(By Francis Ameyibor, GNA Special Correspondent; Geneva, Switzerland)
Ghana on Friday outlined before the 59th Session of the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), to stimulate economic development, reduce poverty, and promote social stability among rural women.
Government has also initiated pro-active decentralized, fair, efficient and transparent land administration system, to reduce poverty, Nana Oye Lithur Minister of Gender, Children and Social Protection stated in Geneva, Switzerland.
Ghana, Belgium, Brunei Darussalam, China, Guinea, Poland, Solomon Islands, and Venezuela, are to defend their gender records before the world body.
Nana Oye Lithur explained that in response to national gender initiatives and demands from civil society as indicated in the Women?s Manifesto of Ghana, government took steps to map gender dimensions.
Government has also instituted measure for land administration, and developed a gender equality mainstreaming strategy, with the objective of providing a coherent and sustained approach to addressing the concerns of women and men in land administration for equitable development.
?Gathering gender-sensitive data using appropriate participatory appraisal tools and incorporating this in the implementation and monitoring processes with a particular focus on Public Education, Capacity Building, Institutional Reforms, Advocacy and Networking with Civil Society Organizations.
?Implementation of the Gender Mainstreaming Strategy Action Plan began in 2012 under the Second Phase of Land Administration Project (LAP) with funding from the World Bank, Department Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada formerly CIDA and the Government of Ghana,? she said.
Nana Oye Lithur said the Gender Ministry has also integrated gender perspectives into LAP planning, and ensures adequate women?s representation and involvement in decision-making on land.
?It is also promoting women?s access to and control over land, collect gender disaggregated data and evaluates Project implementation to inform policy reforms in the land sector and land administration in Ghana in general,? she noted.
Available statistics indicate that between January to December 2010, 787 titles were registered at the Lands Commission by women nationwide, to secure their interest in land, and 581 land titles were jointly registered ? registration that involved wife and husband, brother and sister.
Similarly, between January and December 2010, 1,675 deeds were registered by women nationwide, and 849 deeds were registered jointly at the Lands Commission.
The number of titles and deeds registered from 2012 to 2013 by females were 4652, while 12,956 were registered by males with 2,685 joint registration.
The Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MOFA) has also developed a Gender and Agricultural Development Strategy (GADS), to support its gender mainstreaming processes.
Nana Oye Lithur explained that among the challenges faced in the implementation of the policy was that women were often users of land and not owners, thus affecting their decision-making power over land matters.
To improve women?s access to and control over productive resources, the block farm programme of MOFA targets women and youth, she noted.
The Gender Minister stressed that the programme aims at increasing farmers? access to land, improved seeds, fertilizers and extension services.
Land allocation is facilitated and improved seeds and fertilizer provided on credit and after production, farmers pay back in kind or cash. In 2012 total beneficiaries were 18,782 of which males were 14,924 and females 6,265 making up 18.9 percent of female beneficiaries.
In 2013 a total number of 13,425 farmers benefited with 9,411 males and 3,844 females making up 18.6 per cent females.
The Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development (MOLGRD) currently has a draft policy on rural development which will also address key gender issues in the sector.
Speaking on the disadvantaged groups of women, Nana Oye Lithur said her ministry in collaboration with the National Disaster Management Organisation (NADMO) provided 7,331 market traders affected by fire in four markets with cash grants to replenish their businesses, thereby enabling them to recover and improve their ability to generate income in 2013.
While Ghana did not receive any refugees from the Central African Republic, it nonetheless supported relief efforts by hosting the UN Humanitarian Response Depot in Accra, where Irish Aid pre-positioned its relief supplies bound for the Central African Republic.
Nana Oye Lithur said although Ghana has recorded a decline in polygamy, the legal framework provides ample protection for spouses in polygamous unions.
?Polygamous marriage is contracted according to customary law, which is recognised a part of the laws of Ghana in article 11 of the Constitution. As stated previously, the Matrimonial Causes Act applies to marriages contracted under customary law.
?The legal framework is being further strengthened with the introduction of a new law on intestate succession (the Intestate Succession Bill) and the Property Rights of Spouses Bill,? She said.
The Gender Minister explained that the latter legislation is in fulfillment of the constitutional injunction to Parliament, to pass a law regulating the property rights of spouses, with a view to achieving equity and equality of spouses to property jointly acquired during their marriage.
The draft Bill therefore makes provision for couples both ? married and cohabiting ? to equal access to jointly acquired property during the pendency of their union and sets standards and rules to guide courts in the determination of such matters.
She explained that generally spouses who marry under customary and Islamic law have their matrimonial property issues dealt with by these laws. However, with the promulgation of the Matrimonial Causes Act, 1971 (Act 367), such spouses can apply to the court and can be subject to the Act.
Thus, a party to a marriage contracted under customary or Islamic law can apply to the state courts to have that marriage dissolved and matrimonial issues arising from that dissolution.
She said in such cases, the court is required to apply not only the provisions of Act 367 but also take account of the spouses’ personal laws on divorce and matrimonial causes.
Nana Oye Lithur said Child marriage continues to be a challenge to the Ghanaian society; stressing that the Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS) of 2006, 22 per cent of women aged 20 to 29 years in Ghana got married before the age of 18 years.
For women in the 30 and 44 years category, 30per cent married before the age of 18 years.
Consequently on the average, nearly one in four women is getting married while still a child.
The Gender Minister said the 2006 MICS further showed that about 4.4 per cent of women aged 15 to 49 years first got married before 15 years of age.
The rural areas presented a higher rate of 5.5 per cent compared to 3.3per cent of women from the urban areas getting married before 15 years.
Nana Oye Lithur said the results of the 2011 MICs survey show that six per cent of women aged 15 to 49 years got married before 15 years of age, while 27 per cent got married before 18 years.
In the rural areas, the prevalence of women marrying before 15 years rose to 8per cent, while in the urban areas it stood at 4 per cent.
Statistics from the Domestic Violence and Victim Support Unit (DOVVSU) of the Ghana Police Service indicate that between 2005 and 2010, 69 cases of forced marriage were handled by the Unit.
The figure shows an increasing trend with 10 cases handled in 2007 rising to 21 cases by 2011.
The cumulative effects of early and forced marriage in Ghana presented above are not far off. From the MICS data, poorer and less educated women and girls are most vulnerable to early and forced marriage. Girls who are married are less likely to have an education.
To address these challenges, MoGCSP and UNICEF-Ghana have taken the initiative to carry out a three-year project commencing in 2014, aimed at achieving six key objectives.
Establishment of a coordinating unit on early marriage within the National Domestic Violence Secretariat with a Monitoring and Evaluation system; Development of a national strategic framework for eliminating early marriage in Ghana; Creation of platforms for awareness-creation, experience-sharing, learning and strategizing around the elimination of child marriage; and Increased public responsiveness to issues of child marriage through social
Strengthen response mechanisms through improved service delivery in shelters; establish a Monitoring and Evaluation System to measure progress; enhance learning; and improve results over the duration of the project.
Nana Oye Lithur said the NCCE has also carried out awareness-raising and education programmes to address harmful social and cultural practices which impact negatively on the institution of marriage as well.