After several months of going into hibernation as custom demands of her following the demise of her beloved husband, the late Prof John Evans Atta Mills, former first lady, Dr. Mrs. Ernestina Naadu Mills has made her first public appearance.
She was the special guest of honour for the Informal City Dialogues (ICD), a programme hosted and managed by the Africa Center for Economic Transformation (ACET), to award winners of a video competition at Afia Beach Hotel in Accra.
Seeing the former First lady for the first time after that sad incident of July 24 last years, she looked and sounded well-composed indicating how matured she has handled the unfortunate situation that befell her.
It was therefore not surprising to see the cameramen almost jumping over each other in order to take shots of the former First Lady.
The programme, which is one of the initiatives of the Rockefeller Foundation aims to highlight the yawning gap that exists between the formal and the informal sector, a situation that has resulted in serious developmental disparities in many developing countries.
In all, the organizers received 78 video entries that highlighted developmental challenges being faced by three slum communities of Nima-Mamobi, Old Fadama and Gamahie area, all in Accra.
Few of the video shown at the programme revealed very startling developmental challenges confronting most dwellers of these communities, some of which include lack of portable water, educational and health facilities, among others.
Delivering the keynote address, Dr. Naadu Mills bemoaned the lack of attention for informal settlements even though it constitutes a larger portion of the country.
She said, today, many Ghanaians are living in informal settlements across the city or working as street traders, providing goods and services which keep the country moving, and wondered why they are not being given the needed attention.
She said, watching samples of the video entries, many of young people in these communities did not imagine themselves as great personalities in future but were saddled with trivial issues of getting access to running water, having toilet houses, wanting lights in their houses.
Dr. Naadu Mills underscored the need for urgent steps to be taken “to free ourselves and our children out of these very basic obstacles” so that it does not haunt us in the future.
Refreshingly, she applauded government resolve to address some of those challenges raised through the presentation of the video adding, “Government is working very hard to address many of these challenges right now.”
She commended the organizers of the programme for bringing those challenges to the attention of the public and the policy makers.
Presenting the a prize to the overall winner of the competition, Farouk Arongo, a student of Accra Senior High School and resident of Nima-Mamobi; Dr. Mrs Naadu Mills, urged all those who live in such informal settlements to always aim high and not brood over the challenges confronting them.
Master Arongo used the opportunity to thank the former First Lady for the inspirational words and promise not to disappoint her.
A research conducted by the group indicates that 80% of city dwellers live in slums and contributes significantly to the expansion of the economy.
To the group therefore, it is a basic requirement on the part of government to make sure proper attention is paid to the needs of such communities in order to develop their capacities.
More often than not slum areas are neglected in the area of policy formulation and implementation which make life in those areas very difficult.