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General News of Wednesday, 3 May 2017

Source: Graphic.com.gh

First Lady dialogues with traditional leaders

The First Lady, Mrs Rebecca Akufo-Addo, has appealed to traditional leaders in the Central Region to help address alarming rates of reported teenage pregnancy cases in the area, in support of her women and girls’ empowerment initiative.

She expressed worry over the high prevalence of teenage pregnancy and low rates of girl-child education in the area, which she said had been brought to her attention.

However, she was of the opinion that addressing the menace would require the collaboration of major stakeholders such as the traditional leaders because they commanded so much respect in the traditional areas and were the custodians of tradition; as well as parents, teachers and the girls.

Mrs Akufo-Addo made the appeal when she hosted 50 traditional leaders, comprising chiefs and queenmothers from the Central Region, at her office in Accra yesterday.

The meeting formed part of the First Lady’s initiative to dialogue with women, women groups and other stakeholders frequently to discuss how to make the lives of women and children better.

She said her women and girl empowerment initiative sought to, among other initiatives, boost girl-child and sex education as part of the measures to address issues affecting girls.

“I will dialogue with key stakeholders to enable my office to facilitate the removal of all issues that undermine girl-child education and prevent girls from maximising their potentials,” she said.

Situation in Central Region

The 2015 Ghana Health Service Report indicates that teenage pregnancy continues to be a major problem facing adolescents, parents and other stakeholders in the Central Region and the battle against the menace rages on.

The Central Region had for the past three years been consistently ranked as the region with the second highest prevalence rate in teenage pregnancy in Ghana.

The report for 2015 indicates that more than 13,000 teenage girls got pregnant in the Central Region in the year under review.

Teenage pregnancy prevalence reduced from 15 per cent in 2013 to 14.8 per cent in 2014 and now stands at 14.4 per cent due to some measures and strategies put in place by stakeholders.

Other issues the First Lady said she would help address included girl-child molestation in schools, early and forced marriages, school drop-out, female genital mutilation, among other challenges of girls.

On women empowerment, Mrs Akufo-Addo said she would support women to improve their livelihoods and promised to facilitate the betterment of all women, regardless of their political affiliation and, therefore, appealed to women to support her in her endeavours.

Capital for women

Mrs Akufo-Addo said as part of her support, she would facilitate and ensure that women’s groups had access to loans from the Microfinance and Small Loans Centre (MASLOC) to enhance their livelihood.

She also assured the women that she would be a strong advocate for the incorporation of gender issues, women rights and gender equality in government.

“Women empowerment is a major tool to drive every country’s development agenda and that is more phenomenal in Ghana, as women form the greater part of the country’s population,” she said.

She expressed gratitude for their presence and encouraged them to actively participate in community activities that sought to empower women.

She also commended women for their dedication and immense contribution to the socio-economic development of the country.

Making a contribution on behalf of the traditional leaders, the Chief of Enyan Denkyira, Nana Oseadeaye Ayeboafo Attuafful, pledged their support for the First Lady’s women and girls empowerment initiatives and commended her for making women and girls a priority.

Traditional leaders’ remarks

Presenting some issues affecting the region which needed her attention, Nana Attuafful said the poverty rate in the region was very high, which needed the attention of all stakeholders, especially the government.

He attributed poverty in the area largely to low access to secondary education because parents could not afford it.

“We are optimistic that with the start of the free senior high school education promised by the President, more children in the area will have access to higher education to help alleviate the poverty situation in the area,” he stated.

The Omanhene of Eyan Abaasa, Osagyefo Kwame Akonu, pledged their support for the government’s decision to end illegal mining, popularly known as ‘galamsey’, without compromise.

“We know it’s a very daring stand the government has taken, but please tell your husband that it is a worthy cause and we will support him all the way,” he said.

In his contribution, the Minister of Chieftaincy and Religious Affairs, Mr Kofi Dzamesi, said although the government would not interfere with chieftaincy issues, it would do all it could and within its mandate to ensure unity among royal families for national development.

He said the government would also work within its mandate to support traditional leaders to be economically productive to facilitate development in their respective areas.