It is a great honor to curate ONE Girls and Women this month. In my native Ghana, where I grew up, women are the foundation of our community. My own mother has always been one of my greatest inspirations in both my music and humanitarian work, and I believe that a society shortchanges its path to progress if it does not tap into the full potential and contribution of its women in every sphere of development.
Providing access to education and women’s health is integral to breaking the glass ceiling and empowering women everywhere. During my travels I’ve witnessed up close the reality that there is still a lot more to be done to change entrenched beliefs that limit women’s contributions beyond their perceived roles. I have worked extensively in Ghana advocating for education of young girls and for parents to see the importance of not engaging their daughters in early marriage.
As an Ambassador for the Global Alliance For Clean Cookstoves, I help draw attention to the issue of cookstove smoke and its impact on the health of millions of women who cook over open flames for their families. According to the World Health Organization, 4.3 million people die every year from smoke-related causes.
Exposure to smoke is greatest among women, who spend the most time near open fires or traditional cookstoves tending to the family meal, and schoolchildren, many who study by the light of an open flame. Both inhale unhealthy levels of emissions. Rudimentary wood-fired cookstoves and open fires emit fine particles, carbon monoxide, and other pollutants at levels up to 100 times higher than the recommended limits set by WHO.
The Global Alliance For Clean Cookstoves’ approach — create a thriving market for clean cooking solutions and include women entrepreneurs as an integral part of the value chain — inspired me to lend my voice and my platform to this cause.
To quote the revered Ghanaian intellectual Dr.Emmanuel Kwagyir Aggrey, “The surest way to keep a people down is to educate the men and neglect the women. If you educate a man you simply educate an individual, but if you educate a woman, you educate a nation.”