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27.07.2005 Regional News

Conference on women in local governance opens

GNA

Takoradi, July 27,-GNA - Mr. Joshua Magnus Nicol, Administrator of the District Assemblies Common Fund (DACF) has reiterated that loan facilities for poverty alleviation are not gift or "thank you" money as some people assume it to be.

He therefore, reminded beneficiaries who have failed to re-pay such loans to pay up promptly because such loans were not gifts from government.

Mr. Nicol said these at the opening of a three-day National Conference of Women in Local Governance at Takoradi on Wednesday on the theme: "Increasing women's participation in local level decision making."

It is being organised by National Association of Local Authorities of Ghana (NALAG) and the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM), and sponsored by the (DACF) and the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) Mr. Nicol said between 1994 to December 2004, loans totalling 525.508 billion cedis were disbursed for poverty alleviation, and 52 per cent of the beneficiaries were women.

"Statistics from the district assemblies have shown that women re-pay such loans quickly as well as use the funds for productive activities than men beneficiaries males," he noted.

Mr. Nicol said the non-prioritisation of projects, lack of qualified personnel and delays in the release of funds, were some of the challenges confronting the DAFC administrator.

He noted that though the DACF had the greatest impact in rural areas, all the district assemblies should bear in mind that it was only complementary and not a source of income for these assemblies. Mr. Nicol advised the district assemblies to change and revamp their internally generated funds, to boost their own development and reduce their reliance on DACF.

Mrs. Eva Asare-Bediako, Special Assistant to the Minister of Women and Children's Affairs, (MOWAC) said the Ministry would soon establish a women's department to cater solely for women. This has become necessary due to the increasing roles of women and the numerous challenges they face.

Mrs Asare-Bediako said the ministry was also compiling a database on qualified women and would assist them to effectively assume leadership of some local government institutions.

She stressed that achieving women's empowerment, would need the assistance of many stakeholders including civil society, non-governmental agencies and development partners to succeed.

Mrs Asare-Bediako called for the use of local languages, at meetings of the various district assemblies and also the inclusion of women in all sections of the local government structure.

Madam Sophia Horner-Sam, Deputy Western Regional Minister said women should be encouraged to serve in whatever capacity they find themselves, adding that, deprivations suffered in the past by women were partly due to norms and practices which worked against them.

She advised women to change their negative attitudes towards each other and contribute toward the growth of the nation. Madam Horner-Sam said supporting young women to learn trades could reduce poverty levels and assist them to access credit for their businesses.

Mr. Philip K. Nkrumah, Shama Ahanta East Metropolitan (SAEMA) Chief Executive said all assemblies should incorporate gender issues on their main programmes and assist women to achieve targets. He said out of the one billion cedis devoted to poverty alleviation by SAEMA, two-thirds went to women in the form of micro credit. Mr. Kwesi Ameyaw-Cheremeh, General Secretary of NALAG said though the number of women District Chief Executives has increased from six to 11, the figure could still be increased.

He stressed that if the African Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) and the targets of the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) could be achieved, gender balance and equity, must feature prominently through the empowerment of women.

"To achieve this, a consistent and conscious national effort by all stakeholders was required to enable the country to achieve its targets," she stressed.

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