It was pomp and circumstance in Accra, Ghana, when African Women in Agricultural Research and Development (AWARD) Fellows, Mentors, and Fellow Mentees gathered to launch the Ghanaian Women in Agricultural Research and Development (GhaWARD) country chapter. The chapter was unveiled during a themed event dubbed “GhaWARD: Empowering Ghanaian Female Scientists in Agricultural Research and Development for Global Impact”, held on March 31, 2017.
Ms Nana Oforiwaa Koranteng, CEO and Principal Consultant at MIGALS Service Limited, and a development economist by training, graced the launch as the Chairperson. She urged GhaWARD to create a platform not only for women’s empowerment in agricultural research and development, but a platform that will assist women in becoming financially stable in Ghana. “Let us enable women in all sectors, especially in agriculture, to set up profitable businesses so as to become financially independent. Five years from now, let us not be referring to women as smallholder farmers, just as today we do not refer to men as such.”
Those who were present watched a video of 2014 AWARD Fellow Dr Mercy Derkyi’s journey through AWARD’s two-year Career Development Fellowship Programme. The video detailed the benefits Derkyi gained from her Fellowship, her career growth, and her societal contributions. “Drawing a ‘purpose road map’ provided a foundation for my career development path. I have achieved tremendous milestones, including getting a PhD. I’m more confident than I was five years back. I no longer shy away from opportunities and I give back to society through role modelling events in schools and universities. I’m an empowered woman, thanks to AWARD!”
GhaWARD’s launch has been in the pipeline since October 2016, after a planning meeting was held at the University of Ghana-Legon. In this meeting, plans for GhaWARD activities, its constitution, and possible logo designs were generated. The planning committee also chose interim executives to oversee the affairs of the chapter until elections were held in preparation for the launch. Dr RoseEmma Mamaa Entsua-Mensah, an AWARD Steering Committee member and Deputy Director General of CSIR Ghana, served as the matron for the creation of GhaWARD. Another key participant in the formation of GhaWARD is AWARD Mentor and Director of the CSIR Food Research Institute, Dr Mary Obodai.
Dr Wanjiru Kamau-Rutenberg, AWARD’s Director, was also in attendance and gave a keynote address on the importance of sisterhood made possible by such platforms and reiterated AWARD’s support to the chapter. “It matters to have a sisterhood of women in leadership positions across the spectrum of African agricultural research and development (ARD), and I hope that GhaWARD will serve as a great platform to draw women together to push each other in attaining leadership positions throughout the country,” she noted emphatically. “Take up the mantle and make GhaWARD’s work relevant in attaining food and nutrition security in Ghana and beyond in a gender-oriented manner. AWARD will give GhaWARD the support it may need to facilitate the attainment of its vision and mission.”
The event, which was well attended by various government officials – including the Deputy Minister for Gender, Children and Social Protection, the Honourable Gifty Twum-Ampofo – as well as members of the private sector and possible donors, culminated with the swearing in of the elected GhaWARD officials by Dr Kamau-Rutenberg. GhaWARD will be under the leadership of Dr Derkyi, Dr Angela Parry-Hanson Kunadu, and Dr Freda Asem, who will serve as the President, Vice-President, and the second Vice-President, respectively.
The AWARD country chapter policy is meant to provide direction to AWARD in its engagement with its alumni and larger African ARD constituencies within individual countries.
AWARD country chapters will build on members’ experiences with AWARD to: share knowledge, skills, and networks; enhance research collaboration; and promote joint advocacy promoting women’s empowerment and gender responsiveness, especially in African ARD institutions. Through these country chapters, AWARD’s impact will be amplified and will resonate across the African agricultural research and development landscape.