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Crime & Punishment of Thursday, 7 June 2007

Source: GNA

Mensa-Bonsu regrets lack of lobbying by women during NRC

Accra, June 7, GNA - A member of the National Reconciliation Commission (NRC) on Thursday expressed disappointment over the lack of lobbying by women activists in championing gender issues during nation's reconciliatory process.

Professor Henrietta Mensa-Bonsu, Dean of the Faculty of Law, University of Ghana, Legon, noted that women activist groups did not show enough concern during the NRC's work.

"Women should strike when the iron is hot; we should not wait until the iron is cold, this could make your work difficult," she said. Speaking on topic: "Gender, Justice and Reconciliation: Lessons from Ghana's NRC" in Accra, Professor Mensa-Bonsu stressed the need for civil society groups to forge linkages and work on the recommendations made by the NRC.

The workshop brought together gender practitioners and scholars working in the fields of human rights, transitional justice and peace building.

It highlighted achievements, deficits, strategies and effective ways to enhance civil society in the process of transitional justice and reconciliation to achieve desired outcomes. Prof. Mensa-Bonsu said the NRC was set in January 2002 to look into human rights violations, physical abuse, seizure of property and provide hope to victims, among others.

She said women who were mainly breadwinners and spouses were subjected to torture, sexual abuse and displacement, and were detained in cells together male counterparts with little hygienic conditions. "In all these, the NRC treated all persons equally, since in democracy nobody is treated as super citizen." Professor Mensa-Bonsa expressed regret that most women who were abused sexually declined to tell their story to the Commission for fear of being stigmatised and marginalised.

She said in Tamale for example, it was rumoured that women who testified before the Commission would be intimidated if the government was dethroned adding, "Through a radio announcement we managed to get some to testify before the Commission."

The Dean said one of the challenges of the NRC was the leakage of the executive summary of the NRC report.

According to her, there was the need to set up trauma counselling in some communities in order to reduce the increasing violence. "We are experiencing violence nowadays as a result of the posttraumatic stress," she added.

Giving an overview on Gender and Transitional Justice in Ghana, Ms Nansata Saliah Yakubu, a Transitional Justice Fellow, said 95 per cent of women did not report abuses for fear of stigmatisation. Ms Yakubu identified banishment of women branded as witches, use of maid servants and practice of female genital mutilation, killing of women for infidelity as some of severe human rights abuses. She said some women also feared to report such issues because there were inadequate legal mechanisms.

She therefore called for the harmonisation of laws and review of legal framework and literacy programmes that would bring issues affecting them to the fore. Dr Audrey Gadzekpo, Senior Lecturer, School of Communication Studies, Legon noted the media lacked gender lenses in reporting gender issues.

Speaking on the Role of Media in Addressing the Concerns of Women in Time of Conflict, she said issues on abuses of women received less media coverage as compared to that of celebrities. "According to the Global Media Monitoring Report, the trend in gender coverage showed that only 17 per cent of women are attributed as news sources," she said.

The workshop was organised by the Centre for Democratic Development (CDD-Ghana) in collaboration with Co-existence International, a non-governmental organisation in the United States of America.

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