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Article: H.E. Rebecca Naa Okaikor Akufo-Addo: Seven years on

First Lady, Mrs Rebecca Akufo-Addo

The title of First Lady is a ceremonial one given to the wife of a serving president, and her term is linked to that of the president. The function of the First Lady in Ghana’s constitution is not clearly defined, but First Ladies have historically made important contributions to the well-being of women and children through the establishment of foundations, and our present First Lady, H.E. Rebecca Naa Okaikor Akufo-Addo, is no exception.

H.E. Rebecca Naa Okaikor Akufo-Addo was born on March 12, 1951, to The Right Honourable Jacob Hackenburg Griffiths-Randolph, the former Speaker of Ghana’s Parliament under the Third Republic, and Mrs. Frances Phillipina Griffiths-Randolph. She is the adored wife of our President, H.E. Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo. She became First Lady when the New Patriotic Party won the 2016 and 2020 elections, respectively.

Her Excellency has been in office since January 2017, and she has been responsible for a variety of charity and social initiatives. Since taking office, she has actively worked to enhance the lives of Ghanaians through her foundation, The Rebecca Foundation. Her mission as First Lady is to improve Ghanaians’ lives, particularly in health, by increasing access to healthcare services and raising disease awareness, education, women’s empowerment, and gender equity.

Her Excellency’s special healthcare initiative is the SAVE A CHILD, SAVE A MOTHER project. This is to improve maternal and child health in Ghana. The project also aims to raise awareness about the value of prenatal care, provide educational resources to expectant women, and ensure that mothers and children have access to safe and high-quality healthcare facilities throughout childbirth.

Through her foundation, she has been able to provide financial support for equipping maternal wards and providing health care resources in hospitals across Ghana’s 16 regions, such as the Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital and Suntreso South hospitals in the Ashanti Region; Ankaful, Saltpond,  Kwesimintsim, and Cape-Coast teaching hospitals in the Central Region; Korle Bu Teaching Hospital, Ridge Hospital, 37 Military Hospital, and Asylum Down Mental Hospital in the Greater Accra Region; ambulance donations to Osu Maternity Home, Valley View Hospital, Sakumono Community Hospital, Komfo Anokye MBU, Korle Bu PICU, Huni Valley Health Center, and Damango Health Center.

The SAVE A CHILD, SAVE A MOTHER initiative also entails the construction and renovation of health facilities notably THE REBECCA AKUFO-ADDO PICU (paediatric and intensive care unit) at the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital, which is the hospital’s first of its kind and has 21 beds for a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit and 20 beds for a Paediatric Intensive Care Unit; renovating the OSU MATERNITY HOME after it had been deteriorating for several decades; and building a state-of-the-art Mother and Baby Unit at the Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital (KATH), which was named NANA AFIA SERWAA KOBI AMPEM II Center after the late Asantehemaa; construction of a 54-bed capacity SUNSHINE HOSTEL with an AstroTurf playground that accommodates children receiving cancer treatment and their families, at the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital.

She also co-founded the Infanta Malaria Prevention Foundation in 2005, to support the national effort to eradicate malaria, especially in pregnant women and children. The foundation has constructed CHPS compound in Kobedi, Nyanshegu, Kwame Anum, Adenkrebi and Biakpa Avatime. Her Excellency is determined to enhance the overall healthcare system in Ghana and ensure the well-being of its citizens.

Furthermore, through a scholarship program, the Rebecca Foundation, in partnership with the Merck Foundation, has trained several doctors in critical fields such as oncology, gastroenterology, neonatal medicine, clinical microbiology and infectious disease, embryology, and fertility, to name a few.

Her Excellency, in collaboration with several foundations, has been able to provide free surgery to patients in need. The foundation has also overseen the deployment of medical personnel to undertake free medical outreaches to the poor and vulnerable in remote locations, as well as free cervical cancer training and the provision of medical equipment.

