Today is International Women’s Day (IWD) is commemorated annually on March 8 to celebrate the contributions of women and girls in promoting sustainable development.
A day to remind you and I that we all have a responsibility to ensure that women and girls’ rights are respected and upheld at all times.
As we celebrate women across the globe on this day, it is important to rethink the perception that the call for women and girls’ empowerment in Africa is a threat to so called cultural norms and institutions. Besides any culture that is against the empowerment of its own citizens is in itself a threat to progress and growth.
IWD is a day to do away with the view that a true African Woman is the one that can endure suffering and hardships. Slavery of any kind is illegal across the globe.
Every society that empowers its women and girls is a true reflection of one that is ready to accept sustainable growth and development. Look around you, look at the countries that have recognised the need to uphold the rights of women and girls and let’s take a clue.
Respecting the rights of women and girls is not a CHOICE, it is a RESPONSIBILITY. You are not favouring women and girls when you do so, you are protecting a whole generation to come, a generation which will include your daughters, grand-daughters, sisters, cousins, etc.
The theme for this years’ IWD celebration is “Think Equal, Build Smart, Innovate for change.” This simply means “think of women and girls as equal to men and boys, give them equal opportunities to showcase their talents and skills and lets all explore, we can empower women and girls in an innovative way.” This is the beginning of a society that is ready for change.
Although Ghana has made tremendous strides when it comes to empowering women, it still breaks my heart to hear stories of young girls being forced to stay out of school for something as natural as menstruation. It breaks my heart to hear that young girls are forced to spend some time to work on farms or do other menial jobs during school hours in order to raise funds to buy sanitary pads. For those who do not have any choice, they are forced to engage in transactional sex with men for as low as 5 Ghana cedis in exchange for sanitary pads.
Yet, I am being informed that my government considers sanitary pads as a “luxury product” hence thought it wise to impose a 20 percent tax on imported sanitary pads. Mind you, a majority of the saniatary pads patronized in Ghana are imported.
The consequences of the above mentioned challenges have serious repercussion for the growth and development of our dear country, Ghana. It was our very own Dr. James Kwegyir Aggrey that said that “if you educate a man you educate an individual but if you educate woman you educate an entire nation”. Why then should we allow access to such basic yet critical needs like sanitary pads become a bane to our country’s development?
As we celebrate women, we humbly appeal to President Nana Akufo-Addo to put in place urgent steps to ensure the free delivery of sanitary pads to all schools especially those in deprived communities as part of the free SHS policy in the country. There is no justification for girls having to stay out of school during menstruation simply because they cannot afford sanitary pads.
We have chosen the One Friend One Box Campaign by Fanthonio Foundation as a tool to empower young girls in my country, Ghana. It is never too late to start! Start something today to empower young people in your community because an empowered youth particularly girls and women is what we need to develop as a country.