Remarks by DCM Lamora at the Joint Woman of Courage Award and Martin Luther King Jr. Award for Peace and Social Justice Ceremony

Chargé d'affaires Christopher Lamora delivering his remarks

Remarks for DCM Lamora
U.S. Embassy Ghana’s Joint Woman of Courage Award and
Martin Luther King Jr. Award for Peace and Social Justice Ceremony
DCR Garden
Wednesday, October 21, 2020, 2:00pm-3:00pm

Distinguished ladies and gentlemen;
All protocols observed.

I’m honored to welcome you to this celebration of four incredible women who have committed their lives to helping the Ghanaian people.

Today, we recognize Ms. Lydia Sasu as the recipient of the U.S. Embassy’s 2020 Woman of Courage Award.

We also proudly recognize Ms. Felicia Boakye-Yiadom, Ms. Cynthia Bosumtwi-Sam, and Dr. Evelyn Oduro, affectionately referred to as the “Three Wise Women” from Ghana’s Ministry of Education as the recipients of the Martin Luther King Jr. Award for Peace and Social Justice.

I would like to take a few minutes to highlight the significance of each award and the achievements of each of the awardees here with us today.

The International Women of Courage award recognizes women who exemplify exceptional courage and leadership in advocating for human rights, women’s equality, and social progress, often at great personal risk and sacrifice. Each year, U.S. diplomatic missions overseas may nominate only one woman of courage from their respective host countries.

The U.S. Embassy’s awardee, Ms. Lydia Sasu has championed the rights of Ghana’s women farmers for decades. She formed one of the country’s leading grassroots federations of women farmers, the Development Action Association (DAA), or Noyaa Kpee in the Ga language, which she leads as Executive Director. DAA is a non-governmental organization that operates in 65 communities along Ghana’s coast to strengthen food security among rural women, many of whom lack formal education.

In Ghana, 10 percent of the population derives their livelihoods from the fisheries sector. In fact, fish account for some 60 percent of the average Ghanaian’s protein intake but Ghana’s fishing industry is facing dire straits. Small pelagic fish stocks — “the people’s fish” — in Ghana are at near collapse. To address this critical issue, the U.S. Government, through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), partnered with the Ministry of Fisheries and Aquaculture

Development (MOFAD) to develop a National Co-Management Policy to help fishing communities sustainably manage their fragile resources. Over the years, DAA, led by Ms. Sasu, forged an alliance with MOFAD, Ghana’s Fisheries Commission, local traditional leaders, and female oyster pickers to apply co-management techniques that culminated in a five-month closed season for the Densu coastal oyster fishery last year. This closed season provided an opportunity for fish stock to be replenished so fishers can continue to make their livelihoods from the ocean.

The initiative’s success required communication, cooperation, and courage. Educating communities on the purpose behind the closure and convincing them of the need to work together to come through the period stronger was no small feat.

Through the strength of the coalition that she built, and her leadership and courage, Ms. Sasu ensured that oyster farmers effectively enforced the ban on harvesting in their own communities and voluntarily extended it for a second consecutive year. As a result, today, the women oyster harvesters report significantly larger harvests and sales revenues thanks to the co-management techniques that Ms. Sasu and DAA pioneered. The Densu example is a model for extending the closed season to all coastal fisheries, and one that we hope is scaled up in the years to come.

Moreover, this successful initiative demonstrates how civil society can work hand-in-hand with the government to self-regulate their communities. It proved that shared responsibility for decision-making among government, citizens, and stakeholders can be more effective than a top-down approach. It also underscored the tremendous importance of engaging women in such undertakings. As the proverb says, “Educate a man, and you educate a man. Educate a woman, and you educate a nation.” Lydia Sasu proved through her dedication and resilience that one committed woman can change countless lives for the better.

For all of these reasons, Ms. Lydia Sasu has been selected as the U.S. Embassy’s 2020 Ghana Woman of Courage.

Before I invite Lydia to the stage, I would like to talk about the Martin Luther King, Jr. Award for Peace and Social Justice:

For twelve years the U.S. Embassy has recognized one or more Ghanaians who — in the same spirit as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. — have promoted social justice, peace, and human rights.

The “Three Wise Women” from Ghana’s Ministry of Education – Ms. Felicia Boakye-Yiadom, Ms. Cynthia Bosumtwi-Sam, and Dr. Evelyn Oduro epitomize Dr. King’s legacy.

As the Executive Secretaries of three key Ministry of Education agencies – the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NaCCA), the National Inspectorate Board (NIB), and the National Teaching Council (NTC), these women have been instrumental in the Ministry’s success in partnering and collaborating with development partners, including USAID, non-governmental organizations, and civil society organizations to mobilize technical and financial support to improve the quality of education for Ghana’s children.

USAID collaborated with the “Three Wise Women” as part of its Partnership for Education: Learning activity. Together, USAID and Ms. Boakye-Yiadom, Ms. Bosumtwi-Sam, and Dr. Oduro co-created and jointly managed a phonics-based early grade reading program across Ghana’s 11 official national languages of instruction. Through their stellar efforts over the last five years, the Learning activity trained 38,000 education personnel in over 7,200 schools across 100 districts and distributed 3.2 million grade-level teaching and learning materials to schools. In 2018, an independent external impact evaluation showed substantial and significant improvements in students’ reading achievement as a result of these efforts.

These women accomplished incredible feats and became trailblazers for education reform in Ghana. They effectively used the pedagogy of the Learning activity to guide the development of an improved national primary school curriculum that emphasizes the importance of reading, writing, and arithmetic. They also rolled out Ghana’s first teacher licensure examination and the use of Global Positioning System (GPS) coordinates on phones and tablets for collecting real-time data by school inspectors.

Taken together, the “Three Wise Women” have dedicated over 100 years of service to Ghana’s education sector. Their ultimate impact on student’s progress in the classroom – and by extension, on Ghana’s future – is immeasurable.

May I now ask our four award recipients to please join me at the podium.

Lydia Sasu… Today the U.S. Embassy recognizes you as our 2020 Ghanaian Woman of Courage. It is my honor to present you with this award and certificate that states:

“For exemplary leadership with the women oyster pickers of the Densu Estuary and the Government of Ghana to protect coastal fisheries and women’s livelihoods.”

And to our Three Wise Women of education… Today the U.S. Embassy recognizes you as our 2020 Martin Luther King Jr. Awardees. It is my honor to present you with this award and certificate that states:

“For transformative leadership in improving literacy for Ghanaian children.”

There is a Ghanaian proverb that states: “Greatness is not found in possessions, power, position or prestige. It is discovered in goodness, humility, service, and character.”

Our awardees today truly embody the spirit of greatness described in this proverb. Together, they demonstrate the immense power of community, sense of service, and commitment to positive change.

Ayekoo to all awardees.

We thank you for your contributions to Ghana.