Mrs Rebecca Naa Okaikor Akufo-Addo has retained the First Lady title once again on the backdrop of the New Patriotic Party’s victory in the December 7 elections, and the beautiful investiture of Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, her husband, as the Fifth President of the Fourth Republic.
The 69-year old First Lady relentlessly stood by her husband, through thick and thin, till he ascended the highest seat of governance in 2017, for the first term, and in 2021 for the second term. Her contributions to the general wellbeing of humanity, particularly women and children, cannot go unnoticed.
Over the past four years Mrs Akufo-Addo has been married to a man whose heart beats for his nation.
In a message titled: “Dear Ghana,” which she posted on her Facebook wall just before the 2020 General election, described the last four years as humbling.
“I wake up every morning, adjusting to this charge of First Lady; partnering a man not only for love but in deep service of our country – the first gentleman,” she said.
Born Rebecca Griffiths-Randolph to Mr Jacob Hackenburg Griffiths-Randolph, the first African Commissioner of Income Tax, a Judge and later a Speaker of Parliament, and Mrs Frances Philippina Griffiths-Randolph, Mrs Rebecca Akufo-Addo, in her first-term as the First Lady, dedicated herself to improving the lot of children, young people, and women, as well as to the education and the healthcare sectors of the Ghanaian society.
By way of supporting national efforts to reduce malaria and malnutrition in children and pregnant women, she co-founded the charity; Infanta Malaria Prevention Foundation in 2005, even before she became the first lady.
She established The Rebecca Foundation in 2017, when her husband became the President, to ensure the economic empowerment of women and the well-being of children in education and health.
Also in 2017, she personally raised funds from individuals and organisations to build an ultra-modern Mother/Baby and Paediatric Intensive Unit at the Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital in Kumasi, while the Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital in Accra was blessed with a Paediatric Intensive Care, Neonatal Intensive Care and High Dependency units.
Aside the provision of these critical healthcare delivery edifices, Mrs Akufo-Addo also led a strong drive to acquire hospital equipment and supplies, which she distributed to health centres across the 16 regions of Ghana in addition to sourcing for funds to support surgeries of some vulnerable people.
Under her Community Health Outreach Initiative, new CHPS compounds were established and equipped at Seduase in the Greater Accra Region and Nyashegu in the Northern Region.
There were also donations of phototherapy machines to the Princess Marie Louis Children’s Hospital in Accra and the Cape Coast Teaching Hospital, while the Osu Maternity Home and Usher Fort clinics were renovated and equipped with medical supplies.
Through the efforts of the First Lady, six ambulances were distributed to the Komfo Anokye Mother and Baby Unit, Korle-Bu Paediatric Intensive Care Unit, West Gonja District Hospital, Sakumono Community Hospital, the Osu Maternity Home and the Valley View Hospital, geared towards making healthcare accessible to all.
To date, her Foundation continues to be a major partner to the Ministry of Health in the provision of services to the citizenry, especially women and children.
Mrs Akufo-Addo’s passion for girls’ education led her to create the “Because I want to Be” initiative to encourage girls to stay in school or learn some entrepreneurial skills through training and provision of start-up kits for soap making to about 100 females, including out-of-school girls, in the Central and Greater Accra regions.
Some girls were also trained in catering and as artisans as well as introduced to mentorship programmes, which still show on television, to reach girls across the country with life meaning lessons and experiences.
She also established the “Learning to read, Reading to learn” initiative, to improve literacy among children through a TV reading programme, while providing libraries in school clusters across the country in communities like Sefwi Debiso in the Western North Region, Moree in the Central Region, Wenchi in the Bono Region and Daffiama Busei Issah in the Upper West Region.
Bortianor and Amasaman in the Greater Accra Region, Kumawu in Ashanti, and Krachi in Oti also benefitted from the library project.
Books, computers, and shoes among other things were distributed to various schools in the country while children from the SOS Village benefited from educational exchange programmes to China.
The SOS Ghana, Kyebi School for the Deaf, Mother Care Orphanage, Akropong School for the Blind, Mampong School for the Deaf, Dzorwulu Special School and Adjei Kojo School for the Deaf, all benefitted from the benevolence of Mrs Akufo-Addo.
She also created a women’s economic empowerment initiative called “Terema, which provided skills training and business assistance to women in Ghana, empowering fishmongers, traders and women artisans from Western, Central, Western North and Greater Accra regions with various start-up tools.
Under the Terema initiative, the First Lady led a successful business trip with 35 women entrepreneurs to China to explore business opportunities there, while many street hawkers were empowered with small tools and grants to boost their businesses.
The Ghana National Hairdressers and Beauticians Association was not left out as Mrs Akufo-Addo donated 1000 bags of cement to help in putting up infrastructure to aid their activities.
The First Lady also organised three high level International Women’s Day events to advocate for gender equality and inclusiveness of women and girls in national development.
Suffice it to say that in the heat of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, Mrs Akufo-Addo distributed food, hygiene and safety items to thousands of women, including the aged and single mothers across the country to lessen their plight due to the temporary lockdown.
And as the Nutrition Champion of the African Leaders for Nutrition, Mrs Akufo-Addo has been strongly advocating for improved nutrition outcomes for Ghanaians, especially children.
She is also the premier ambassador for HIV/AIDS; a patron of the Schools for the Blind and Deaf, Cancer Voices and SOS Children’s Villages Ghana.
These enormous contributions by the First Lady, to ensure the wellbeing of the people, have indeed not gone unnoticed as she has received commendations from many organisations and individuals, including the Ministry of Health.
She is recognised for her firm belief that every first Lady is uniquely placed to make a difference in the lives of citizens, hence her determination to support the efforts of the Government in addressing the development needs of the country.
“As a citizen, I’m confident about the future of this country; that it is led by a President who has shown the clearest vision about Ghana, about the economy, education, agriculture, industrialisation and about young people,” Mrs Akufo-Addo said.
“And so more than ever, I feel married to politics; the kind that changes the life of a young Thomas Amoaning of Adeiso SHS who although walked six kilometres every day to school, never wavered in his ambition to become an Economist.”
“Today, I feel connected to parts of our country and our stories through the Rebecca Foundation”.
“Ghana may be a land of possibilities but what I have seen from these last four years is that our children can only attain their fullest potential if we have a leader who is obsessed with these possibilities and who would not catch any sleep until young boys can have a country to believe in and young girls can dare to dream; to be presidents, business leaders, scientists or first-ladies if they choose to.”
It is, therefore, not out of order to say “Aayeeko” to Mrs Akufo-Addo for all these achievements, among the many others that have not been mentioned, under the first term of her first ladyship.
I pray and hope that God will grant you the strength and resources, even as you enter your 70th year in March, this year, to do more for the Ghanaian girl, women and all the marginalised in society.