Mr Joseph Osei-Owusu, First Deputy Speaker of Parliament, at a conference of the Asian and African Parliamentarians Project (AIPP), in Accra, on Wednesday, urged parliamentarians to pay more attention to female empowerment issues for them to participate adequately in national development.
This, he said, was important in view of the fact that women and girls, constituted over 50 per cent of the population of most developing nations, but are rather left behind in the social, economic and political discourse of most countries.
“Prioritising female empowerment to a large extent, would ensure that targets set for Agenda 2030 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are met,” the First Deputy Speaker added.
He emphasised female education, explaining that studies had indicated that increasing female education particularly to the highest level reduced birth rate, lowered maternal and child mortality and improved lives of families.
Also, the UNDP 2016 Africa Development Report estimates that women participation in the labour market of Africa would accrue US$ 95 billion per year.
“Consequently, it will be useful to deliberate on how to leverage on your role as MPs to empower women to adequately participate in national development,” Mr Osei-Owusu, who is also the MP for Bekwai, said
The First Deputy Speaker expressed concern about the high rate of youth unemployment in Africa, and said the youth, from 15 and 24 years, formed about 19 per cent of the 1.3 billion of Africa’s population.
However, “this relatively large youthful population has not translated into the desirable economic benefits, including employment generation and wealth creation.”
The First Deputy Speaker observed that Africa stood the potential to enjoy a rapid economic growth if its human resource was effectively harnessed.
He emphasised on the need for the availability of reliable data for the effective monitoring of the SDGs, calling for institutions, including Parliaments to be adequately resourced to build its human resource capacity and institutional architecture.
“This would enhance data collection and processing in a timely manner to facilitate the effective monitoring and evaluation of the SDGs,” Mr Osei-Owusu said.
Madam Marie Rose Nguinie Effa, President of the African Parliamentary Forum on Population and Development, called on the Continent to address issues regarding family planning, maternal health, traditional harmful practices including female genital mutilation and child, early and forced marriage.
“What unites us as parliamentarians is an unshakeable belief in the potential of a world with zero unmet need for family planning, zero maternal deaths, and zero violence and harmful practices against women and girls, “Madam Effah said.
She added “as lawmakers, we have a responsibility to do everything to make this possible.”
She said parliamentarians had an even more role to play, even more so since the adoption of the 2030 agenda to ensure that the rights of women and girls was guaranteed.
She underscored the importance of demographic dividend as not a simple question of rate of growth but also the attention to the rights, health and living conditions of our fellow citizens, especially the youngest ones, to guarantee their economic, social and environmental potentials.
“Only an increase in our joint efforts will ensure progress in our common struggles against maternal mortality, gender-based violence, female genital mutilation, early marriage, early or closely spaced pregnancies and unsafe abortions,” she said
And added: “With our goals and targets for 2030 now defined, the political momentum on the demographic dividend and the rights of women and girls that have now engulfed our leaders, we must push for women and adolescent girls’ sexual and reproductive health and rights at the centre of our development policies and budget.
“Our action is key to build on the achievement of key sustainable infrastructure to enable collective momentum and commitment in the defence of the right to voluntary family planning.
“…As a forum, we urge all Members of Parliament in Africa, Asia and any other region of the world to join us to ensure that the national and international commitments made by their governments to the rights of women and girls for sustainable development are strictly respected.
Dr Abdul-Rashid Pelpuo, Chairman of the Population Caucus of Ghana’s Parliament, said the gathering was timely, because it had come at a time where there were proposals to limit the number of births in Ghana, ensure food security and find ways of financing family planning and reproductive health services in the face of dwindling donor funds and financial inaccessibility.
He said the issues required that some policy choices be made to advance the course of national development.
“As representatives of the people, we are considering through legislation, advocacy, oversight and budgetary roles to help resolve some of these issues, he said, and asked “given the complexity of issues of population, food security and sexual reproductive health and rights?
The three-day conference, on the theme: “Parliamentarians as the Fourth Pillar for achieving the 2030 Agenda: Population, Food Security, and Sexual and Reproductive Health, is being organised by Asian Population and Development (APD), to equip parliamentarians with tools to address thematic areas of challenges of the dynamics of population.