Monday 16th December, 2013
Out of the number 52,177 were women, Nana Oye Lithur, Minister of Gender, Children and Social Protection said on Monday.
She was speaking at the third forum of Ministers of Social Development for ECOWAS countries organised, in Accra to deliberate on issues of economic, social and cultural effect of environmental change on social inclusion and vulnerability in the West African sub-region.
Ministers of Social Development from 12 West African Countries are represented at the forum being organised by Ghana in collaboration with UNESCO’s Management of Social Transformations Programme (MOST).
The countries represented at the forum on the theme: “Societal Vulnerability: The Social Inclusion Challenges of Environmental Change,” are Ghana, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Niger, La Cote d’Ivoire, Togo, Senegal, Liberia, South Africa, and Guinea Bissau.
The overall purpose of MOST is to facilitate policy design and implementation on the basis of rigorous social science knowledge by creating an innovative space for policy oriented dialogue involving experts as well as high level decision makers.
Nana Oye Lithur noted that LIPW is one of the national social protection strategies being implemented by government to reduce poverty and help the vulnerable in the society.
Others are Livelihood Empowerment Against Poverty (LEAP), climate change interventions like Afforestation, Exemption of the poor from paying premium and registration fees under the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) and School Feeding Programme.
She said the NHIS had registered and providing services to exempt more than 930, 685 beneficiaries including children under school feeding programme, orphanages, mentally challenged persons, LEAP beneficiaries and other vulnerable groups.
Nana Oye Lithur said government made disbursements in the form of cash grants to about 74,047 households every two months under the LEAP.
The LEAP programme, she said, had contributed to economic growth in local communities.
The Minister said an impact survey conducted by her ministry revealed that, every GH¢ 1.00 transferred to a beneficiary family has the potential to increase local income by GH¢ 2.50.
“These interventions are contributing significantly to poverty reduction and mitigating the effect of environmental vulnerability due to climate change,” she added.
Nana Oye Lithur said the theme for the forum was appropriate as governments make efforts to ensure sustainable development accompanied by rapid environmental change due to the creation of modernised communities for the citizens.
“This forum offers us, Ministry of Social Development in West Africa sub-region, the opportunity to dialogue, exchange ideas, experiences and successful practices to improve government interventions that will address social development and climate change.”
She, therefore, recommended that a bureau should be elected at the end of the two- day forum to facilitate its continuance for the mutual benefit of the people of West Africa.
Mr Kennedy Zaro Barsisa, ECOWAS Principal Programme Officer in-charge of Youth, Employment and Sports, expressed gratitude to Ghana for ensuring that the forum is rejuvenated after five years of ‘silence’.
He said after the Abidjan forum in 2008, there was little activity from member countries and expressed the hope that the forum would put set up a regional agenda that would enable members to meet periodically to adopt policies to mitigate social vulnerability in the sub-region.
Mr Barsisa said as Ministers of Social Development, much is required to provide the services needed by the people and stressed the need to direct the forum to relevant ministries to ensure that participants are constant to enhance the progress of policy formulation and implementation.
He noted that whereas 90 per cent of developed world enjoy some form of social protection packages, the case in developing countries is a reverse with only 10 per cent of citizens being covered.
He expressed the need for the development of social protection interventions not only for the formal economy but also for the informal economy, which forms about 90 per cent of the economy in the sub-region.
Mr Barsisa called on the participants to provide practical solutions to solve social protection issues especially the environment and climate change.
Ms Ruby Sandhu Rojon, United Nations Resident Coordinator, said environmental driven society today is key to sustainable development.
She stated that sustainability demands that “we satisfy our present needs without sacrificing the future needs of the youth”.
Ms Rojon said the social development challenges the sub-region is facing calls for the need to identify the path that do not compromise the environment.
Ms Angela Melo, Executive Secretary of MOST, expressed the essence of seeing the youth as social partners and giving them the voice and power to contribute toward efforts in addressing the issues.
She noted that youth development is another area of interest that UNESCO is pursuing and reiterated the commitment of the organisation in promoting social sciences and supporting research capacity in the sub-region.