A national campaign to push government to deliver health promises such as addressing HIV/AIDS stigma, is being spearheaded by the Alliance for Reproductive Health Rights (ARHR) and key HIV and health related civil society groups.

To kick start the campaign, the ARHR and its partners will launch a "Fair Play for Africa Campaign" in Accra on 15th April 2010 at the College of Physicians and Surgeons, to compel the government of Ghana to implement protocols and agreements on health and its related issues.

A statement issued by ARHR in Accra on Wednesday said, the Fair Play for Africa Campaign seeks to use the first-ever World Cup in Africa in June this year and the upcoming Millennium Development Goals Summit in September in New York, to highlight health issues, which required critical attention.

The ARHR together with institutions such as the Ghana AIDS Commission, Child Rights International, Society for Women Against HIV and AIDS (SWAA) and the Retired Footballers Association of Ghana are coordinating the campaign.

The rest are Accra Hearts of Oak football club, Kumasi Asante Kotoko football club, the Ghana Football Association, Sports Writers Association of Ghana (SWAG), the National Association of Persons Living with HIV/AIDS, the National Sports Council, the Ministry of Health, the Integrated Social Development and ISODEC, CEDEP and CENCOSAD among others.

The statement reiterated the need to unite and mobilize people across Africa to demand the right to universal access to health and HIV services as well as build on and link existing campaigns around health in 10 African countries.

"This will help to exert collective pressure on governments to meet the health Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)," it added.

Fair Play Ghana Campaign also seeks to urge government to fulfil the Abuja promise to spend at least 15 per cent of its budget from domestic funds on health.

In 2001, African leaders at a meeting in Abuja, Nigeria, promised to increase spending on health to at least 15 per cent of their national budgets by 2015.

As at 2010 only six countries, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Malawi, Niger, Rwanda and Zambia have reached the target. Though Ghana has made stringent efforts to meet the target, it is yet to attain the minimum 15 per cent.

The statement said insufficient budgetary allocation for health has several negative ramifications since investment in training of health personnel and expansion in health infrastructure would be badly affected.

It said it would also impact negatively on health outcomes in areas such as maternal and child mortality, malaria morbidity and mortality. Poor women of reproductive age and young people in particular are worst affected.

HIV and AIDS stigma, the statement said, was militating against efforts aimed at reducing and combating the illness thus jeopardizing the possibility of attaining MDG "6" which is to combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases.

The Ghana AIDS Commission estimated that less than 10 per cent of Ghanaians knew their HIV status, while the other 90 percent were hesitant to get tested largely because of the stigma.

The Commission also indicated that majority of Persons Living with HIV/AIDS (PLHIV) refused to go for treatment because of stigma and consequently resorted to secrecy as a coping strategy.

"The possibility of spreading HIV is reduced when people know their status and take responsible measures to contain the illness.

"Women bear the greater burden of the disease due to their inability to negotiate safer sex. Females also form the majority of care providers for Persons Living with HIV/AIDS," it said.

The statement said there was an urgent need for HIV/AIDS stigma to be addressed at all levels, governmental, regional, district and community to encourage more Ghanaians especially women to go for testing and other HIV/AIDS services.


Source: GNA. 14th of April, 2010


Ghana: Violence Against Women Still Rampant in the Northern Region
Column by Helena Selby

Why won't men ever allow women to be? Why won't men allow women to enjoy the solitude and happiness they are entitled to in this world? Everyday campaigns against violence against women send messages across the country, but men, who are the very culprits, turn a deaf ear to it.

Is it a crime to be a weaker vessel, or to be at the service of the stronger ones? When will men begin to treat women fairly, and stop their cowardly attitude towards women, knowing very well that they can never defend themselves.

If men claim to be really men, and not only good for making babies, they should prove themselves man enough to take care of all the problems at home, and not count on women for support. They should be man enough to train the children, and not leave it solely in the hands of the woman. They should be able to face their problems, and not run for cover for women to cover them when they are in trouble. The elimination of violence against women in Ghana has been one of the priorities of governments. The government has come of with the Domestic Violence Victims Support Unit (DOVVSU), which is a unit in the police service, and has tried its best to make some women in Ghana know their rights. It is however unfortunate that these rights and campaigns against violence against women seem to have not reached the northern parts of the country, yet women there face the most abuse against women in Ghana.

Women in the northern part of Ghana are faced with all kinds of abuses due to the people being unaware about rights of women. They, in a way, have the wrong ideas of their religion and cultural practices, coupled with lack of formal education. Apart from women facing female genital mutilation (FGM) they as well go through the trauma of being forced into marriage, abused in marriage, and in the performance of widowhood rites.

Widowhood rites and violence against women

It is surprising that a man will never be in trouble or be blamed when his wife dies, he is not taken through any humiliating traditions, or forced to do anything against his will, but for the woman, it is the vice versa. Most times the majority of women are blamed for the death of their husbands, both by society and their fellow women, forgetting they being in a similar situation is inevitable.

According to research done by actionaid Ghana in some of the districts of the northern parts of Ghana, when a woman is widowed, she is locked up in a room for about between four months and a year. She is taken trough widowhood rites, which include the smearing of clay on the woman's body, which is done right after the burial of the husband. Between three months and a year, the woman is taken to the riverside to be washed down, sometimes with the husband's brothers watching. If one survives the rituals, she is considered innocent of her husband's death.

The demeaning aspect is that a woman, upon the death of the husband, becomes part of the estate of the man, so she is inherited by anyone who inherits her husband. When she refuses to be inherited, she is sent out of her late husband's house without her children. Sometimes if she decides not to marry, she is expected to stay single for the rest of her life, no matter how young she is. What happens then to a woman like that? Her happiness is shattered, and she automatically loses her life, as she is no longer living her own life but someone else's.

Economic and violence against women

At last, the majority of men in the northern parts of Ghana have proven themselves as not being man enough - a man is supposed to take care of all the finances of the homes, and not boast of being good in bed only. A man is supposed to give respect to the woman, and not force the women to engage in all forms of tedious work, even in periods of pregnancy. Men in the northern parts of the country let their wives to do the tedious work on their various farms during their pregnancy period regardless of their condition they are treated as slaves, forgetting that they put these women in such a fragile condition.

Unlike in the south where the majority of men have ideas as to how men are supposed to behave, men from the northern side have none. In the south, a man is aware of his obligation to give money to the woman to cater for the domestic aspect of the home, including the preparation of meals, however, in the north its does not happen that way. Further research of actionaid Ghana indicates that in the north the woman is given a specific amount of grain at the end of the harvest season. It is her role as a woman to find ways and means to provide the soup that will be taken with the meal prepared from the grain given to her by the man. In such cases the man cares less about where she gets the money to support the home, as she will be accused of stealing when she tries to sell some of the grain to support the home.

In this regard, she has to get into any kind of business to support the home. In some parts of the northern region also, the woman is given an amount of money by the husband as a gift during their marriage ceremony, including the gifts and monies given to her by people who attend the ceremony.


Source: www.allafrica.com, 7th of April, 2010.