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17.11.2005 General News

Gender mainstreaming is collective responsibility - Alima

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Accra, Nov. 17, GNA - Hajia Alima Mahama, Minister of Women and Children Affairs, on Thursday called on Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs), civil society and corporate bodies to be committed to the national effort at gender mainstreaming to enable Ghana to achieve gender equality by 2015.

"Gender mainstreaming is not the responsibility of the few institutions that have been assigned to coordinate activities towards women empowerment. It is a collective responsibility, which demands the attention and effort of all government and private institutions," she said.

Hajia Mahama made the call at the launch of the 2005 State of the World Population Report under the theme: "Promise of Equity: Gender Equality, Reproductive Health and the Millennium Development." The 119-page report put together by the United Nations Population Fund and its partners, focuses on how to fulfil promises made in previous reports regarding gender equality and human rights, among other things, instead of making additional promises.

In line with what Hajia Mahama proposed, the report noted that involving socially prominent individuals, including religious leaders, political leaders and institutional heads and others, was crucial in changing social norms.

Hajia Mahama said the Ministry of Women and Children Affairs (MOWA), Ghana AIDS Commission and civil society organisations involved in gender mainstreaming could only coordinate efforts and actions at achieving gender equality.

"As a nation, we have a target to achieve gender equality by 2015 as stated in the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and this could only be achieved when all institutions - state and private - make it a point to address issues of gender mainstreaming practically," she said. In that regard, she said, civil servants needed to be adequately sensitised about gender issues for them to assist Ministers of State to embark on gender mainstreaming activities.

She observed that the recommendations of the report used terms such as "strategic investment, prices, dividend" among other words, which were indicative of the business-like and multi-sectoral approach needed to resolve gender issues.

She said in order for the MDGs' target to be met in Ghana and other developing countries, legislation on gender equality should be informed by best practices in order make actions guided by legislations to yield the required results.

Hajia Mahama noted that in spite of the heavy responsibility on the State to make gender equality a reality, "we have come a long way in ensuring some level of women empowerment and we need to celebrate our achievements and use them as stepping stones to reach high targets". The Minister observed that in the past cultural and social rights remained documentary issues even in the international community but now they were being discussed globally and that gave hope to women that the future was bright.

Ms Sheila Ampandu-Boateng from the Ark Foundation, women's rights NGO, said she was concerned that developing countries had not internalised the various conventions and protocols on gender equality that resulted from the several international conferences.

She called attention to the debate to the Domestic Violence Bill in Parliament, saying that the comments about women's rights to determine when, where, how and with whom to have sex was indicative of gross unwillingness of politicians to support gender equality.

Ms Esther Ofei-Aboagye, Director of the Local Government Institute, noted that Ghana and the international community were not short of laws and policies on gender equality but lacked the will to enforce and implement those provisions.

"This year's State of the World Population Report is a reality check on the promises made in the existing laws and policies and that is why we must all commit ourselves to it if we are serious about gender equality," she said.

Mr Makane Kane, UN Population Fund Representative in Ghana, noted that this year's report promised to make poverty history by 2015 in accordance with the MDGs.

"But we need to recognize that World Leaders will not make poverty history until they make gender discrimination history. We cannot make poverty history until we stop violence against women and girls. We cannot make poverty history until women enjoy that full social, cultural, economic and political rights," he said.

An overview of the report showed that it discussed nine broad topics including strategic investment: the equality dividend, the promise of human rights and reproductive health.

Other topics were adolescence, poverty and gender, partnering with boys and men, gender-based violence, women and young people in humanitarian crises and the road map to the MDGs and beyond. The report noted that with regard to girls' education, 21 countries were on the path to missing the MGD target for eliminating gender disparity in primary education while 27 countries would miss the target on secondary education.

It also noted that 250 million years of life were lost worldwide every year as a result of reproductive health problems and women are the obvious victims of this problem.

The report said though rural women produced 60 per cent to 80 per cent of food, they earned 77 cents between 73 cents of every dollar men earned in developed and developing country. "Women's participation in political decision-making is very restricted, slow and has an uneven progress. Women hold 16 per cent of parliamentary seats globally, up by less than four per cent since 1990. Only 19 countries have met the 30 per cent target set by the UN," the report said.

The report noted that about half of 40 million people living with HIV/AIDS were women, saying that 57 per cent and 49 per cent, respectively, of all people living with HIV in Africa and Caribbean are women and 77 per cent of all HIV positive women are Africans. Emeritus Professor Nana Araba Apt, who presided, cautioned that year 2015 was just around the corner and gender equality, which was a prerequisite to making poverty history, was far from being achieved. "We need to follow up constantly on promises and recommendations if we are serious about achieving the MDGs," she said.