Ghana's Second Lady, Mrs Samira Bawumia, has charged women to rise up to the challenge by pushing for legislation and other reforms that can make their governments appoint them into various leadership positions in their countries.
Mrs Bawumia, who was contributing to a panel discussion on "Women and Government" at the Yale University in Connecticut, United States of America, admonished women be voices for the people and play a central role in changing society.
The programme was organized by the Yale Association for African Peace and Development (YAPD), a group of Yale Undergraduates that brings together scholars, professionals and activists who are integral in the pursuit of systematic advancement and development.
She noted that women did not necessary need the permission of men to fight for their course, but once they start, the men would facilitate and support them in achieving their objectives.
On how to get more women in leadership positions, she pointed out that statistical studies had shown that the "more women participate in leadership positions, the more women will be there".
Buttressing her point that women occupy very important leadership positions in Ghana, she said for example that the current Chief Justice and Electoral Commissioner were women, apart from many other women in leadership positions either in the Executive, Legislature and Judiciary.
The Second Lady spoke highly of Ghana's Ambassador to the United Nations, Mrs. Martha Pobee, for being one of such highly qualified women," who excelled in her work and was therefore recognized and given a very important leadership role in the society."
"We need to mentor the young women by leading exemplary lives to inspire them. Whatever you do, put in your best. You have an audience, do it well, they will recognize you," Mrs Bawumia stated in response to a question on how young women can be encouraged to take up their roles as future leaders.
Describing the role played by legendary Yaa Asantewaa, the late queen mother and warrior of Ejisu as an exceptional leader, the Second Lady explained that her inspirational story proves that "If you (women) stand up, you can be counted in the society. If you do your work well, it will compel society to recognize you," she added.
Mrs. Bawumia disclosed that, she was using her persuasive power to affect the life of other people, adding that "I am having meetings with people who want to support what we are doing to improve lives, to reduce the level of deprivation and poverty among some of our people. We want to improve the existing health facilities and also prevent maternal deaths."
On the problems militating against the appointment of women into leadership positions, she acknowledged that certain societal pressures and stereotypes were to be blamed for that that is why constant education is very paramount.
The co-panelist, Prof. Mathilde Mukantabana, Rwandan Ambassador to the United States said the cornerstone of her country's accelerated development was the high number of women in Parliament, noting that 64 per cent of the Parliamentarians are women. ln addition 12 out of the 32-member Cabinet are women.
As a result of the important lessons learnt from the Rwandan genocide in 1994 that affected their economic, political and other aspects of social life, she noted that "we decided that women's rights were key, so we set up the structures right from the village, communities to the central government level. For the past 23 years, we have tried to build reconciliation.
'Our mentality shift came about because our laws were changed, the issue of inheritance and other negative structures were tackled through vigorous education campaigns", Prof. Mukantanbana emphasized, stressing that "Definitely education is going to be the hope for Africa'.
"Today there is a new generation of Rwandan women, who are for change. Those who are there have proved themselves. They have overcome the problem of fear, our President is a champion of women," she stated.
The moderator was Ms. Thuto Thipe, a doctoral Student in the 19th and 20th century history.
Source: ISD (R. Harry Reynolds, New York)