnson, visited Japan on the invitation of Sasakawa International, an NGO to arrange funds to support the movement in development projects.
She mentioned SESCO, which took interest in the movement's objectives that led to the building of a Daycare Centre at Chorkor, a poor fishing suburb in the Greater Accra Region.
She noted that the Movement continued with its objectives after that of Chorkor and convinced SESCO to fund the building of a vocational school for the movement at Kanda/Nima, which is now the bone of contention.
Explaining further how the movement got involved with the NVTI, she said, "The vocational centre needed technical inputs. We approached various governments through their embassies but they were not in the position to assist at that time. So we approached the Ministry of Education, and the then minister suggested that we contact the NVTI through the Ministry of Employment and Social Welfare."
She continued that, "after extensive discussions with NVTI on the modalities of their technical and training input, we came to an understanding that collaboration with NVTI would entail the provision of centre managers, bring instructors of their choice for the various disciplines to ensure the school maintains the approved standards, to be on the board of directors that would be set up and eventually depart when the movement is ready with its own instructors to run the school."
Nana Konadu stated that the movement had every right to audit the accounts of the centre managers and accompanying staff in relation to all monies taken from students, adding that negotiations and conclusions between the DWM and NVTI were documented.
According to her, since the commencement of the school in 2000, the movement had never received financial reports with regards to school fees and other incomes charged by the school management. She noted that the centre managers had failed to present or submit any form of accounting or audit governing the use of monies they garnered in respect of school fees and other incomes generated by the centre.
It was based on this reason that she said the Movement invited external auditors to audit the accounts for the period of 2000-2004.
With regards to the Dansoman training center, Mrs. Rawlings stressed that the movement, in its vision to give skill training to the youth, took a decision to set up a skill training centre in collaboration with the federation of Chinese women and that it took the movement eight years to conclude negotiations and get funding for the school in addition to their condition.
When asked whether they were getting set to battle government over the two schools, Mrs. Johnson said they hadn't received the letter which seemed to have been published in the media ahead on presentation.