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Opinions of Sunday, 16 January 2011

Columnist: Kuyini, Ahmed Bawa

ActionAid-Ghana: An icon in the fight against social exclusion

ActionAid Ghana is an icon in the fight against social exclusion in Ghana. Although there are currently numerous NGOs working in Ghana to alleviate the ills of poverty and marginalisation, this writer contends that ActionAid Ghana stands tall as a pedestal in this charity and transformative development landscape.
My assessment of ActionAid’s activities is certainly an outsider evaluation devoid of the grateful testimonials that accompany the assessments of people who work for the organisation. As an educationist and social worker (with experience in schools, community organisations and academia), I have been interested in the many projects funded and collaboratively executed by ActionAid-Ghana and its partners especially in northern Ghana. It has become clear to me that the organisation works and delivers services in a very collaborative, transparent and accountable manner. And I have noted the obvious and latent positive impact of these projects on individuals and communities.
ActionAid-Ghana supports a range of programs including education, women’s economic empowerment, community participation, etc. As a not-for-profit organisation, ActionAid has rendered or executed these services with true local partner involvement and therefore helped to build capacity in various remote communities. I just want to briefly highlight the organisation’s contribution to education and the empowerment of vulnerable groups.
Experts who have expressed reservation at the ability of the neoliberal –driven globalization agenda to emancipate the poorer peoples of the world from poverty, have advocated for a focus on social investment in human capital and this is what ActionAid has done in Ghana with some distinction.
In education, Actionaid’s programs have targeted children's right to education and related issues such as access, quality, etc. This effort, which is fundamentally a purposive social investment in human resource development in the poorest areas, not only helps Ghana achieve her Millennium Development and Education For All goals, but also provides an enduring vehicle for positive social change. By investing in education, ActionAid is helping individuals and governments at various levels in Ghana to move beyond redistributive and consumption-based social welfare to a focus on both articulating rights and enhancing people’s capacity to participate. In this sense, ActionAid is leading the way towards ensuring that there is an emphasis on equality of opportunity. No doubt it is proactively helping to eliminate the structural barriers that continue to create social exclusion through an extreme essentialisation of meritocracy.

In Ghana social exclusion is also witnessed and experienced as a gendered phenomenon. With a male-female ration of about 49 -52% one would have expected that more women would be involved in education, employment and political participation. However, female participation in all of these domains is lower than that of males. Thus exclusion is experienced by women at a more intolerable level and here again ActionAid has targeted female empowerment. The organisation is making a conspicuous difference. In fact, it is at the fore of the collective of agencies advocating for and supporting vulnerable female groups in a range of areas. All of thee projects they delivering are very important. However, one of such project that has attracted attention and elated me, and which is obscure from other organisations, is the witches' camps in northern Ghana (at Kukuo, Gnani, Gushiegu, Gambaga, Kpatinga and Naabuli). One reason why the support of the witches touches my heart is that when I was growing up my father used to support many witches at Kukuo in the Nanumba North district through directing all his annual alms/ charity which coincided with crop harvest to the witches at Kukuo. He also generally employed them on his farm during harvest season; an act which was a departure from the general negative attitude and isolation prescribed in the Nanumba/Dagbani culture. This was about 30 years ago, but sadly these negative attitudes toward the witches have not changed and they remain excluded. It is certainly commendable that ActionAid is advocating for such groups who are excluded from society. And for the first time we also discover the unacceptable predicament of many innocent children in such villages – who are denied or have limited access to education and who are held hostage by the unproven misdemeanors of adults.

In fight against social injustice and exclusion, ActionAid has made an invaluable contribution and the exclusion of the poor from participating in social and economic life of Ghana is being curtailed into the future. It is important that other organisations demonstrate the same effort and credentials of transparency and accountability exemplified by ActionAid.

I want to commend the management and staff of the organisation for the good work.

By Dr. Ahmed Bawa Kuyini

For CEVS-Ghana (www.cevsghana.org)

Email: bawahmed@yahoo.com or kuyinia@une.edu.au