Spotlighting the importance his country places on gender equality, the President of Ghana told the United Nations General Assembly today that a major priority will closing the “vast” gaps between men and women through, among other efforts, providing decent education for girls and working to end child marriage.
“Most of the world's poorest people are women,” John Dramani Mahama said. “Currently we create programs and policies to address this imbalance, yet regardless of how successful they may be, they are not permanent solutions. They do not solve the ultimate problem, which is the vast inequality between men and women that so many traditions have inculcated.”
He also addressed the plight of children and the work his country is doing to address their needs.
“In order to address the issue of child mortality and malnutrition, preparatory work is underway to earmark disbursements for pregnant women and mothers of children under the age of one,” he said.
He noted the central role of education in achieving gender parity, emphasizing that it was “the key to change.”
“In Ghana, we have made tremendous progress in achieving the Millennium Development Goal target on universal basic education. We instituted the ‘Girl Child Program,’ which encourages parents to send girls to school, and at the primary level we have achieved gender parity between boys and girls,” he said.
Turning to the practice of child marriage on the continent, Mr. Mahama highlighted that, in West Africa, two out of five girls are married before they turn 18, face increased maternal mortality rates and “are subject to the sort of poverty that is nearly insurmountable.”
“Ghana has launched a campaign, under the auspices of [the UN Children’s Fund] to end child marriage in our nation by focusing not only on getting young girls in school but also on keeping them there their education is complete,” he continued. “This is being achieved through enhanced access to secondary education and beyond without compromising quality.”
On UN reform, he emphasized that it was time “for greater inclusivity in the United Nations.”
“The world that was in 1945 does not exist now in 2015,” he continued, “so the visionary Organization that was formed to meet the needs of that world must now be reformed to meet the needs of this one.”
He also delineated those needs, among them the issues caused by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), Boko Haram and Al-Qaida, as well to address the situatio of those killed in the South Sudan conflict and the “thousands dead in Syria, in Pakistan, in Nigeria, in Mexico, Afghanistan and Somalia; thousands more, the majority from African nations, dead in the Mediterranean Sea while attempting to flee poverty, hunger, disease or political strife or persecution.”