Ghana: Women in Power – Trickle Down?

The arrival of women at top positions in Ghana’s government and security forces has highlighted the question of whether such milestones will translate into concrete benefits in women’s lives.
For many, the greatest boost not only for women but for all Ghanaians would come from empowering women economically.

For the first time women hold the posts of speaker, police inspector general and attorney general. Nearly two months after President John Evans Atta Mills came to power, promising a strong presence of women in government, Ghanaians IRIN spoke with are guardedly optimistic.

Hajara Usif, who sells tomatoes in the capital Accra, said she is pleased with the new government’s attention to women. “But it must reflect in my life too – and very soon.”

Usif and women like her might get a hand from Akua Sena Dansua, the new minister for women and children’s affairs and one of eight female ministers, who told IRIN a top priority will be women’s economic empowerment.

Usif, a widow and mother of four, told IRIN: “I am not asking government to take pity on me and take care of my children for me.” What she would like from the government is help for women eager to work, including credit schemes and literacy programmes.
Learning to read, she said, “is important for my work and I believe for the country’s development.”

For Baah Boateng, senior economist at the University of Ghana in Accra, any scheme that helps women would help Ghana. “Women control the Ghanaian economy. Women are absolutely vital to the success or failure of the country’s poverty reduction drive.”
He added: “Because of their contribution I will support any day any initiative that aims to improve the lot of women and give them the necessary support.”

Boateng cited statistics, confirmed by Ghana’s Finance Ministry: 70 percent of farmers and 90 percent of people working in agricultural processing and marketing are women.

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