Her Excellency launched the ‘Because I Want To Be’ initiative to promote gender equity in Ghana’s educational system. The goal of this effort is to motivate young girls through mentorship programmes and keep them in school with the objective to increase the number of girls enrolled in higher education institutions.

A further initiative known as ‘Learning To Read, Reading To Learn’ is a project that aims to improve child literacy. Her Excellency has built 15 libraries and ICT centers throughout the country as part of the ‘Learning To Read’ campaign. These facilities can be found in Achimota School, Damongo, Aboree, New Abiriem, Osenease, Kwahu-Benpong, Sefwi Dabeiso, Akropong, Kumawu, Dambai, Wenchi, Amassaman, Daffiama Bussie Issah, Bortiano, and Moree. In collaboration with Huawei Ghana, the foundation taught over 7,000 teenage girls and traders about digital technology.

Over 500 traders from three regions (Ashanti, Eastern, and Greater Accra) received Financial Technology (FinTech) training aimed at providing them with the necessary digital tools to help their businesses thrive conveniently and cost-effectively, while 6,678 girls were trained in basic ICT skills, coding, data transfer, and data storage.

Her foundation has also overseen the construction of various educational facilities across the country in places like Wiaboman, where a six-classroom block is almost complete; a completed primary block at Adetim D/A Primary school; creches in Dome, Adenta, and Koforidua; and also renovated and equipped the Braille Production Centre in Accra, which has significantly improved teaching and learning for visually impaired pupils, particularly in Grammar, Languages and Mathematics.

She has also donated items to schools such as Dworwulu Special School, SOS Villages, School of the Blind, School for the Deaf, and Adjei Kojo Orphanage, among others, as well as a school bus for students in the Ningo/Prampram area.

In addition to healthcare and education, H.E. Rebecca Akufo-Addo is committed to projects promoting women’s empowerment and entrepreneurship. The TEREMA initiative is used to organize skills training courses to provide women with vital skills for personal and professional growth.

These courses in collaboration with the KGL Foundation include entrepreneurship training, vocational skills training such as sewing or handicraft, financial literacy workshops, and leadership development programs. These workshops, which have been utilized to train over 1000 women by providing them with practical skills, knowledge, and start-up kits, will increase their economic independence and contribute to their overall empowerment.

Furthermore, networking opportunities are provided to help women interact with one another and form a supportive group. One example is Her Excellency taking a delegation of Ghanaian businesswomen to China. These and other ongoing support programs are meant to assist Ghanaian women in continuing their personal and professional development.

Equity leads to equality, which is why Her Excellency promotes gender equity in Ghana through community outreach efforts. Her model is to raise awareness about the importance of gender equity and work to eliminate gender-based discrimination and stereotypes by promoting equal access to education, healthcare, and economic opportunities for women, as well as advocating for policy changes that support gender equity and empower women to create a more inclusive and supportive environment in Ghana.

Her Excellency is also committed to promoting environmental sustainability in Ghana through her ‘Let’s Go Green’ campaign. This program seeks to build sustainable communities by improving the environmental health and sanitation of public spaces, combating deforestation through tree planting campaigns, advocating for sustainable waste management practices, and raising awareness regarding the importance of natural resource conservation. The aforementioned initiative aims to protect the environment, conserve biodiversity, and create a more sustainable future for Ghana.

H.E. Rebecca Naa Okaikor Akufo-Addo, affectionately called “My Beautiful Rebecca” by the President of our Republic, H.E. Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo. No one will doubt the President’s description given that you radiate beauty envied by the Helen of Troy; H.E. Dr. Rebecca Naa Okaikor Akufo-Addo, Honorary Doctorate Degree of Humane Letters as conferred on you by the University of Professional Studies in recognition of your distinguished service to humanity; Your Excellency, may you live long enough to see your grandchildren grow and marry.

The writer is Neil Owusu, Member of the NPP National Communication Team

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