Conditions were so bad at Tema General Hospital in Ghana that within the first three months of this year 20 women had died. On one occasion four women were forced to share a bed in the maternity wards.
In response to the dire situation at the hospital Planned Parenthood Association of Ghana (PPAG) decided to take direct action on maternal health. PPAG joined forces with other civil society organisations as part of the Mamaye Advocacy Coalition.
The first action they took was for a group of 20 people to disrupt the opening ceremony of a health summit as the Health Minister was just about to begin his speech. They marched through the summit holding placards which showed pictures of the terrible conditions at the hospital and demanded action.
As the minister read out the messages on their placards, their protest quickly became the focus of the meeting and gathered a lot of media interest.
Benjamin Sowah of IPPF’s Ghana Member Association (PPAG) describes what happened at the summit:
“Just before the Minister for Health began his speech, about 20 members of the coalition lifted the placards and began walking through the aisles of the auditorium. We also shared leaflets that contained our concerns and recommendations to government. The Minister himself began reading the messages on the placards aloud. This drew extensive interest among participants including development partners and health policy makers from across the country.
Journalists were also very interested in the protest and interviewed us about our concerns. An interview that I did on Metro TV was carried on the 7pm flagship news bulletin.
The messages on the placards became the focus for discussion throughout the summit.
At the end of the day’s session, Dr George Amofa, who had been the Director General of Ghana’s Health Service, declared that Ghana had no excuse not to meet MDGs 4 and 5 given all the work done put into Ghana’s Millennium Acceleration Framework.. He called for a concerted effort to help address the issues raised.
We consider this direct action to have been a major advocacy win. PPAG actively participated in the rest of the health summit.”