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Ex-Ghanaian First Lady’s NGO to Abide by the law

Ghana’s former first lady and chairperson of the 31st December women’s movement (DWM) says the organization would work within the confines of the law to develop the country. This comes after the movement came under intense criticism for engaging in partisan politics when former President Jerry Rawlings was in power. But Nana Konadu Agyeman-Rawlings says one of the objectives of her organization was to educate and empower ordinary Ghanaian women to participate in the decision making process.

From the capital Accra, Agyeman-Rawlings told VOA that her organization would work according to laid down regulations.

“The movement is an NGO and therefore we are saying that we will work within the confines of the laws that govern NGO’s in Ghana. And also we would work within the activities of women and children in Ghana and all of them fall within certain laws,” she said.

Agyeman-Rawlings blamed President John Kufuor’s government for the slow progress of the organization.

“What happened is that since 2001 when the NPP (ruling New Patriotic Party) came into office led by Mr. Kufuor, they have spared the movement no time to work assiduously on project, economic projects, family planning projects as we used to do. It (the government) has spent a lot of time just harassing us politically and sometime even bothering on our human rights as individuals,” Agyeman-Rawlings pointed out.

She explained what she called the genesis of the woes of her organization.

“It started with the head of security General Hamidu, writing us a letter, during the first three months (of the government coming into office) asking us to come and declare our assets, our books and our accounts to him,” she said.

Agyeman-Rawlings denied her organization dabbled in politics when her husband was president.

“That is a lie, that was started by the NPP when they were in opposition because the movement is a very strong organization, which started in 1982, when Ghana’s economy was in tatters, and when the World Bank referred to us as a collapse state. And the PNDC (Provisional National Defense Council) led by my husband was calling for a participatory democratic system…of curse women wanted to be part of this euphoria and had helped to change Ghana and improve it,” she said.

Agyeman-Rawlings said she initially encountered stiff opposition from people who she said were against empowering women.

“The men were not giving us a chance to be a part of the euphoria. So we decided to start our own organization and concentrate on the issues that actually affect women. Some men even thought I was coming to do away with the status quo,” she noted.

She explained some of the achievements of her organization.

“We’ve been able to change the paradigm and the way women are perceived in Ghana. Of course it wasn’t easy because some men thought I was coming to destroy the status quo. And that women have not complained about their lives and why am I coming to change it?” she said.