Visit to Ghana
Harriet Harman MP
Secretary of State for Women and Equality
Leader of the House of Commons
Member of Parliament for
Camberwell and Peckham
House of Commons
London SW1A 0AA
Tel: 020 7219 4218
Fax: 020 7219 4877
I had three important reasons to visit Ghana:
- To show my respect to the Ghanaian community in my constituency of
Camberwell and Peckham in Southwark by visiting their country of origin.
Camberwell and Peckham has one of the largest African diaspora in the UK, with an
estimated third of my constituents coming from Africa. The Ghanaian community is
one of the largest and the longest standing. Strengthening links with the African
community in Southwark is an important part of my work as a Member of Parliament.
I have already visited Nigeria, Sierra Leonne and Tanzania.
- To reaffirm the UK Government’s strong commitment to playing a leading role
in promoting development and tackling poverty internationally – and in
particular supporting women and girls in the developing world. About a third of
the £85 million annual aid funds from the UK to Ghana goes on helping give girls a
better education and a brighter future.
- To share the UK Governments commitment to play our part in what we hope
and expect will be a confident future for Ghana.
Before my visit I held a meeting at Southwark Town Hall and was briefed by my Ghanaian
constituents. I discussed with them where I was traveling to and what I should be looking
out for whilst I was there. I undertook to report back to them following my visit.
Harriet Harman MP at the Town Hall meeting with Ghanaian constituents on Tuesday 17 th
My visit was arranged by the Government Equalities Office (GEO) in conjunction with Plan
International. Plan International is a leading non-governmental community development
organisation which enables families and communities in the poorest countries to make
lasting improvements to the lives of their children. For more details visit: http://www.plan-
I was accompanied on my visit by Marie Staunton, Director of Plan UK and Polly Toynbee,
a journalist at the Guardian newspaper and our High Commissioner in Ghana, Dr Nicholas
Department for International Development (DFID) in Ghana
Ghana is considered an ‘island of peace and stability’ in the West Africa Sub-Region. The
country has had five consecutive free and fair elections - most recently in December 2008.
DFID is Ghana’s largest bilateral donor, providing directly over £85 million a year and is
second only to the World Bank. The UK government has supported free healthcare for
women and girls in Ghana including maternal health, children’s issues, emergency
obstetrics equipment and the introduction of domestic violence law.
In 2006, DFID agreed a ten-year Education support programme of £125m - the first 10 year
plan for Education in Africa. One notable improvement has been an increase in primary
school enrollment from 79% in 2006/07 to 83% in 2007/08 with broadly equal numbers of
boys and girls.
Mangoase - Central Region
I travelled to the Bawujase area in Central Region, a two hour drive from Accra, with Mike
Hammond the Country Director for DfID, Marie Staunton the UK Director of Plan UK and
Polly Toynbee from the Guardian newspaper.
Mangoase is a village with a population of 1,500. The community is rural, and farming is the
main occupation. Most women’s income is earned trading at the local markets of Bawjiase
and Kasoa, most of the men are farmers.
In Mangoase we visited Jei- Krodua Anglican School and met with members from the
“Rights of the Child” club and women from the “Credit with Savings and Education”
Jei-Krodua Anglican School
The school is sponsored by Plan UK and has over 1,100 pupils. In Ghana education is
considered extremely important and is recogonised as the way to a better life. Whilst I was
in Ghana I asked women what they spent their earnings on – they all told me the same
thing – that it was to send their children to school.
Harriet Harman MP with pupils from Jei-Krodua Anglican School
I was greeted by a group of pupils who showed me around their school. I was shown into a
class room where pupils were being taught English language and reading comprehension.
Nana Ntim-Gyakari, their teacher, invited me to come and watch his class and see what the
pupils were learning.
It was good to see such great emphasis on
the importance of girls' education and
equality of opportunity for women.
The children told how much they liked going
to school, but how they hoped that soon the
school would have electricity so they could
use real computers in their computing
Harriet Harman MP with Ellen Osae, 12
(centre) and Patience Asilevi, 12 (left)
Rights of the Child Club
The children told me that in Ghana the custom is that “children should be seen and not
heard”. Discipline is strict and children both fear and respect their elders. The “Rights of the
Child Club” aims to teach children their rights through training, camps and drama projects.
The group put on a play for us telling the story of a mother who could not afford to feed her
family so she sent her daughter to a rich man to “go with him for money”. When her
daughter gets pregnant she is sent by her mother to marry the man. The man will not marry
her and her mother will not have her back. The daughter is then sent onto the street.
The audience was asked what they learnt and one young girl answered that “children
should not be made to have sex for money by their parents”.
Credit Savings with Education
Also while I was in Mangoase I
visited a “Credit Savings with
Education Group” (pictured right).
