Public Agenda (Accra)

Ghana: Young Women Urged to Join Election 2012 Peace Crusade

The Executive Director of Ark Foundation, Mrs. Angela Dwamena-Aboagye, has called on young women in the country to add their voices to the crusade for peace and security for the 2012 elections.

According to her, young women tended to suffer most during conflicts than older women and children. In her view, older women and children were somehow protected but the young women were at the mercy of rapist and other perpetrators of atrocities.

Mrs. Dwamena-Aboagye was speaking at the launch of a three-day capacity building programme for 30 young women, who have been selected to participate in a two- year project dubbed "The Nuisance Project-Young Women Speaking Peace to Power." The programme was organized by the Ark Foundation and funded by STAR-Ghana, a donor organization, in Accra.

She noted that as the name suggested, they wanted the young women's voices to be a nuisance to politicians and speakers who were fond of making inflammatory remarks on radio stations and political platforms, and to change their attitudes and hear their call for peace. "We want to turn the negative words into positive ones for growth and development," she said.

"The training would help equip the young women with the skills and strategies to enable them to use their voices to be a nuisance before, during and after the elections to campaign for peace and security," she stated.

The project is also to provide a platform for young women to employ advocacy and public actions to increase accountability and demand responsiveness from key stakeholders for the maintenance of peace.

Mrs. Dwamena-Aboagye indicated that the voices of young women were missing when it came to campaigns on peace in the country, hence the programme sought to change this trend and to allow the young women to be part of the peace building within the context of human rights.

"Women have not been much involved when it comes to peace initiative in the country but this time, we want to involve women in peace campaign as women play a very important role when it comes to preventing violence and promoting peace," she disclosed. She revealed that even though the project is nationwide, specific actions would take place at specific locations.

Some of the activities to be carried out include a thousand leaders' petition; quiet peace vigils, banner line hangings, war library photo exhibition, grandmothers speak peace documentary, inter-generational women's peace forum, "Azonto for Peace" street dance competition, and polar ball (dancing with political heavy weights).

"Considering the impact of a non-peaceful environment on women, children and the vulnerable, it is envisaged that the activities would challenge the public to begin to understand the root causes and impact of election violence and the need to collectively work towards ensuring violent free election in Ghana," Mrs. Dwamena Aboagye emphasized.

She stated that, the foundation was optimistic that the activities would bring about the dismantling of systems, and attitudes that dehumanized women, children and the disadvantaged.

"Through policy advocacy, public education and engagement with active civil society groups and members of the general public, it is hoped that members of the public will begin to understand the root causes of violence and the need to free society of attitudes, believes and practices that accept and perpetuate abuse and violence of all forms against women and children," she said.

Speaking on the topic "Women's Participation and Inclusion In Politics, Democratization And Peace Process," the Deputy Minister for Women and Children Affairs, Hajia Hawawu Boya Gariba, noted that equipping young people to speak on peace was laudable and timely as the country geared towards promoting peace before, during and after the 2012 elections.

She reminded the participants that, her Ministry was responsible for ensuring the promotion of the rights and welfare of women, the survival, protection and development of children and promoting gender equity and equality, and was particularly concerned about the safety and security of women and children especially as the elections approached.

"The Ministry is therefore in total support of what the Ark Foundation doing in equipping the young women," she stated.

She indicated that democracy had helped to maintain peace in the country, and was very important for growth and development.

According to her, women were in a unique position to help maintain peace in the country. "Women irrespective of their age, generally play an important role in maintaining peace in the nation. Even as young girls, they always step in to resolve any disagreements among their sibling or friends."

"I believe that without a woman's involvement, efforts at maintaining peace will be fruitless and women are usually the ones who come up with solutions that reduce conflict. Women are in a unique position to effect reconciliation and promote values which lead to the prevention of violent conflicts and are often the first to take the task of maintaining peace in our homes and communities," she observed.

Hajiah Boyo Gariba said as young women and dynamic members of the society, they played a crucial role in positively transforming conflict situations and building foundations of democratic and peaceful societies. "They are pro-active agents in their communities, in their schools, work places, sports teams, youth groups and universities."

She urged the participants to contribute their quota to ensure peace and stability before, during and after the elections.

However, most of the participants were worried as to why the Ministry in charge of women affairs was not doing anything to equip and project young women who had the interest in politics.

According to them, many women at the tertiary level were involved in student politics and would to want to be part at the national level, but did not have any support from the Ministry and yet they went round campaigning for women to participate actively in politics.

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