The appointment by HE the President of Ghana to co-chair the UN advocacy group for the Global Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) is an indication of the expectation of the global community of nations that Ghana can play a leadership role in driving this sustainable transformational agenda, particularly, in Africa.
In his presentation of the 2018 budget and economic policy of government titled Putting Ghana To Work, the Minister of Finance made reference to this expectation and advised that a successful implementation of the SDGs, will need to involve all sectors of society.
He called on us to move beyond this budget cycle and make the SDGs flow through the DNA of Ghanaians in government’s efforts to meet the 2030 targets for the SDGs and the Paris Agreement for climate action.
In September 2015, the General Assembly of the UN adopted the 17 SDGs. While all 17 SDGs are important for driving transformation, for the purposes of this discussion, I will like to focus on SDGs 3(good health & well being),4 (quality education) 5(gender equality),8(decent work and economic growth),10 (reduced unequalities) & 16 (peace, justice and strong institutions(which are very critical to address the structural causes of poverty in Ghana.
We will argue that there is need for government to continue to reflect and repurpose the budgetted resources to realign some key priorities to ensure a strong line of sight between the economic policy initiatives and the SDGs.
SDGs As Cross Cutting Outcomes
One area that I believe must be a key priority which must be a cross cutting performance objective for the Ministers of Health & Education is addressing child and maternal mortality rates.
A study using data from over 200 countries found that for every one additional year of education for women of reproductive age, child mortality decreased by 9.5%. In 2015, another study showed that the difference in youth (ages 15-24) literacy rates between males and females in Sub-Saharan Africa was 10%.
In the budget statement the Minister reported that the number of infant mortality per 1000 live births increased from 5.8 to 7.5 this must be a major concern to all Ghanaians.
In one breadth the Minister sacknowledges challenges in the purchase of vaccines, which are critical for child survival immediately after birth. This has resulted in lower than targeted immunization coverage in the first half of 2017.
In another breadth the Minister mentions the worrying prospect of Government’s intent to exit from the Global Alliance For Vaccines and Immunization(GAVI).
It would be necessary for government to indicate the level of investment towards addressing this major issue which is critical for achieving SDGs 3.
Strengthen Gender Transformative Approaches in The Budget
One will argue that the free SHS policy contributes towards eradicating unequal power relations between boys and girls in the educational sector and this will have a positive effect on learning, health and employment outcomes and therefore is an enabler for realizing SDGs 4, 5&10.
However it is disappointing that the entire section on gender and social protection was restricted to school feeding program initiative.
The current “epidemic” of sexual violence and defilement against children especially girls should attract the attention of government as it prioritizes its investment choices in this sector.
The presentation by the Minister did not give adequate indication of a strategic intent to invest in addressing gender based violence, gender sensitive child protection initiatives and violence against children.
Government has to invest in child protection instutional strenghtening to improve referal systems and processes and also enhance community engagement to address social norms and belief systems which are at the core of gender based violence and child abuse.
In terms of leadership intentionality, I will urge government to partner the Ghana Employers Assocation and the TUC to invest in addressing gender based inequalities at work places.
For example I will like to call for government to prioritise and invest in a organizational gender assessment of the civil service especially the education and health sectors to identify enablers, barriers and solutions so Ghana can be able to meet the SDGs 3,4,5,8 and 10 etc.
Gender based discrimination is a human rights issue and its time that this is prioritised within the context of government’s commitment to deliver its Putting Ghana to work policy in alignment with the SDGs.
We submit that there is need to invest in extensive community engagement and social mobilization initiatives to address the root causes of gender inequalities across all sectors of the economy.
Engagement with Faith Based Organizations(FBOs)
The indication by Government to engage with FBOs to deliver critical social services in education, health and water and also to support provision of skills and entrepreneurial training for the youth is very laudable.
Partnering with the FBOs will contribute towards realising SDGs 3(good health & well being), 4(quality education) 5(gender equality),8(decent work and economic growth),10(reduced unequalities).
The writer has had personal experience partnering with faith based organizations to drive social mobilisation and community engagement during the ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone and can confim that this engagement model is an enabler for sustainable transformation. Coleman 2016, Africa Update, Central Connecticut State University).
I will urge the Minister of Finance to deepen the reflections and explore a re-alignment of the policy initiatives so they have explicit gender transformative outcomes.
This will mean political will, commitment and resources mobilisation with the outcome to tackle and transform the unequal power relations between men and women in the implementation of the policy initiatives.
The focus must extendbeyond improving the condition of women and girls and rather to improve their social position on how they are valued in society.
There are promising initiatives in the 2018 economic policy and there is a requirement for all Ghanaians to support the government to address some of the gaps to ensure the much expected transformation and turnaround in our economy creates prosperity in alignment with the SDGs.
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