With help from Plan International this
programme helps women in rural
communities save and borrow
Once a week women bring their
savings and banking book to the
credit savings meeting. In turn their
names are called out and the women
bank their savings for the week,
which can be anything between 1-10
cedis (50p - £5). The trained bank
official fills out the women’s banking book and collects the money which is taken to the
local bank a few miles away.
The scheme also allows women to borrow money, a small amount at a time. The amounts
were small, but they were also life changing.
I asked some of the women what they used the loans to buy and what they used the profits
for. They all had a different reason for taking a loan, either to buy cassava (a common tuber
to sell at the local market), fish to smoke and sell by the road or breeze blocks to build a
bar one brick at a time. But they all spent their profits on the same thing – sending their
children to school.
Harriet Harman MP, Marie Staunton and Emilia Allen of Plan Ghana speaking to Hannah
Aidoo, with her daughter Lydia Mensa - a member of the Credit and Savings Education
Whilst I was in the village the new local Member of Parliament for Awutu Senya
Constituency, Hon David Nana Larbie, was visiting and he came over to say hello to us. He
told me he had recently returned to Ghana after living in the UK for many years and we had
met me several times as he had been one of my constituents living in Peckham! We could
not believe the coincidence.
He told me about the importance of traveling to the villages regularly as his constituents did
not have computers or telephones, and many could not read or write so could not contact
him the same way that my constituents in the UK contact me.
He told me how when he was
elected as an MP he was not
given a computer or an office,
that he has to pay for any staff
from his wages, and when he
visited schools he was expected
to take them exercise books and
Harman MP being greeted by
Hon. David Larbie
Obrachire is a small town in Central Region with a population of approximately 2,500.
When I arrived I was invited into the Amadu family’s home for a meal before I went to meet
the village chiefs and elders to pay my respect.
Harriet Harman MP with
the Amadu family
Harriet Harman MP signing the visitors book of the Obrachire
chiefs and elders
Village Savings and Loans Group
A group of 50 women in Obrachire invited me to see how their savings and loans group
The women in the group do not earn enough money to deposit their savings in a bank.
Instead they showed me a green tin box (being held in the photo below) where they have
been depositing their money for the past year. The box has three keys and they introduced
me to the three women who they have entrusted with a key each.
One of the group members,
Mary Borketuy explained that
the women meet weekly and
the secretary Esther
Amponsah marks in the book
how much money each of the
women deposit. Everyone has
to put something in, although
they are not expected to do
so every week.
After a few months of the
scheme starting there was
enough money in the tin for
the women to apply to the
group for a loan.
Harriet Harman MP with women from the Village Savings and Loans Group, Obrachire
The first loan for each woman is 20 cedis (£10) and she has 8 weeks to pay it back at 5%
interest. If she does this she is allowed 40 cedis (£20) as her next loan, and then 80 cedis
(£40) - the maximum allowed. This money was used for investing in businesses such as
buying corn to sell at the road side. The women must tell the group what the money is for
and the group must then agree the loan.
There was also a social fund which is used to help women who fall sick and cannot work. I
asked if any women have left the group, with or without paying back an outstanding loan.
They told me that only one woman had left the group since it started in 2008. She left
because her husband was sick in another region and she had to go to nurse him. The
woman paid back the money which she owed and the group decided to give her money
from the hardship fund to help her travel to her husband. No woman has ever defaulted on
I asked the women if they would allow men in their group and they all laughed and said
“impossible”! They told me how there used to be 3 men in the group of 50 women, but
because they had tried to dominate the group the women changed the constitution and
threw them out. I asked to speak to one of these men and he joined us to say that once he
had left he tried to start his own group, but he could only find 17 men, which was not
enough, and the group had to close because the men did not use the loans to invest in
businesses for profit, but instead used the money to buy beer, so instead he sent his wife to
join the women’s group! All the women there found this very funny, especially the women
from the UK.
Obrachire Senior High School
I met with a group of 17 and18 year old girls at Obrachire Senior High who have benefited
from a scholarship scheme run by Plan UK. The scheme, which this year has helped 1,120
girls, including 42 girls at university by paying for their tuition fees, board and lodging.
Marie Staunton asked the girls what was the best thing about being a girl in Ghana. They
told us that in the past the place for a girl was in the kitchen and now they were pleased
because if they worked hard they could be a teacher, a doctor or a broadcaster. One of the
girls told us how she hoped to be a radio DJ and was planning to go to a specialist college
when she finished school.
They were all proud to be girls and their determination and hope for a better life left me
feeling hopeful for their future.
Harriet Harman MP talking with a group of girls from Obrachire Senior High
When asked what was the worst thing about being a girl in Ghana they told us that child
abuse, teenage pregnancy and child trafficking were the worst things. All of the girls knew
someone who had been affected by these issues. They explained the main reason for
these things was poor parental care and not enough money for food.
They asked me many questions including – what the challenges are for girls in the UK and
how young people in the UK treat older people?
