Negative cultural practices said to be threatening MDGs in Ghana

Ghana cannot attain the Millennium Development Goals by 2015, if the people hold on to out-dated customary practices such as widowhood rites, female genital mutilation and denying women the right to own land.

Mrs Lucy Awuni, Deputy Upper East Deputy Regional Minister made the observation when he met with chiefs and community opinion leaders in the area in Bolgatanga at the weekend.

She was addressing a two-day conference on “Reflections on Human Rights and Culture”, organised by the Cultural Initiatives Support Programme (CISP), a non-governmental organisation (NGO).

Mrs Awuni noted that discrimination against women is a worrying issue that is sending the country backward.

The two- day conference was organised for the chiefs and opinion leaders as well as widows, policy makers, representatives of government and non-governmental organisations (NGO’s) and journalists to discuss and reflect on negative cultural practices that are adversely affecting the vulnerable in society.

She said Government is committed to promote the country’s cultural diversity as a rich asset, which the nation could exploit for growth, employment, wealth creation and integrate it into the school curricular.

Mrs Awuni said Government is facilitating the codification of the succession of chiefs by incorporating reports from the traditional areas into draft legislative instrument, which would be submitted to Parliament.

She said additional data would also be collected for the ascertainment of customary law.

Mrs Awuni urged the participants to join the educational campaign on the significance of the Population and Housing census and give the right information on the size of their families.

Mr Kwasi Gyan Appenteng, Co-ordinator of CISP, said the country’s constitution frowns on harmful cultural practices.

He said CISP was inspired by a television programme that showed the dehumanising processes of widowhood rites in the region and found it duty bound to find ways to resolve the problem.

Madam Betty Ayagiba, President of the Widows and Orphans Ministry, said widows often undergo dehumanising ordeals, which rob them of their rights to privacy, dignity and independence.

She listed some of the nightmarish rites as bathing naked outside the compound, cooking and eating on a rubbish dump, dressing with leaves to cover their private parts and being forced to spend time with their deceased husbands.

They are also forced to marry close relatives of their late husbands or else forfeit any property they owned or banned from staying in their homes or visiting their children.

Madam Ayagiba said her outfit engage the widows in basket weaving, sheabutter extraction and farming.

The ministry is presently working on a 120- hectare mango plantation.

Source: GNA

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