HRAC is constantly working in a lot of different areas. Here is just a sample of some of the projects we have done in the past. Scroll down to read more about or work in reproductive health, mental health (prayer camps), monitoring of insitutions like the boys and girls juvenile home, court monitoring, Africa-wide advocacy and our human rights clinic.
Achieving gender equality in education has been a challenge in Ghanaian schools and universities. Girls experience a higher drop-out rate compared to boys,and there are only 45 females for every 100 males in tertiary education, taken from World Bank indicators at http://www.tradingeconomics.com/ghana/ratio-of-girls-to-boys-in-primary-and-secondary-education-percent-wb-data.html). As a result, the Gender Education Policy (GEP) initiative was created to ensure equal opportunities in education regardless of gender. GEP was commissioned by the Ghana National Education Campaign Coalition (GNECC) in 2010. The goal of GEP is to provide a comprehensive gender policy framework. Since the initiative began great progress has been made towards achieving the overall goal of GEP. On February 22nd 2011 a GEP document was drafted. Many participants were involved in this drafting, including the Department of Children (MOWAC), Girls Education Unit (GEU), and Action Aid Ghana. The draft was edited by HRAC and a final document was then sent to GNECC. GNECC in turn delivered the final draft to the Ministry of Education.
HRAC continues to work in the area of education -have a look HERE to find out more about our current project, ‘Gender Based Violences in Schools.’
HRAC‘s sexual reproductive health programs aim to inform women of their reproductive health rights and to provide them with easier access to services that will allow them to fully understand their reproductive rights. HRAC’s campaigns about reproductive health rights help to create a safe environment for women to make suitable choices about their sexual health without fear of intimidation from others. The primary reproductive health project for HRAC in 2011 was the Family Planning Project facilitated by the Planned Parenthood Association of Ghana (PPAG). This project was implemented in 2011 with the purpose of increasing advocacy and campaigning for family planning services and commodities in Ghana. As part of this initiative, on May 27 2011 HRAC, along with PPAG, met with members of Parliament. In this meeting the supply of contraceptives, as well as the enabling of an environment where the use of contraceptives would be acceptable, were discussed. These two factors are the most influential with regards to decreasing maternal mortality in Ghana. HRAC also had numerous meetings with Gender Based Organizations (GBOS) such as Woman In Self Empowerment (WISE) and Women in Law and Development in Africa (WILDAF), as well as the Gender Centre. As a result of these meetings with HRAC, the GBOs revealed a commitment towards integration of family planning into women’s rights and the sustainment of women’s rights to quality reproductive and maternal health care services. To further push the family planning project initiative HRAC published numerous articles about family planning services in Ghana as well as the availability of condoms and emergency contraceptives to the women and youth of Ghana.
HRAC continues to work in Sexual and Reproductive Health, find out more HERE.
Approximately 10% of Ghanians suffer from a mental illness. Access to psychiatric hospitals is made very difficult for Ghanians due to inconvenient locations, lack of health care professionals, shortages of medicine, and low funding. Also, culturally, mental illnesses are not viewed as a medical condition; rather they are seen as possession by an evil spirit. These factors contribute to the use of “prayer camps” as the common treatment for mental illnesses. Because prayer camps play such a significant role in the treatment of mental illness, the individuals running these camps should be legally required to undergo training. Recently there have been reports of individuals being abused and mistreated at prayer camps. A study conducted by the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative revealed some of the harsh conditions patients of these prayer camps had to endure. The Mental Health Project aims to make mental healthcare more accessible and also to reduce the abuse of rights when traditional healing and prayer camps are used. With financial assistance from the Rhodes Scholar Southern African Forum (RSSAF), Oxford University(?) and the United Kingdom, HRAC organized a two-day training workshop that focused on human rights standards for members of Faith Complementary & Alternative Health Care (FCHAG), and published literature materials to raise awareness on the rights of mental patients. The first workshop was held on June 21st 2011 and the second workshop was held on June 22nd 2011. The workshops explained the most common documented abuses in prayer camps and their legal consequences. The aim of these two programs was to make sure the trainees could identify when human rights are being abused and to inform them of what they should do when this happens. As a result of these two workshops 250 posters have been distributed to prayer camps, hospitals and other facilities for display. The Volta and Ashanti regional directorates of the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ) now monitor activities in prayer and healing camps to ensure compliance with human rights standards. Finally, requests for further training and extension of the project to other parts of the country were made by camp operators.
A study conducted in 2009 showed that 14% of Ghanian school students were sexually abused. In most cases the students being abused are female. Young girls and women in Ghana are commonly victims of physical, sexual, emotional, and economic abuse. They are often subjected to harsh traditional customs such as child/forced marriage and Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). In an effort to combat this issue, HRAC has partnered with Ghana National Education Campaign Coalition (GNECC) to create projects that will minimize gender-based violence (GBV) in schools. These projects include research, policy drafts, and the training of advocates (policy makers/implementers). In July 2011 HRAC organized an interactive seminars at two different schools. The purpose of the seminars is to create awareness about GBV and to inform the students of who they should contact if they are victims of GBV. One exciting breakthrough HRAC has made in fighting GBV occurred when HRAC received funding from Star-Ghana to take on a 2 year project focusing on the prevention of GBV in schools in Greater-Accra, Eastern, and Volta region. Furthermore, HRAC started the Gender Sensistisation Program in Dade-Kutupon Constituency in July 2011, which was created to educate students on GBV, its effects and possible preventive measures in two basic schools in the Dade Kutupon Constituency. This program was organized completely by HRAC interns and volunteers. The HRAC team implemented drama skits in their education sessions on GBV to make it enjoyable for the kids to learn. Through this initiative alone HRAC was able to reach out to almost 500 students, a great success in terms of increasing awareness of GBV amongst students.
