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16.04.2005 Regional News

CHRAJ arbitrates in 717 cases in Upper West since 2000

By GNA

Wa, April 16, GNA - The Upper West Regional office of the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice handled 717 cases brought before it by mostly women for arbitration in the last four years.

Out of this number of cases, which were often customary in nature, 529 were resolved while about 188 were pending, Mr Robert Tater, the Regional Director of the commission said at Wa on Thursday. He was briefing the Danish Minister for Development Cooperation, Mrs., Ulla Toernaes when she called at the offices of the commission to get first hand knowledge of the activities of CHRAJ, during her one-day visit to the region.

The Danish International Development Agency (DANIDA) has since 1999 being one of the main sponsors of the commission in its capacity building and community based educational programmes.

Mr Tater said most of the cases handled by his outfit comprised, neglect of maintenance of children and spouses, allegations of witchcraft involving elderly women, denial of right of widows to a share of late husband's property and elopement of young girls for marriage. Mrs., Toernaes welcomed the commission's human rights education programmes in the communities, saying when people were well educated on them, they would be in the position to appreciate the work of the commission.

Mr Duke Hammond, Director of Finance and Administration of CHRAJ, said the lack of financial autonomy for the commission had been adversely affecting the effective performance of its constitutional functions.

Despite that handicap, he said CHRAJ had since its inception, proved that it was not being driven by the executive arm of government. He noted that people were reluctant to report abuse of human rights to the commission due to their total lack of education on them. Realizing, therefore, that education on human rights should begin from basic schools, he said, CHRAJ had prepared manuals on the subject and tested it on Teacher Trainees in the Training colleges and there was a move to extend the test to 400 teachers in the classroom. Mr Ambrose Dery, the Upper West Regional Minister called for a multi-sectoral involvement of organizations like the Ministry of Health in education programmes, to wipe out allegations of witchcraft in the communities

He said most of the old ladies who were often accused of being witches, lacked the capacity to ventilate their rights even if they were aware of them.

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