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Opinions of Wednesday, 12 November 2003

Columnist: GNA

Eradicating gender imbalance

A GNA Feature by Andrew Awonnore

Accra, Nov 11, GNA- If there is any topical matter that cuts across all the boundaries of politics, economics, and social environment, then it is the issue of women and children's total liberty.

Globally, women and children predominantly continue to face almost all of the world's problems, which include HIV/AIDS, Poverty, Gender Inequity, Sexual Harassment, Discrimination and many others. A recent press conference by the International Federation of Women Lawyers {FIDA}, and a survey conducted nation-wide by the Africa Women Lawyers Association {AWLA}, showed clearly that serious dehumanising problems are been meted out to Ghanaian women by the male counterparts in the 21st century.

Many a time, Governments, Non-Governmental Organisations {NGOs), and private individuals, brilliantly draw policies and programmes, packed nicely to address these problems but their implementation becomes a problem. Sometimes one is tempted to think that the supporting partners like government does not show any concern about the welfare of the victims.

Fortunately, AWLA and FIDA, are undertaking projects aimed at identifying and finding ways of reducing these disheartening issues that have eaten into our national fabrics. This, when supported, would make it easier for government to help find solutions in eliminating these inhuman acts from our society.

However, whilst appreciating the efforts of these noble organisations, it appears the issue of sexual harassment has a relationship with the kind of dressing the young women put on these days resulting in some form of harassment.

Investigations had revealed that such harassments come in the form of harsh comments on the physical appearance of the ladies. It is clear that the dressing of some of our young ladies does not fit a society like ours where moral issues are held in high esteem.

Yes, one is not suggesting that they should be dictated to as to how they should dress, because we all have different taste. But considering the sort of culture and society we find ourselves in, one would have expected that, our young ladies would at least dress moderately and decently befitting our communities and the culture.

Fortunately for us, the various religions with different faiths are all preaching about morality. Therefore, since everybody belongs to one religion or the other, wherein lies the argument of who determines morality.?

The main issues our women are fighting for are empowerment and eradication of female genital mutilation, discrimination, and domestic violence.

It is sad to know that not only women in the urban areas are subjected to these inhuman act, ignorant women and children in the rural areas are worse victims.

Unfortunately, most of the campaign programmes of these organisations are urban centred and the most affected persons continue to suffer the horror in the rural communities.

It is not uncommon to hear defilement, rape, and discrimination in these areas meanwhile the educational campaigns are going on at the national and the regional levels leaving out the rural folks. In fact, this brings to the fore the illiteracy rate among the rural people who happen to be the backbone of the national economy in providing the bulk of the nation's food for both consumption and export.

Adolescents and children rights are another major area of concern that needs to be addressed as soon as possible.

The UN Convention of the Rights of the Child states that children have the right to enjoy the highest attainable standard of health. They also have the right to access health facilities for the treatment of illness.

The truth of the matter is that many of these children especially the deprived ones do not get access to these facilities. According to the UN State of World Population Report for 2003, the adolescents and children face serious health status. The report stated, that their readiness to take on adult roles and responsibilities, and the support they receive from families, communities, and governments would have profound consequences for their future.

Today's young people face variety of unstable political, economic, social, and cultural realities that certainly have both negative and positive impact on their future. They are being exposed to new risks and demands.

Peers and the media also have a great influence on their lives. At least, there is a hope for a better future for these young ones if the world leaders would adhere to what they agreed on with regard to the Millennium Development Goals in the year 2000.

The millennium goals seeks to reduce extreme poverty and hunger, slow the spread of HIV/AIDS, reduce maternal and child mortality, ensure universal primary education, and improve sustainable development by 2015 as well as gender equality and rights to health and education. The time has come for all concerned people to come together with these committed mothers, sisters, and aunties in helping the affected persons in our communities for a better responsible society for all. The following are some of the crisis the young people of the world face.

Recent political and ethnic conflicts have also taken a terrible toll on young people, and subjected them to sexual exploitation and associate risks such as refugee situations, child trafficking, child soldiers in rebel camps all over sub-Sahara Africa.

The less empowered, are always faced with pervasive discrimination and disenfranchisement, unequal power relations between males and females, which lead to widespread violations of health and human rights, child marriage and sexual violence as well as coercion, sexual trafficking and female genital mutilation.

There is no adequate information on issues that directly affect them. They are, therefore, subjected to exploitation, including physical and sexual abuse with some turning to commercial sex workers and crime as a means to survive. Many have also lost either parents or one of them to HIV/AIDS and the stigma and discrimination they go through in society without any body to turn to for help.

If these young ones are described as the future leaders of the nation, then, all efforts should be made to protect them from these inhuman acts and give them the basic rights they deserve to enjoy.