Mahama's keynote speech at the Chinua Achebe Forum | General News 2013-12-14
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General News of Saturday, 14 December 2013

Source: R. Harry Reynolds, Ghana Mission, New York

Mahama's keynote speech at the Chinua Achebe Forum

Please find below a story on President Mahama's keynote speech at the Chinua Achebe Leadership Forum in New York.

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President John Dramani Mahama has urged Africa to address the existing inequalities that affect women in order to achieve accelerated development.

Unless issues like rape, female genital mutilation, high maternal mortality, negative widowhood practices and other gender based violations against women, who constitute more than 50 per cent of the population are addressed, not much can be achieved, he stated.

President Mahama was giving the keynote speech at the inaugural Chinua Achebe Leadership Forum held at the Olin Hall of the Bard College in Annandale-on Hudson, New York. It brought together international leaders, students and thinkers to discuss Africa’s challenge in keeping with Chinua Achebe’s life and work. Originally scheduled for Tuesday, the lecture had to be shifted to Monday to enable him to attend the funeral of President Mandela in South Africa.

Giving a lecture on “Women in Africa: How the Other Half Lives”, the Ghanaian leader commended African women for their huge contributions to the continent’s development, for which they should be supported.

He promised to use every means to ensure that gross inequalities are corrected to ensure that “girls are able to live their lives without any sexual abuse.”

In this direction, President Mahama stressed the need for men to effectively compliment women’s contribution in the society to ensure accelerated progress.

He paid glowing tribute to the well acclaimed writer, Chinua Achebe and Nelson Mandela of South Africa, for their contribution to Africa.

Recalling the deep sense of satisfaction he personally derived from reading Chinua Achebe’s books more than 40 years ago, particularly, Things Fall Apart, President Mahama said it was a right of passage for him and the world around him.

On her part, Mrs. Christie Achebe, widow of Chinua Achebe referred to some of the books written by her husband about true leadership.

In her view, Mandela truly fitted the example of a true leader, which Chinua Achebe talked about in his books because unlike some African leaders who wanted to be life Presidents, Mandela served only one term.

She also praised Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, First President of Ghana for being a nationalist, who showed the way to Africans to follow.

Mrs. Achebe charged President Mahama and other African leaders to take advantage of the examples of Mandela to heart, saying that “the world looks up to you for this to be done”

Prof. Abena Busia, Chair of the Department of Women and Gender Studies, Rutgers University, read some poetry as part of the function, which was preceded with splendid cultural performance by the Sankofa Group led by Kofi Donkor.

At a round table conference on the Role of Women in the Development and Democratization of Africa, Nana Oye Lithur, Ghana’s Minister of Gender, Children and Social Protection, gave an account of measures that had been taken in Ghana to support women and to ensure that girls stayed in school and avoid teenage pregnancies.

Apart from generally improving the education of girls, the Minister said the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) had played an important role in women’s upliftment.

She stressed the need to cut the huge maternal mortality figures and improve the representation of African women in leadership positions. She took the opportunity to praise President Mahama for support women and giving them chance to contribute their quota in governance.

Amini Kajunju, President of the African-American Institute, harped on the need to enforce education of people, especially women, and to tell the success story of African women working very hard to uphold their dignity, apart from taking care of themselves and their families.

She condemned false negative stories about Africa in some Western Media based on false statistics to create a certain negative mind-set about the continent, without doing basic checks on stories.

Amini Kajunju spoke against spending all the resources to educate only girls, saying every effort must be made to educate boys too in order not to shift the problem of the imbalance in education adding that “Every African child should be given the necessary education and allowed to become whatever he or she wants to be in future”.

In his discussion, Prof. Peter Rosenblum, Professor of International Law and Human Rights, Bard College, touted Ghana’s success story based on her democratic credentials, free press, strengthened institutions and said Ghana was lucky not to have found oil earlier.

He asked that Ghana’s oil revenue should be used to support the development of her citizens, especially farmers.

In his contribution, Mr. Chidi Achebe, quoting his father, Chinua Achebe, described President Mahama as one of the greatest hopes of Africa.

The lecture which attracted international leaders and students, academics and thinkers, looked at the challenges in keeping the links of Achebe and Mandela alive.