The First Lady, Lordina Dramani Mahama, yesterday addressed the Association of Wives of African Heads of Mission in Tokyo and leaders of some Japanese Women Groups at a Luncheon.
The luncheon was held in her honour by the association as part of President John Dramani Mahama’s official visit to Japan.
Earlier in the morning before the luncheon, the first couple from Ghana paid a courtesy call on Emperor Akihito and the Empress at their Akasaka Palace.
Mrs Mahama at the luncheon said African First Ladies through their Organisation of African First Ladies Against HIV and AIDS (OAFLA) were determined to ensure an HIV- free generation for the continent.
She said that target was meant to be achieved through education, campaigns and the provision of anti-retroviral drugs among others.
Mrs. Mahama said as the current President of OAFLA, she hosted a meeting of OAFLA members in Accra early this year to outdoor a campaign to end child marriage saying, “under the MDGs, we made significant progress in virtually achieving universal primary education including gender parity in enrolment.”
She said that success has been jeopardised by the negative tradition of withdrawing, especially girl children from school and marrying them off at an early age.
Mrs. Mahama underscored the fact that the early marriages were depriving the girls not only of precious education but was also responsible for increased maternal deaths, fistulas, infant and child mortality, depression and even in some cases, suicide.
She said in Ghana, the government was implementing some interventions such as building more second – cycle schools to ensure that more girls stayed in schools beyond the basic level to complete three years of Senior High School by which time they have attained the age of 18 which was considered a legally matured age.
Touching on some of the achievements of her Lordina Foundation in Ghana, the First Lady said they have worked closely with the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection to empower women and equip them with the necessary resources and skills to promote their welfare as well as cater for the needs of their children and other dependants.
“Over the last couple of years, we have and will continue to provide material and financial support to orphanages in the country. Already we have facilitated the construction of modern accommodation for toddlers in two of the orphanages.
Mrs Mahama said one of the foundation’s high profile programme was the periodic medical outreach programmes to underserved communities to conduct free cervical, breast cancer screening and HIV tests saying “other modules also include training and providing tools for girls and women to facilitate their entry into some sort of trade.
She said with the support of Medshare of USA, the foundation has also supported deprived health facilities with vital medical supplies and equipment across the length and breadth of the country.
“But perhaps our most acclaimed programme is our work with the Gambaga ‘Witches” Camp where the foundation is currently facilitating the construction of a vocation school to teach the women and their children useful skills in order to be self- sustaining,” she said.
Mrs Mahama said it was high time Africans had a change of mindset by jettisoning practices that were harmful and degrading while preserving positive cultural heritage saying, “In Africa there is a lot we can be proud of, which we must preserve.”
By Times Reporter