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I have read the educating article on, “What Happens To NGOs of First Ladies after their husbands’ presidential terms?” Kudos Sammy Wiafe, for this wonderful attempt to document a topical area which is sparsely researched on in academia and also lacking in both breadth and depth in grey literature.
Essentially, you’ve attempted to highlight the fate of the functional roles of NGO’s championed by First ladies in Ghana under the fourth republic after their husbands’ tenure in office as Presidents.
What is admirable about your piece is, even though your focus is on Ghana, you drew on recent examples from the United States of America ranging from the days of Hillary Clinton to Michelle Obama including their Republican counterpart, Laura Bush.
However, on a lighter note, even though in the case of Ghana, you did not only rely solely on former First Ladies but also included Mrs Rebecca Akufo-Addo, the incumbent, you built a deafening wall and completely ignored the wife of the great Donald Trump of United States of America – poor Melania.
Furthermore, you did not go into the available knowledge (online) about the sources of funding for the projects of the first ladies in Ghana. This approach could help readers to appreciate the financial viability of such NGOs after the ladies leave their high profile offices at the stroke of midnight of January 6 after some election years.
On the contrary, you suggested that the First Ladies may have, “used their women skills to persuade their husbands to give them some cash to fuel their activities?” As a gender advocate and activist, I find this derogatory, demeaning and unfit for your otherwise well written piece; because women must not always depend on their husband’s for cash.
With regards to the lower or non-existent attention of the media on the NGO activities of past First Ladies as compared to incumbents, I think it is natural – as it does everywhere. Unless the person decides to run for public office or engages in other very high profile media-attracting activities comparable to that of a sitting First Lady or even higher such as Hillary Clinton’s failed attempt to be President of the U.S.A., a significantly reduced media coverage is not unexpected.
I also believe, it is only proper and fair that incumbent First Ladies are given the media space and time to play their roles lest we nurture a caustic case of competition between her and her predecessors. Last but not least, the persona of individual First Ladies also counts.
Thus far, without taking any mark out of Mr Wiafe’s excellent article, I wish to throw some light on the activities of former Ghanaian first ladies and the incumbent to expand the frontiers of the debate that has been initiated. In doing so I will stick to the order in which the original article chronicled them.
Nana Konadu Agyeman Rawlings (1981 – 2000)
Whereas it is factually inaccurate to state that the 31st December Women’s Movement (DWM) was formed by Nana Konadu Agyeman Rawlings, it goes without saying that she was very instrumental in the many successes which the organization chalked.
She also contributed to the domestication of affirmative action in Ghana after the global Beijing conference on women emancipation convened by the United Nations in September 1995 in China.
What detracts from her contributions is the many allegations of impropriety and corruption thrown at her by the New Patriotic Party (NPP); some of which even led Nana Akufo-Addo as Attorney General to prosecute her under President Kufour’s administration.
Unfortunately, because the matter was not decided following a ‘nolle prosequoi’ filed by the Attorney General, such allegations continue to linger. Others have also questioned how the 31st DWM could acquire the Nsawam cannery, its large tracts of land, and the GNTC properties among others.
These issues lend some credence to the thinking that Mrs. Rawlings’ drive within the NGO space dwindled immediately, “her husband handed over power to President John Kufour and the NPP” as Mr. Wiafe suggested in his article, because the influence of the state was curtailed. This led to abandonment of some laudable projects which were ongoing.
Theresa Kufuor (2001 – 2008)
Unlike Mrs. Rawlings, Theresa Kufour is calm, mature and fair minded so her entry into the political scene drew a sharp contrast with the past. In addition, some of the key programmes that her predecessor was championing was immediately taken over by the, then newly created, Ministry of Women and Children Affairs. Some political analysts posit that beyond advancing gender perspectives, President Kufour deliberately created the ministry as one of the many ways he sought to wipe out or diminish the overbearing influence of the 31st December Women’s Movement.
Be that as it may, as rightly suggested, her NGO, Mother and Child Foundation (website unavailable), was instrumental in promoting child health and the Free Compulsory Universal Basic Education (FCUBE) programme among others. Not much is heard of her Foundation nowadays and digital footprints of their recent activities are also nonexistent.
