The United States Government has honoured Mrs Charlotte Osei, the Chairperson of the Electoral Commission (EC), with the 2016 Woman of Courage Award.
The Award is in recognition of the role Mrs Osei played in the successful organisation and execution of the 2016 General Election in Ghana, which led to the third peaceful transfer of power from one political party to another.
The award ceremony took place in Accra at a cocktail reception organised in her honour by the US Ambassador to Ghana, Mr Robert P. Jackson.
Mrs Osei, in her acceptance speech, said: “This is indeed a great honour and I am totally overwhelmed and humbled by this recognition”.
“I would like to sincerely thank the Government of the United States of America, through the Embassy in Ghana, for this honour.
“I take this opportunity to firmly place on record, that the success of the 2016 Election was not and could not be the results of one person’s efforts.”
Mrs Osei expressed gratitude to the numerous people who contributed in diverse ways to the success of the 2016 Election and the peace and stability of the nation.
She acknowledged the truly invaluable guidance and support she received and continues to receive from her predecessor, Dr Kwadwo Afari-Gyan, her colleague commissioners, directors and staff of the EC, who from the first day she stepped into office, and even in their most trying times, helped her to deliver on the Constitutional Mandate of the Commission.
“This award is for all of us,” she noted.
Mrs Osei said: “There were many days in the last two years when I felt very heavily, the burden of leadership. The weight of, as it seemed, carrying the entire peace and stability of the nation on my shoulders. But through it all, I could always count on the love and support of my husband, my children and my friends.”
She said in those trying moments, the values of truth, integrity, honesty, and fairness, which her parents instilled in her from her childhood, kept her focused on delivering on the promise she made to the people of Ghana.
On the Award, Mrs Osei said: “Courage is really ignoring your fears and going on, focus on the end goals and the solutions to the challenges”.
“And that is our greatest need in Ghana – solutions. Our society faces two major challenges; ignorance and the need for bold leadership at all levels to address these challenges,” she said.
Mrs Osei said the ordinary Ghanaian needed education, clean water, affordable and accessible health care, opportunities to work and earn a decent living and take care of their families, governance without corruption; peace and stability; a safe and clean environment and a justice system that works among other things.
She said the starting point, of course, was an electoral system that worked and ensured credibility, transparency, national peace, stability and cohesion in its aftermath.
“Today, I am being honoured for my courage. But the truth is I owe my courage to the resilient women of Ghana, who are working daily to overcome male chauvinism and patriarchy in all its forms from the micro to the macro level of our society. I am inspired daily by their refusal to accept the status quo, and to dare to make a difference,” Mrs Osei said.
She acknowledged the strength and support she continued to receive from leaders of faith based organisations including her own spiritual father, the Archbishop Nicholas Duncan-Williams, many clergy men and women and the National Chief Imam, Sheikh Dr Osman Nuhu Sharubutu.
Mrs Osei commended the two leading presidential candidates in the 2016 general election, then President John Dramani Mahama and Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, for their responsible leadership and statesmanship during and after the election.
She said: “As a nation, we owe the peaceful conclusion of the process and the peace we continue to enjoy to their maturity and willingness to wait for the Commission to do what was right within its constitutional mandate.
“And to the many citizens of Ghana, known and unknown, who reach out to me daily, quietly, behind the scenes and offer support, prayers and encouragement, this is a good time to say thank you.”
Mrs Osei hailed the wonderful support and encouragement the Commission continues to receive from the National Peace Council, the National Elections Security Task Force and the Security Agencies, the National Commission on Civic Education, the National Media Commission, and the Ghana Journalists Association.
Others, she mentioned, are the Ghana Independent Broadcasters Association, and the diplomatic community, especially the European Union, the United States Agency for International Development, the Canadian Government, the United Nations and the United Nations Development Programme.
Mr Robert Porter Jackson, The US Ambassador to Ghana, who presented the award, commended the EC Chairperson for her commitment to fostering democracy, even in the face of tremendous scrutiny and in some cases inappropriate personal attacks.
He said Ms Osei had made a name for herself throughout her career, as a trailblazing woman and a defender of democracy; from accomplishments as a Constitutional Lawyer, her leadership role in promoting civic engagement at the National Commission for Civic Education, to her role in the 2016 General Election.
‘Overseeing the logistics of this election was a daunting task and the stakes could not have been higher. As the Chairperson of the Electoral Commission held the country’s future in her hands and successfully delivered free, fair and transparent elections by persisting, using her conscience, her expertise in Ghanaian Law and her determination to uphold a democratic and fair process as her guide,’ Mr Jackson said.
He commended Ms Osei for leveraging strategic partnerships with the US, EU, UN and local civil society organisations, thus uniting a wide range of stakeholders behind a free, fair and transparent process.
Mr Jackson praised her commitment to ensuring the active participation of vulnerable citizens, especially women and persons living with disabilities, during the 2016 Election.
He said there was still much work ahead as democracy was not something that was attended to once every four years.
He commended the many other Ghanaian women, who were taking a stand for democracy, saying: ‘They too are heroes, they too are Women of Courage and all exemplify the highest commitment to the spirit of democracy’. GNA