In Loving Memory of Rebecca Akua Sabri
Rural Women Farmers Association of Ghana
This tribute piece is a guest post from her sons, Denis Banuoku and Daniel Banuoku. We at Groundswell are grateful for Rebecca’s work over her lifetime and her family’s continued commitment to honor her legacy.
Mrs. Rebecca Sabri was a gentle and warm soul. And that warmth radiated and touched many who had the opportunity to interact with her. Perpetually a mother to all, her arms and home were open to receive so many people in her lifetime. A very brilliant woman that oozed wisdom, She was a trail blazer and change leader in several ways. The fact that she could attain such gender defying achievements in a conservative and very patriarchal environment, as Lawra in Ghana’s Upper West Region presents, is indeed in itself remarkable. As a mother and teacher, her convictions about the importance of education (especially of the girl child) and its relevance to transform families and communities were resolute. It was therefore not surprising to find her deeply involved in various capacities (as a teacher, an Assistant Director of Education, and later District Director of non-formal education) for the execution and implementation of educational activities and educational reform policies for rural folk.
Knowing the need for women to be represented at the decision-making table, Madam Rebecca became a political activist. Through her works and activities with the 31st December Women’s Movement, she gave voice to and championed rural women empowerment. Her works were noted at the national level. In fact, this culminated in her nomination to be appointed to the office of District Chief Executive (the highest political and administrative office of the district) of Lawra – making her the first woman to be ever nominated by her “boyfriend” Flt. Lt. Jerry John Rawlings, President of Ghana, for that role in the Upper West Region. She eventually failed to occupy this position as the population did not appear to have been ready for a female political leadership.
Regardless of her failure to occupy the high political office of a District Chief Executive, Madam Rebecca was relentless at using every opportunity offered to her to champion the empowerment of women and girls particularly from poor and needy backgrounds. When she was appointed a member of the steering committee of the “We are the Solution” Campaign with the overall objective to equip rural women with skills and tools to ensure that their voices are heard and concerns are addressed to effectively participate alongside Africa’s large farmer federations in the Alliance for Sovereignty for Africa, Madam Rebecca demonstrated her acceptance to this high office by personally walking the talk. She began by mobilizing 10 women from her home village, Tanchara, to initiate village level advocacy work to deepen and spread agro-ecological solutions for sustainable food systems. Later that same year, out of her desire to rapidly drive and build a critical mass of women working to promote good agricultural practices and knowledge that have been known and handed down for generations in Africa and have sustained food sovereignty on the continent, Madam Rebecca was aggressive at pushing the frontiers of her 10 member women’s organization into the Lawra and Nandom Municipalities to form the Rural Women Farmers Association of Ghana (RUWFAG). She worked to provide capacity support for members of the organization with hopes of expanding the geographical scope of RUWFAG. Her passion for women empowerment and a just and inclusive world, gave birth to a women’s organization that is working to promote the quality of life of thousands of women in rural and urban Ghana.
“I had the privilege and honor of being able to interact with madam Rebecca on a number of occasions while visiting the CIKOD team in Ghana, in her role as a wise and committed community leader and founding leader of the Rural Women’s Farmers Association of Ghana (RUWFAG). In addition to being a wonderful mother, she was in fact an important local leader contributing to vital national and global women’s and agroecology movements to create a better world.”
Steve Brescia. – Executive Director, Groundswell International