1. Gambia Day of Action Press Conference
July 22nd is celebrated as a day of freedom in Gambia. However, the government of Gambia continues to violate the human rights of its citizens through torture, killings and arbitrary detentions. In an effort to bring about greater awareness of these issues, HRAC participated in the Gambia Day of Action Press Conference. In this forum HRAC highlighted the human rights abuses taking place against the citizens of Gambia. This Conference was successful in raising international awareness of these issues and caused regional bodies such as ECOWAS, African Union and the European Union to become involved with combating these human rights issues as well.
2. African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights Sensitization Seminar
In December 2011 HRAC participated in the National Sensitization Seminar on the Promotion of the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights. The goal of this seminar was to raise public awareness of the court, as well as to inform citizens of how to access the court and utilize it to settle human rights disputes. Director of HRAC, Nana Oye Lithur, participated in a panel discussion alongside representatives of the Ghana Bar Association, the Commission for Human Rights and Administrative Justice and academic institutions. In her presentation Mrs. Lithur focused on ways in which NGOs can utilize the courts to promote human rights. She also brought awareness to the challenges facing the court such as non-enforceability, as well as the small number of countries that encourage empowered individuals and NGOs to bring human rights issues to court. In an effort to minimize these challenges Mrs. Lithur suggested a number of strategies to encourage NGOs to utilize the courts, including using social networking tools as well as creating a database of NGOs working on human rights issues in the region.
In 2011, HRAC monitored institutions to assess the discharge of their mandate, compliance with human rights law and the challenges they faced. HRAC visited the Girls Industrial School/Boys Remand Home on August 1st 2011. The home is made up of four facilities; the Boys’ Remand Home, the Girls’ Juvenile Correction Centre, Vocational School and Shelter for Abused Children. HRAC visited each of the four facilities and evaluated the challenges that each facility was facing as well as the purpose that each facility served.
1. Boys’ Remand Home
The Boys’ Remand Home hosts juveniles convicted of stealing, defilement, robbery and narcotics. The home can hold up to 12 inmates and they range from ages 12-17. This home provides shelter, basic education, games, counseling and security to the inmates during their period in detention. Some of the challenges this shelter faces include overcrowding, lack of security, and monitoring of the age limit. HRAC took particular note of the delays in processing the boys at the facility due to police apathy and the limited number of juvenile courts in the region. The headmistress suggested that a solution to these challenges would be to build more juvenile courts in the region and also for the police to become more actively involved in handling cases.
Visiting the Junior Girls Facility, Accra
2. Shelter for Abused Children
This Shelter takes care of abused children whose cases are in court or under investigation. The home also accommodates children for a short period for family tracing and reintegration if families are found. HRAC noted that abused children stay for long periods of time in which they have access to beneficial services such as counseling and entertainment activities. During HRAC’s visit there were 13 children at the facility ranging from the ages of 5-16.
3. The Junior Girls’ facility
HRAC also visited the Junior Girls’ Correctional facility, and found that services such as counseling, mentoring and religious education were being offered to support rehabilitation. On a more practical level, the girls are taught life-skills to help them find employment once they leave the facility. The girls are supervised by social workers for 6 months following their release.
In July 2011 HRAC visited the Juvenile and District courts in Accra to learn about their operations. A majority of the cases dealt with were in the family, district, and juvenile courts. HRAC noted some problems with the institution, which included understaffing, lack of resources such as computers and archiving software, space restrictions and inadequate record-keeping procedures. Whilst witnessing juvenile hearings, it became evident that a lack of professional translators also acted as an impediment to the course of justice. Through HRAC’s advocacy work these issues were addressed by pressuring the courts. One of the ways in which HRAC pressured the courts was through its monitoring as Amicus Curiae (friend of the court). The objective of the exercise is to ensure that justice and fairness is adopted and done to all manner of persons accessing the criminal justice system.
Amicus Curiae and Jesus One Touch (read more HERE)
One of the cases that HRAC followed in 2011 as Amicus Curiae was the case of “Jesus One Touch”. The defendant Nana Kofi Yirenkyi, a Prophet, Founder and General Overseer of the Blood of Jesus Prophetic Ministry, was appealing against his conviction and imprisonment for 10 years of hard labour, after being found guilty of incest and defilement of his 10 year old daughter. On July 15th 2011 a team of lawyers from HRAC attended High Court to observe the appeal hearing. The defense was ordered to re-file the appeal and it is expected that this will be heard in October following the court’s vacation. Subsequently, HRAC was invited by Mr. Wiredu (prosecutor) to discuss the appeal.
Human Rights Clinic
One of the most vital resources of HRAC is the Human Rights Clinic. This clinic helps to provide and ensure adequate legal representation for the underprivileged in Ghana. HRAC is able to offer assistance and hope to individuals who normally would not stand a chance when facing the legal system. Hands-on involvement allows HRAC to stay in touch with human rights issues on the ground and how the legal system is handling these cases. In 2011 HRAC attended to 165 cases. Of these 165 cases, 121 are pending. Importantly, 21 cases were referred to and handled by more appropriate organizations. To find out more about the Human Rights Clinic, click HERE.