BLOG: The pride and courage of the Ghanaian People
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December 5, 2006
by Her Excellency Michaëlle Jean
This year marks 100 years of Canadian presence in Ghana. Africa’s white fathers arrived in Navrongo in 1906. But it was not until 1957, when Ghana achieved independence, that co-operation between Canada and this West African country really picked up momentum. Since then, thousands of Canadian workers have made an invaluable contribution to the lives of the Ghanaian people, particularly in the areas of health, education, engineering and agriculture. I met with some of our workers in the field in Accra and in the country’s northern region of Tamale. I spoke with students from our universities who have found learning opportunities in Ghana and who are adding their talents to many local development projects. For example, the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) is supporting a learning centre (GRATIS) in the capital that offers training in technology, mechanical product and agricultural machinery manufacturing, smelting, textiles and handicrafts. GRATIS students dream of taking charge of their lives, of running their own businesses. Young women in particular are expanding their sphere of activity; many of them are working in machine shops.
In Tamale, a number of Canadian non-governmental organizations are working with CIDA. The very dynamic, warm Sister Jacqueline has spent over thirty years working with women she has saved from the dangers of the streets by setting up workshops and boutiques to sell their handmade clothing. Access to safe food and water are also at the heart of co-operation efforts between Canada and Ghana in the country’s northern region.
I will not soon forget the people of Golinga, where pride triumphs over poverty and courage over destitution. Together, the women of Golinga set up a joint account and have since become managers, on even footing with the men, of a goat farm benefiting 85 families. Though they may be illiterate, they speak with profound eloquence of their achievements and projects, of their children, daughters and sons attending school, of the hard work they face every day, of water collected several kilometres away, of the health clinic they dream of to fight malaria and other devastating diseases. When they sing, they sing of the battles they are waging. Again, as is the custom in Africa, it is through dance and the rhythm of tom-toms that they welcome others.
I am at a loss to describe my visit to Elmina Castle, where thousands of men, women and children torn from their villages across West Africa were held, tortured, before being deported as slaves, packed more tightly than livestock down in the hold of sinister slave ships that criss-crossed the seas, bound for far-off colonies. Elmina Castle is but one of many points of captivity along the west coast of Africa.
The Government of Ghana publicly apologized to the descendants of African slaves for the Ashanti participation in the slave trade, who rounded up the people of this region for the Europeans. It was with a great deal of emotion that I responded to this courageous, necessary admission. I did so with the help of these words in the presence of President Kufuor and all of the guests gathered at the State dinner given in my honour. (http://www.gg.ca/media/doc.asp?lang=e&DocID=4936
... We are now in South Africa.