We need to ensure that, despite the world recession, Ghana can clearly look forward to an
ever improving future with women more involved in government and business, as well as
providing for their families. I feel confident that if these girls are Ghana’s future then it is in
Visit to the Ghanaian Parliament
In December 2008 Ghana had a general election.
8,200,000 people went to the polls to elect a President
and 230 Parliamentarians. The elections were the most
contested in the country’s history.
Because of the post-election violence in Kenya and
Zimbabwe there was speculation about the possibility of
violence erupting in Ghana. Although it took three rounds
of voting for a conclusion to be reached there was a
peaceful transfer of power to what had previously been
the opposition party. Ghana showed herself to be a shining example of peaceful change
The Majority Leader
I met with the Majority Leader, Hon Alban Bagbin whilst I was visiting the Ghanaian
Parliament. We discussed the importance of parliament as an institution and how best
Members of Parliament can reach out to people and ensure they understand its roles and
He explained how Parliament in Ghana has become
the weakest arm of Government because of poor
structures. He believes the structures of Parliament
should be strengthened to ensure an equal arm with
the executive. He also outlined some challenges
facing the Ghanaian Parliament, such as the lack of
research staff and internet facilities and also called
on the media to be objective and circumspect in
Harriet Harman MP speaking with Hon Alban Bagbin
I met with the Deputy Speaker of the Parliament Prof. Mike Oquaye as part of my visit to
discuss issues surrounding the role of MPs in Parliament.
The Minister for Women and Children
I met with Hon. Akua Dansua, the New
Ghanaian Minister for Women and
Children, to discuss common areas of
work, as well as other leading female
Ghanaian politicians to talk about
women in leadership roles. Equal
representation of women in public life
is a key priority for the UK
A problem she raised with me was the
difficulty of accessing data
disaggregated by gender.
Harriet Harman MP speaking with Hon. Akua Dansua
Justice Sophia Akuffo
I met with Justice Sophia Akuffo and officials from the Ghanaian judiciary to discuss issues
concerning gender equality and violence against women - and how the Ghanaian courts
handled such cases.
Ms Sophia Akuffo, a Supreme Court Judge explained how even though Ghana had
achieved some success in the area of gender and domestic violence, the country had not
completely met all the challenges yet, and although gender rights concerning women were
enshrined in the country’s 1992 constitution there
remained a lot of work to be done.
I was pleased to hear that here were 64 female judges
in the Judiciary, about 22 percent of the 290 judges in
Harriet Harman MP meeting with
Justice Sophia Akuffo and officials
The British Council – “Women in Decision Making”
I was invited by the British Council to give a speech with Hon. Akua
Dansua about Women in Decision making. To read a copy of my speech
please see the speeches and reports section of my website at
www.harrietharman.org. The audience was very interested by the idea
of women only short lists for parliamentary selection, something which
they considered very radical and quite shocking.
I was pleased to see over 200 people come along – many of whom had
listened to me on the “Joy FM” radio station that morning and were
interested to come and hear how the women in the UK do things!
Harriet Harman MP making a speech about Women in Decision making.
The Domestic Violence Victims Support Unit
The Ghanaian Domestic Violence Victims Support Unit was set up in 1998 as the Woman
and Juvenile Unit. The Unit aims to protect the rights of the vulnerable against all forms of
We discussed the success of the Unit over the years and the shift away from the old
attitude that domestic violence is an issue for the family to be dealt with behind closed
doors. And instead seeing cases of abuse or
neglect being a matter for the police.
The Unit told me the main problem they
encounter is that victims can not afford to pay
to go to the hospital to have an examination,
so often cases do not get to trial as there is
no medical evidence of abuse.
Harriet Harman MP and members of the
Domestic Violence Victim Support Unit
Mangoase – Visit to Jei-Krodua Anglican School, “Rights of the Children” and “Credit &
Saving with Education” projects
Obrachire – Lunch with the Amadu Family, meeting with the Village Elders and Chefs, visit
to the Savings & Loans group, and meeting with high school girls in Plan Ghana
Ghanaian Parliament – meeting with Majority Leader, Hon Alban Bagbin and
Deputy Speaker of the Parliament Prof. Mike Oquaye
Tour of High Commission visa section
Meeting with Domestic Violence Victims Support Unit
Meeting with Akua Dansua, Minister of Women and Children
British Council - Women in Decision Making Speech
Meeting with Betty Mould-Idrissu, Attorney General
I would especially like to thank:
- Marie Staunton, Chief Executive of Plan for her help in arranging the visit and for
- Dr Nicholas Westcott, British High Commissioner and his wife Miriam for their help
with arranging the visit and their hospitality
- Peter Ruskin from the High Commission for arranging the programme
- Mike Hammond, Country Director for DIFID
- Samual Paulos, Country Director of Plan Ghana
- All the staff at Plan UK and Plan Ghana
- Staff from the Government Equalities Office
- My Special Advisor, Ayesha Hazarika
- My Constituency Assistant, Charlotte Montague
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