Tamale, Oct. 1, GNA - Mrs Janet Adama Mohammed, Director of the Northern Sector of the Christiana Council of Ghana, has observed that the politicisation of development at the district level destroy the impact poverty alleviation programmes should have on vulnerable people. "Politicisation of development does not allow the decision-making bodies to consider the poor, vulnerable and socially excluded as target groups but rather make reference to their electorate as supporters and followers who should benefit in their ruling time". Mrs Mohammed made the observation at a Consultative Meeting of the Tamale Ecclesiastical Provincial Pastoral Council (TEPPCON) Commission for the Promotion of the Dignity of Women, in Tamale on Saturday. The forum discussed social, economic, political and cultural issues that affected women in Northern Ghana with the view of coming out with a strategic plan to address them.
She said the justification for accelerated action on the protection and promotion of human rights through the initiation of rights based development processes was to foster human centred development to cover gender and the vulnerable.
It was therefore wrong for some people to make pronouncement such as "this our government and it is our time to benefit", she said, adding that "Do vulnerable groups have a government and time". Mrs Mohammed noted that the maintenance of social justice, equity and equality in opportunities and access to income, health, education and employment should be taken seriously to reduce poverty. "It is for this and other reasons that good governance, respect for the rule of law, democracy, gender mainstreaming, decentralisation and accountability of the state to the people at all levels of inclusiveness is not only important but also critical", she said. "We would fail to justify the principles and task of accountability of the state and its institutions to meet the needs and aspirations of the people if we are in a situation where the rich gets richer at the expense of the poor and men get more powerful at the expense of women and widening the disparity in relationships, job placements and income levels", She added.
Mrs Mohammed called on civil society organisations to consider the gender disparity and vulnerability issues, especially in Northern Ghana at the constituency level during the 2008 electioneering. "It is important to empower constituencies to raise gender disparity and vulnerability problems with politicians, negotiate possible solutions and hold them accountable for their promises", adding, "this is the only way we can achieve a holistic development for our people and ourselves".
Mrs Mohammed said gender disparity must be tackled at all levels as a matter of necessity if sustainable development should be the goal of any level of governance be it national or local. She said the participation of the poor and vulnerable at the district and local levels was very low and stated that this group of people had negligible control over the outcomes in the democratisation process and development in general.
Mrs Mohammed noted that there were strong traditional perceptions about women in some communities, which tended to affect their participation in socio-economic development, especially in governance, planning and other forms of decision-making.
"In Northern Ghana, there are several and common phenomena, which affect the development of women and these include witchcraft, female genital mutilation, early marriages, betrothal systems, widowhood rites with its related inheritable systems, high female literacy rates and low or inadequate female reproductive health rights", she said. Mrs Mohammed said it was common knowledge that women in Northern Ghana bore the brunt of poverty and benefit the least from the wealth they created for their families and blamed it on traditional roles assigned to them by men, describing them as "room owners and not house owners".
"The implication is that women in the North, especially those in the rural areas are the poorest of the poor in the country. They are the desperately poor or the hardcore poor with virtually no status in society. Yet they constitute the main productive force of the population", she noted.
"The situation in the North is clearly a problem of ownership of resources, the use of the resources and the appropriation of benefits". She stated.
The Reverend Father Christopher Bazaanah, Vicar General of the Tamale Archdiocese of the Catholic Church, appealed to members of the Commission to avoid threats and to humble themselves and respect the good values of tradition in their quest to liberate rural women whose voice and plight had not been listened to.
He advised women to avoid copying western cultures, saying, while they have choices to make we do not have them, adding, "don't throw away the good cultural values in our traditional set up unless you are very positive of the good sides of the values you are adding to yourselves". Father Bazaanah stated that empowering women would mean the empowerment of all segment of society and called on policy makers and other stakeholders to involve women in the decision making process and to commit resources towards reducing poverty among women.