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Feature Article of Thursday, 3 May 2012

Columnist: Rivette, Brian

Ghana Needs a Doctor to Heal the Country

Every day, news of more violent clashes between the NDC and NPP parties unfolds in Ghana. The Biometric Voter Registration Exercise has resulted in widespread violence across the country. Both political parties admit that if the security agencies and other stakeholders do not arrest the situation soon, it could lead to disruptions in the general elections on the seventh of December. These elections promise to be fiercely contested and possibly one of the most turbulent in Ghana's history. The nation is in pain.

In the Ledzokuku constituency, one doctor is bravely standing up for her country and her beliefs.

Dr. Gladys Ashitey was elected to parliament in 2004 and served as Deputy Minister of Health from 2005-2008. After she left in 2009, to pursue higher education, the health sector and the general economic conditions in Ghana have faced increasing challenges. The citizenry are complaining of the harsh economic conditions under the current government. The Health Insurance Scheme, introduced by the previous government, is under threat of collapse.

"My people made a mistake. The current government is hurting us. We need the leadership of Dr. Ashitey. She must run and she must win," said a chief in Ghana last fall.

Dr. Ashitey saw the suffering of her people - and she is running for a seat in Parliament once again.

In 1987, after studying in the United States, Dr. Ashitey completed her medical degree. "She could have stayed and made a lot of money, but she returned to Ghana to work for her country," said Freda, a Ghanaian citizen who has lived in the U.S. for the last 10 years. Upon returning to Ghana in the late 1980s, Dr. Ashitey treated patients in her hometown of Teshie and surrounding areas. Later, she was appointed as a senior medical officer at Korle-Bu hospital. People saw her compassion. They saw how much she cared for them and how she would tirelessly champion the ideas in which she believed.

In 2011, Dr. Ashitey completed a Master's degree in Public Health from the University of Utah in the US. Armed both with a better knowledge of community health issues and significant experience in government, she plans to change the desperate situation that has developed in her absence.

Dr. Ashitey believes that improvements in education, economic empowerment and health are needed to heal Ghana's recent suffering: "I will build human capital through training and creating skills. For example, when I was in office, we created the Health Training Institution to motivate youth to learn new skills. Living here, but having traveled all over the world, I know what standards should be for our country," she said.

At the end of last year, friends in the United States who were impressed with her passion created a website called AshiteyForParliament.com to spread the word about her views and to support her campaign. The website has now been seen by people from all over the world, including the United Kingdom, Ireland, France and, of course, Ghana and the United States. The site is collecting donations to Dr. Ashitey's campaign.

In particular, people who have left Ghana and become successful in other parts of the world have shown that they want to support her. "Dr. Ashitey is one of a kind. When she was in the US, she would put her country first - she wouldn't put her party first," said Edward, who holds dual citizenship in Ghana and his current home in the U.S. "She is selfless. Anything that would benefit Ghana, she will do."

And she has connections. "If there is one thing I know, I know how to lobby for what I believe," said Dr. Ashitey. "I have friends who will team up with me: doctors, nurses, pharmacists, education professionals in Ghana, as well as allies in other countries. All of them will help me as I help my country."

Over the next few months, in a series of articles, we will profile the challenges and achievements of Dr. Ashitey's campaign.

Now is the time for Dr. Gladys Ashitey to help heal Ghana

Source: Brian Rivette

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