The 2020 political race may include two familiar faces, John Mahama and Nana Akufo-Addo, but Professor Opoku-Agyemang is the woman who is capturing the attention of Ghanaians of all backgrounds, around the world.
Through her commitment to integrity, vibrant social media presence and compassionate spirit, Professor Opoku-Agyemang is taking her place on the frontline of the movement to make Ghana a more equitable society.
She is the first woman Vice Presidential candidate in Ghana’s history and even though being a pioneer is not easy, Professor Opoku-Agyemang is no stranger to it. She was also the first woman to serve as the Vice-Chancellor of a public university in Ghana, the University of Cape Coast.
Throughout her campaign, Professor Opoku-Agyemang has shown that she is not afraid to stand up for people who need it. This is especially necessary at a time when we are seeing Ghanaians, and Africans as a whole, speaking up about a wide range of social issues.
At her ‘Women in Conversation with Naana’ event on Friday, October 23, Professor Opoku-Agyemang positioned herself as a woman who understands that women can advocate for themselves, but would benefit from a leader who is truly willing to work with them to respond to issues raised.
Various groups were represented, from women in entrepreneurship to healthcare providers. Professor Opoku-Agyemang made the effort to visit each table for a conversation. This act showed that she values transparency, is enthusiastic about engagement, and is willing to provide a platform for others.
At the event, women detailed their expectations for a Vice Presidential candidate. This included more female representation in Parliament, a focus on integrity, and a commitment to more accessible education. Members from several groups such as the Queen Mothers Association, Kayayei Association, and creative arts groups shared their ideas for Ghana’s development.
Topical issues were also brought up. One example of this is when Mrs. Joyce Asumah, the National Women’s Commissioner for the Private Universities Students’ Association commented on the challenges facing women in higher education. She touched upon sexual harassment faced by primarily female students, brought to national attention during the ‘Sex for Grades’ exposé. During the event, Professor Opoku-Agyemang described her commitment to supporting survivors of sexual violence in several ways.
This included educational methods, increased mental health support, and making the reporting process easier for victims of sexual crimes, more of these initiatives can be found in the NDC Manifesto.
According to the Mastercard Report 2019, nearly 4 in every 10 business owners in Ghana are women.
In 2018, Ghana had the highest percentage of women business owners (46.6%) in the world. At the ‘Women in Conversation with Naana’ event, Kafui, a representative for the Alliance for Young Entrepreneurs, spoke on issues facing businesswomen in Ghana.
“All we are asking for, first and foremost, is equality and equity across board. I am a businesswoman, I want to be seen on the same level as a businessman.”
Professor Opoku-Agyemang detailed the invaluable nature of the contribution that Ghanaian businesswomen make to the economy, and the added pressures they are likely to face. She further acknowledged the need to support businesswomen by referencing Ghanaian market women.
“We need markets that look like Kotokuraba (the largest market in Cape Coast) such interventions show respect for women because the market is also our office.”
Several initiatives in the NDC Manifesto, which Professor Opoku-Agyemang encouraged people to read, are targeted at aiding small business owners.
She highlighted the fact that one of NDC’s goals is to stimulate business growth by reducing taxes for small businesses, “we will encourage them to put that money back into their business,” she explained. In addition, she made the point that businesswomen in all sectors and industries who want to further their education should receive more support.
As the former Minister of Education, Professor Opoku-Agyeman underscored her passion for education. Commenting on the lack of retention of female students she said,
“You know you go to Class One, and they are all there, by Class Five and Class Six it’s not too bad, now go to JHS, where are they?”
Professor Opoku-Agyemang used this opportunity to talk about NDC’s planned National Apprenticeship Program, which would provide for apprenticeship training for young people in collaboration with expert craftsmen and women which she hopes will “create a path for whatever girls would like to do.”
Another significant takeaway from the event was Professor Opoku-Agyemang’s dedication to women’s health. Acknowledging this year’s Breast Cancer Awareness month, she encouraged people “to check even after October ends.”
She emphasised her focus on healthcare by promising to create a Cancer and Kidney Disease Trust Fund and outlining NDC’s commitment to free primary healthcare.
More so, Professor Opoku-Agyemang related to mothers in the room at the event by emphasising that NDC planned to increase maternity leave to 4 months and provide paternity leave.
It is clear from the ‘Women in Conversation with Naana’ event that Professor Opoku-Agyemang understands that representation matters, but that alone is not enough to solve the issues that women face. They also need to be empowered, need to be listened to, and to be supported at all levels, especially by other women.
At the end of her speech, Professor Opoku-Agyemang, emphasised that the NDC manifesto effectively responds to different needs. She asserted that the foundation of the manifesto is community engagement, simply and powerfully stating, “That is why we call it the People’s Manifesto.”
There is space for anyone and everyone at Professor Naana Jane Opoku-Agyemang’s side.