“I am proud to be the youngest District Assemblyperson in this district” beamed 24-year-old Dickson Ackah Mensah, the newly elected local representative and GHEI Community Health Worker. On the last day of 2010, constituents of the Bibiani-Anhwiaso-Bekwai (BAB) District of Ghana’s Western Region cast their ballots in the local elections. According to their website (http://bab.ghanadistricts.gov.gh/):
The Bibiani-Anhwiaso-Bekwai District Assembly (BABDA) was set up in 1988. Like all other districts/municipal/metropolitan Assemblies, it was set up to decentralize national administration and development and to afford opportunities to all localities to identify and resolve their social and development problems. BABDA ‘s jurisdiction covers 30 Assembly Electoral Areas made up of 9 Area Councils and 110 Unit Committees. The functions of the Assembly fall in three main areas. These are:
- Legislative which involves the formulation of bye-laws within the district;
- Deliberative which involves the various discussions and deliberations made on the development of the district; and
- Executive Functions which involves the execution of policies and projects within the district.
After securing 65% of the vote, Dickson Ackah Mensah won a seat in the District Assembly representing the Ampenkro electoral area. Assembly representatives serve a 4-year term, without term limits, and do not get paid for their service. Here, Dickson discusses his decision to run for District Assembly and goals for his upcoming term:
GHEI: Tell me about your background.
DICKSON: Both of my parents died when I was young so my uncle, who is a primary school teacher, took responsibility for me and funding my education. I completed primary and junior high school here in Ampenkrom, my home village, before attending Bekwai Senior High School, where I studied Business. I graduated senior high in 2007.
GHEI: How did you become involved with GHEI?
DICKSON: In August 2008, I was selected to be trained as a Peer Educator in GHEI’s Multi-Sectoral HIV and AIDS Program [HIV education program that GHEI implemented 2007-2010 in partnership with the Ghana AIDS Commission]. As a Peer Educator, I conducted outreaches in and around Ampenkrom, educating young people about HIV/AIDS prevention, and I helped plan GHEI’s World AIDS Day Event in 2008, hosted by Ampenkrom. In 2010, I became a GHEI Community Health Worker and coordinated the summer de-worming program in Ampenkrom with a group of US volunteers.
GHEI: Why did you choose to run for District Assembly?
DICKSON: I have seen so many problems in this community, and I felt that local elected officials were not doing enough to help. I wanted to address some of these problems, like the lack of proper school infrastructure and education supplies, so that I can help the people in my community.
GHEI: What area do you represent as District Assemblyman?
DICKSON: I represent Ampenkrom, which is around 2000 people, and Gyponkrom, which is only about 60 people.
GHEI: Can you tell me more about your duties as Assemblyman?
DICKSON: The first thing I will do, after being sworn in later this month, is meet with the newly elected Unit Committee to draft our strategic plan for the year which we will then submit for district approval. The District Assembly formally meets 4 times per year in Bibiani [district capital] to review progress on our strategic plans. As Assemblyman, I will meet with the Unit Committee [5-member elected administrative body] every 2 weeks to address our goals in the strategic plan.
GHEI: What do you hope to accomplish as District Assemblyman?
DICKSON: First, I want to focus on education. We have 1 primary school here with over 200 students and 1 Junior High with 74 students, but we lack sufficient teachers. Also, many of our classrooms do not have chairs for the students or supplies like books. The primary school building is also in very poor condition. So I hope to appeal to the District Leaders for funding and solutions to these issues. In regards to health, I want to propose building a community-based clinic for this area, because the nearest clinic is more than 6 kilometers from here and many people have no choice but to walk. We really need a clinic here.
For more information on the district in which GHEI operates, the Bibiani-Anhwiaso-Bekwai District, visit their website http://bab.ghanadistricts.gov.gh/. For further information on district and regional government in Ghana, go to http://www.ghanadistricts.com/home/
--Natalie Rich, GHEI Communications Director