“I come from a background where I could have easily been given off in marriage at an early age.
“In fact there were comments like that as I was growing up. Before I went to the university, my grandmother was saying ‘she is growing, she should be married by now’.
And my father would say ‘no she has to go to school,” she said in Accra last Saturday at a career forum organised by Professionals for Change, a group within the New Patriotic Party (NPP).
In a month in which the world’s attention is turned towards activism against violence against women, Mrs Bawumia said child marriage was a form of violence.
“I was allowed to do whatever I wanted to do. I was allowed to pursue my education. The world was my oyster. I could do whatever. So we need champions as we go along and who are better than the men in our lives. The first men we encounter, our fathers.”
Greater rights“When we fight for greater rights and equality for women in all spheres of life, let us not forget that prioritising girl -child education does not only empower the girl but also serves as a catalyst for the development of the entire nation.
“Educated women tend to be more productive and contribute to the socio-economic and political decision making.
“Statistics also show that an educated woman is likely to deliver safely, have a child who gets the correct weight and has a healthier family and healthier children. There is a case for educating the woman because it helps the family and the society as a whole,” she said.
Meanwhile, the Second Lady has made a strong case for heads of state and private institutions to develop code of ethics that protect women from being preyed upon by sexual predators in their organisations as sexual harassment is affecting women empowerment in Ghana.
“Let us have disciplinary measures in our institutions that will stop sexual harassment. I know what young women go through, especially when they are desperate for jobs.
“There are young women who will have to go through that every day because their bosses insist they have to sleep with them before they give them jobs.
“This is prevalent and it is rampant. People don’t like to talk about it because it is uncomfortable and affects women’s development. For a woman who knows her rights and minded to her morals, she won’t give in and it means she will be unemployed and that affects her empowerment,” she said.
Mrs Bawumia cited some allegations she heard recently, where a bank manager was hitting on a businesswoman who had gone to see him to discuss a contract, as well as a human resource manager who was pressurising female national service personnel to have sex with him to offer them jobs, describing the situation as unacceptable.
While issues of sexual harassment go largely undiscussed in Ghana, in the United States, allegations of sexual harassment gave birth to a #Metoo Movement that swept away many influential men including politicians, movie stars and film producers.
While victims remain silence in Ghana, Mrs Bawumia said it was time to ensure that no woman was denied promotion or the opportunity to work because she refused to give sexual favours.
“The message I’m putting out is that sexual harassment is an unspoken issue within institutions in Ghana. Every woman may know somebody or may have experienced sexual harassment at one point in her life. Unfortunately, at the very top, the decision makers are predominantly men,” she stated.
Held on the theme: “Empowering Women for Future Leadership,” the event brought together female students from tertiary institutions across the country.
They were taken through entrepreneurship training, career prospects in the sciences, banking and finance, law and social sciences, technology and digital industry.