STORY: Samuel Duodu, Sunyani
The Brong Ahafo Regional Directorate of the Department of Women has initiated an intensive education in support of the fight against cultural practices that impinge on the rights of vulnerable groups, especially women and children, in the region.
The initiative is also to remove the fear and superstition deeply associated with the perceived consequences of the non-performance of these customs and traditions.
Some of the cultural practices in the region are widowhood rites, Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), betrothal and early marriage of girls.
These cultural practices such as FGM, some outmoded aspects of widowhood rites and early marriages of girls, which are prevalent in the Kintampo North, Tain, Jaman North and Atebubu districts of the region, are practised especially in the Mo, Siekwa, Banda, Sampa and Atebubu traditional areas.
Following media exposure of the plight of the three ‘royal’ widows of the Mo Traditional Area in the Kintampo North District, the Department of Women in the region has decided to collaborate with traditional rulers, including queens, and all other stakeholders to educate the people to desist from customary practices and traditions that militate against the progress and development of girls and young women.
In an interview with the Daily Graphic in Sunyani, Madam Victoria Owusu-Kyeremaa, the Regional Director of the department, said to reform and make these cultural practices more responsive to the needs of the people, the department had come up with several programmes and advocacy training workshops in those districts of the region where such customs and traditions still persisted.
She said the department had developed a training programme for paramount chiefs and queens from the Kintampo North, Tain and Jaman North districts on women’s rights and development, as well as socio-cultural issues affecting the rights of women.
Madam Owusu-Kyeremaa stated further that the department had also planned an advocacy training workshop for all actors in local governance, including district chief executives, presiding members, assembly members and unit committee members in the districts where such practices were prevalent.
She said the department would involve the Church and Muslim leaders and also mount awareness campaign on discrimination, violence and harmful traditional practices against women and girls, as well as intensify advocacy on local FM stations.
The regional director further disclosed that the department would bring on board queens, chiefs, heads of families, district assemblies, town/area councils, the Ghana Education Service (GES) and Ghana National Association of Teachers (GNAT) Ladies Association, among others.
Madam Owusu-Kyeremaa noted that these negative cultural practices still persisted in some parts of the country although Ghana was a signatory to many international conventions and had passed laws for the protection of women and girls. She called for the strict enforcement of these laws and conventions.
Touching on the issue of the three ‘royal widows’ of the Mo Traditional Area who are performing widowhood rites, nine years after the death of their husband, she said the department had made several contacts with them to secure their ‘freedom’, but they had always expressed the fear that something may happen to them if they did not observe the customs and traditions of the area.
She appealed for support from non-governmental organisations (NGOs), civil society groups and corporate bodies to enable the department to perform its duties effectively.