Ernestina Naadu Mills (2009 – July 2012)
Ernestina Naadu Mills was also calm, mature and fair minded. Like her husband, President John Evans Atta Mills, she visibly proclaimed her faith in God and as can be understood, the untimely exit of her husband into eternity did not afford her the space and time to express herself within the NGO space as most first ladies do.
However, in 2013 her bible distribution project for SHS students caught the eye of many because it attracted the media’s attention.
Lordina Mahama (July 2009 – 2016)
Lordina Mahama is also calm, mature and fair minded. She was relatively younger than her immediate two predecessors so one may argue that she had more energy and stamina to move around the country to touch many lives through the Lordina Foundation which Mr. Wiafe informs was formed out of her preexisting NGO, the Alternative Source of Income Program (ASOIP).
Beyond physical energy, I believe her passion for people particularly children and orphans also contributed to her immeasurable successes within the NGO space when she became first lady.
As indicated by Wiafe in his article, “a simple search on goggle on Lordina Mahama’s foundation brings up a number of publications about her NGO and its activities.” This also includes funding sources such as Newmont GH Ltd. and Medshare (www.medshare.org).
Furthermore, their activities include but not limited to:
- Donating medical supplies and equipment to poorly resourced health facilities;
- Offering free integrated health screening services in various communities;
- Donating essentials to orphanages and to ostracised women (alleged witches) at “Witch Camps” for their upkeep;
- Assisting brilliant but needy students with scholarships to enable them pursue their academic dreams;
- Providing destitute artisans with start-up kits to enable them make meaningful livelihoods out of their acquired skills; and
- Providing Persons with Disabilities groups with targeted support.
Unlike all her predecessors, the website of her foundation – https://www.lordinafoundation.org – has remained active and reveals notable personalities who serve on her Board of which Rev. Stephen Wengam of the Assemblies of God Ministries is the Chairman.
I commend Lordina Mahama for ensuring the continuity of the activities of her foundation as shown by the online links below:
Antoinette Ankra _Administrative manager and programme coordinator
Kumawu Polyclinic receives medical equipment from Lordina Foundation
This success story could be due to the fact that she was already in the philanthropic industry (ASOIP) prior to becoming first lady.
Rebecca Akufo-Addo (2017 – to date)
Her Excellency Rebecca Akufo-Addo has also started on a good note. Unlike her immediate predecessor, she is new to the philanthropic industry with no prior experience. However, she instituted the Rebecca Foundation in January 2017. Support for special needs children; and infrastructure projects in both Komfo Anokye and Korle Bu Teaching Hospitals have been some of her noticeable achievements so far.
Notwithstanding the above, Mrs. Akufo-Addo’s foundation’s work has benefitted from state sponsorship albeit indirectly from state owned agencies which donated to her fund raising activities. Unsurprisingly, this has attracted criticisms from sections of Ghanaians.
They have asked if, “…these monies can be directed into the consolidated fund to allow for direct government of Ghana disbursement?” They have also suggested that, “perhaps some unseen hands cajole these State Owned Agencies to donate generously to the first lady’s NGO.”
This is obviously not good for her image and the sustenance of her NGO particularly after her husband’s term in office. Clearly if President Akufo-Addo leaves office tomorrow, none of these state agencies will have the courage, even under another NPP President to sponsor her. Hence the appropriateness of the theme of Mr. Wiafe’s article which aptly enquires into the fate of NGO’s run by First Ladies after their husbands’ term(s) in office.
In conclusion, let me once again commend Mr. Sammy Wiafe for starting the debate on an important governance issue which requires rigorous intellectual inquiry and succinct social discourse. The analysis, so far, points to the unchangeable reality that, First Ladies have the heart to help – kudos to them.
However, issues about impropriety arise depending on the source(s) of funding for the activities they engage in and the vehicles they deploy to deliver their packages. Thus far, the vehicles have been Non-Governmental Organisations in the form of “Foundations.”
When their husbands are in office, their NGOs operate with greater influence and may sometimes be seen as insider NGOs (Government propelled), albeit with varying degrees, depending on whose regime you’re examining.
Once the foundations are absorbed by the trappings of government in this manner, their post regime survival becomes threatened; as has been the case for most of them save for the Lordina foundation (available online evidence)
This affects the extent to which the media highlights their activities, if any. That is not to suggest that former first ladies must compete with incumbent first ladies for the limited media space within that niche.
Dr. Mildred Amoako