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Late Hawa Nibi Amenga-Etego posthumously awarded Ghana's gender and WASH advocate

Hawa 16 Late Hawa Nibi Amenga-Etego

Mon, 16 Dec 2019 Source: Felix Nyaaba

Late Mrs. Hawa Nibi Amenga-Etego, Former Executive Director of the Foundation for Grassroots Initiatives in Africa (GrassRootsAfrica) has been posthumously awarded with a Life Time Award by the Coalition of NGOs in Water and Sanitation (CONIWAS). The award was conferred on her during CONIWAS’ Mole XXX 2019 Conference for her “outstanding achievements in gender and WASH advocacy in Ghana”.

In honour of the late Executive Director of GrassRootsAfrica, CONIWAS cited her leadership, activist and advocacy roles in ensuring that issues of gender and WASH have always been on the front burner; "Mrs Hawa Nibi Amenga-Etego of blessed memory will be fondly remembered for her contribution and outstanding achievements in gender and WASH advocacy in Ghana. Through her working life with the Foundation for Grassroots Initiatives in Africa (GrassRootsAfrica), she seized opportunity of sector platforms to share vast experience and lessons as a contribution to gender mainstreaming in Ghana's WASH sector."

The late Mrs Hawa Nibi Amenga-Etego was born Shirley Hawa Nibi on the 26th of July, 1977 in Tamale in the Northern Region of Ghana. Her elementary education was in Tamale and Accra, and then back to the Ghana Secondary School in Tamale in 1988 for her Secondary Education. She proceeded to the Wesley College in Kumasi to begin her professional training as a teacher in 1995. Mrs. Amenga-Etego went on to further her education, obtaining a Bachelor of Education degree at the University of Cape Coast, and later to the Institute for Social Studies (ISS) in The Hague to study for a Master’s degree in Gender, the Environment and Sustainable Development.

Most of Madam Hawa’s activism started in 2002 when she joined the anti-water privatization coalition - the COALITION AGAINST THE PRIVATISATION OF WATER, which succeeded in preventing the privatization of water.

For them, water is a fundamental resource, the privatisation of which could deprived the poor and the underprivileged from accessing it. After the founding of GrassRootsAfrica in May 2005 by her husband Hon. Rudolf Amenga-Etego, Hawa set up the Gender Desk which developed into the Gender and Development Department to advocate for women’s rights, gender equality and mainstreaming in Ghana and beyond.

In September 2008, she became the Director of Programs for GrassRootsAfrica and literally carried the organisation on her shoulders. In 2009, she co-founded the SISTERS AGAINST DISCRIMINATION AND ABUSE with radio as their main means of advocacy.

When she took over the position of Executive Director of GrassRootsAfrica, Madam Hawa took her job seriously and worked with great passion, raising the Organisation into an internationally networked Research and Advocacy Organisation focusing on gender, environment and sustainable development. She became a fierce feminist and environmentalist, had immense negotiation skills and often moderated conflict situations in her local and international work. She was always available to “fill in the gaps” when other activists were tired and needed a break. She worked in a terrible hurry and showed irritation when things were not done at the pace she wanted.

As a result of her hard work and resoluteness, she was widely recognised and held many positions outside GrassRootsAfrica and devoted considerable time and energy to the networks she belonged. She was active in the Coalition of NGOs in the Water and Sanitation Sector [CONIWAS] and became its Vice-Chairperson in 2012. In 2018 she successfully negotiated a joint meeting between the Parliamentary Select Committee on Works and Housing (Water and Sanitation) and CONIWAS which has since evolved into a Civil Society/Parliamentary Collaborative effort on Sanitation and Water. Madam Hawa was also active in NetRight, a well-known Network working on gender, feminism and women empowerment issues.

She also worked with several international networks and partners. A few of them being the SDG7 Platform, and the Fight Inequality Alliance that seeks to address issues in SDG 10. Her passion for women’s rights and protection of the environment led to her nomination as an expert CSO partner by the Women and Environment Programme (WEP) to work under the #Women2030 project. As a result, she became an active member of the Women’s Major Group (WMG) and Women and Gender Constituency (WGC) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Her last collaborative work was with the Africa Forum and Network on Debt and Development (AFRODAD) where she successfully organised stakeholders and activists to deliberate on debt sustainability and development issues in Ghana and Africa.

Madam Hawa was passionate, serious and committed to her work. Humour also came to her naturally; she will smile even in adversity. She was the peace maker par excellence both at home and at the workplace; and this is what her staff at her Organisation had to say about her – “Imbued with a rare spirit of activism, our Executive Director was a fighter, a fearless advocate, inspirational, and above all, persistent. Always believing in her conviction and guts, and never giving up. … A gender and climate activist, a women’s rights advocate, an environmentalist, and most of all, a master chef. … We will severely miss the moments of high pressure in the office, and the lighter moments of joy and treats from “Shirley’s Kitchen”.”

With her passing on to eternity on the 8th day of July 2019, this award is believed to be a memorialization of her works, with the hope that it inspires the rest of us to put in our best effort in advocating and advancing the cause of the WASH sector, women’s rights, gender equality, and environmental sustainability, to ensure that the legacy of Madam Hawa lives on.

Tributes and condolence messages that poured in before her burial, described Late Mrs. Hawa Amenga-Etego, as a woman of many parts, a leader, a mentor, a fighter, a visionary, a fearless advocate, inspiration and above all a teacher.

Source: Felix Nyaaba