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Source: Graphic 
Ghana yesterday joined the rest of Africa to celebrate the 53rd anniversary of the African Union (AU), with a call on African leaders to improve on women’s empowerment.

The day is marked annually on May 25 to honour the founders of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), now known as the Afrcican Union (AU), and celebrate African unity.

It is also used as a platform to review the achievements and challenges of the AU in its quest to build a more developed and united continent.

The day was celebrated with a flag-raising ceremony in Accra yesterday on the theme: “Africa’s year of human rights: With particular focus on women’s rights”.

Speaking at the ceremony, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration, Ms Hanna Tetteh, said empowering women would play a pivotal role in the achievement of the AU’s Agenda 2063 project adopted in January 2014.

Agenda 2063, the development goals adopted by the continent, is hinged on seven key aspirations, including creating a prosperous Africa based on inclusive growth and sustainable development, a politically integrated continent united based on the ideals of pan-Africanism and Africa’s renaissance.

Ms Tetteh said at the heart of Agenda 2063 was the recognition that development in Africa needed to be people driven, with emphasis on the potential of women and young people.

“As a society, we must make stronger commitments to promote and respect the human rights of women and girls to ensure sustainable development on the continent,” she said.

She said to ensure the achievement of the various goals of the AU, it was not just enough to mark the AU with a day but there was the need for member countries to create the platform and structures to ensure the participation of all stakeholders in the African society.

She cautioned that women’s right should be beneficially accessible to all women and not to only women on the more privileged structure of society.

Gender equality in Ghana

Ms Tetteh said in Ghana, achieving gender equality and human rights was regarded as an important aspect of the nation’s human rights principles, while achieving gender equality in Ghana was seen by the government as a prerequisite for achieving the sustainable development desired as a nation.

She said the government had initiated a number of social development and intervention policies aimed at getting more girls into school and was progressively introducing the free secondary education programme to ensure that all, particularly girls, obtained the education required to develop their future.

Another initiative aimed at promoting women’s rights in Ghana was the rigorous campaign against cultural practices that demeaned the dignity and rights of women and girls, she said.

“Despite the progress made as a country and a continent, there is more to be done. We must, therefore, make stronger commitments to deepen collaboration to accelerate the vision of our founding fathers,” she said.

Challenges of African women

In her remarks, the Zimbabwean High Commissioner to Ghana and Dean of the Diplomatic Corps in Ghana, Ms Pavilin Tendai Musoka, said African women, in particular, continued to face challenges in their participation in politics and public life, while still experiencing gender-based violence.

She said the African girl child also continued to struggle to gain access to educational institutions, as against their male counterparts, while enduring very harmful cultural practices which in all affected their development.

Ms Musoka, therefore, called for a more collaborated and pragmatic effort as a union to address the challenges of African women and girls to accelerate the sustained development the AU had proposed.

She commended the AU for its efforts to ensure peace and security across the continent, indicating that without peace and security, there could be no meaningful development on the continent.

- See more at: http://www.graphic.com.gh/news/general-news/64531-african-leaders-urged-to-promote-women-s-rights-as-continent-marks-au-day.html#sthash.BemqA0YI.dpuf

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