Our partnership with the Queen Mothers of the Manya Krobo region was formed with the knowledge that one of the most effective ways to fight poverty and the spread of HIV/AIDS is to increase access to education, especially for girls, and give the local community ownership of issues and of solutions. It is a grassroots process of development that lies in combining community capacity and effective partnerships with outside organizations like the Unitarian Universalist Office at the United Nations (UU@UN). The Every Child is Our Child Program resulted from meeting directly with the Queen Mothers, learning about the community issues and having joint planning sessions to prioritize their requirements.
Who are the Queen Mothers?
In Ghana, the Queen Mothers serve their communities as ancestral heads equal in power and responsibility to the traditionally male chief. The Queen Mothers are commonly charged with the responsibility of performing various traditional rituals and rites. The position of Queen Mother is inherited, and Queen Mothers are recognized as leaders and role models for girls and women, overseeing their transition from youth into adulthood.
The Queen Mothers of the seven regions in Ghana came together and formed the Queen Mothers Associations. The associations are regionally based and have enabled the Queen Mothers to demand the restoration of their traditional roles and be part of their communities’ decision-making processes. Some chiefs also support the female leaders in their bid to have representation at the national level (the National House of Chiefs).
The Queen Mothers use their influence as community leaders to educate youth and women about HIV/AIDS, disease prevention methods, and related health issues. These women have received sensitivity training on issues of HIV/AIDS to reduce the stigma surrounding people who are living with the disease. They have also been trained to educate girls on the implications of early pregnancy, abortion, and failure to attend antenatal clinics or hospitals when pregnant.
By supporting the leading role of the Queen Mothers in community care, ECOC builds on a traditional approach to orphan care. The Queen Mothers in the Manya Krobo districts have even welcomed orphans into their own homes when they could not be placed with distant relatives. The Queen Mothers Association of Manya Krobo now supports nearly 600 orphans in the district and is expanding its support to a further 400 orphans in the neighboring Hiro Krobo district.
With support from ECOC, the Queen Mothers Association pays for the orphans’ basic education. By doing this, we can share the burden of medical costs, food, clothing and miscellaneous expenses to provide comprehensive care for orphans.