The International Spouses Association of Ghana (ISAG) has made a passionate appeal to government, seeking full recognition for its members as the Association marks its 20th anniversary.
ISAG is an association of women and men of foreign origin married to citizens of Ghana with the multiple aims of promoting the socio-economic and legal welfare of its members, enhancing cross-cultural understanding and contributing to the development of Ghana.
The Association over the years has made inroads in getting national recognition for its members, including getting them indefinite residency, President of ISAG, Judson Welsh told Myjoyonline.com last week when the Association dedicated its new ISAG Centre at Baatsona in Accra.
A Family Day was also held during the dedication of the ISAG Centre to bring members and their families together.
Founded by Brenda Akofio-Sowah, Adelita Bediako, Natasha Don-Arthur, Christine Kisseih, the late Dita Owusu-Ansah and the late Teddy Omari in 1994, ISAG now boasts of over 600 members.
Through ISAG’s advocacy, foreign spouses have been exempted from the Ghana Investment Promotion Centre’s minimum foreign capital investment required of all other foreigners.
Mr Welsh said despite the successes chalked, the Association’s activities are being hampered by certain rights they have been denied of.
He mentioned spousal rights to land which is currently only 50 years for a foreign spouse as against 99 years for the Ghanaian spouse. He called for a legislation to make land succession and inheritance less problematic for both spouses.
Judson Welsh said the Association has been engaging the National Identification Authority to waive or exempt members from the $120 fee charged to all foreigners living in Ghana who register under the National Identity Registry Act. The Association is also appealing against the $60 yearly renewal fees.
Kwame Prince Boateng, owner of Crown Prince Academy was endorsed to head an advocacy committee to champion the causes of ISAG.
The dedication ceremony was to honour two distinguished members of the Association- Teddy Omari and Dita Owusu-Ansah, both sadly had passed on.
Touching testimonies were read by Wilna Quarmyne and Heidi Amegayibor respectively in honour of Theodora Omari (Auntie Teddy) and Nivedita Owusu-Ansah (Dita).
Flanked by family members, Raja Owusu-Ansah, co-founder of The Republic Bar and Grill at Osu, who received a plaque in honour of his mother espoused the dedication of his mother to the welfare of the Association and urged members to keep the flame of the founding members burning.
Below is a statement by Marian Tadefa-Kubabom on
ISAG AND BAATSONA LAND MILESTONES
(Presented at the “ISAG Centre Dedication and Family Day: Celebrating Our 20 Years Together”, 20 September 2014, Baatsona, Accra)
7 December 1994
The Inaugural Meeting for ISAG was held among the Founding Members (Interim Executive Council) Brenda Akofio-Sowah, Adelita Bediako, Natasha Don-Arthur, Christine Kisseih, the late Dita Owusu-Ansah and Teddy Omari acting as Adviser
1 March 1995
Adoption of the very first ISAG Constitution
3 May 1995
At a general meeting of ISAG held at Wangara Hotel, Mrs. Theodora Omari or fondly Aunty Teddy to many, offered a plot of land which for her would be ideal for an old people’s home. The ISAG President accepted the gift on behalf of a very grateful membership.
ISAG was registered as an NGO and re-structured into a nationwide organization with Branch Councils in Accra, Cape Coast, Kumasi, Sunyani, and Tamale. In the same period, an intensified advocacy for legal rights for “Foreign Spouses” was started.
7 February 1996
Aunty Teddy informed ISAG that the deed of gift for the 0.43 acre land situated in Baatsona, Accra, is ready and a fence is being constructed on one side. At this point, Aunty Teddy gave the condition that if ISAG was unable or choose not to build on the land, it would revert back to her family.
Consistent with the democratic principles of ISAG, a survey was conducted to determine what members believe should be done on the Baatsona land. Over three meetings, questionnaires were distributed and filled by 34 registered members and 8 potential members. The survey saw the majority opting for putting up a multi-purpose centre catering exclusively for ISAG members and their families.
A planning workshop involving 20 members strongly recommended that any project on the Baatsona land should reflect ISAG objectives with emphasis on family and cross-cultural understanding. The workshop also decided to use the term ISAG Centre for the project.
15 March 1997
The formal handing over to ISAG of the Baatsona land was conducted with pomp and fanfare. Then Justice Amissa-Aidoo (deceased) was the official witness gracing the occasion in full chief’s regalia. Traditional dances were also rendered by our very own ISAG children. This event was featured in the 22nd March 1997 issue of the Daily Graphic giving publicity to ISAG.
May – December 1997
The land was encroached in with building foundation and pillars already in place when discovered. The case was brought to court with Aunty Teddy bearing the legal costs. Fortunately she won and the pillars where finally removed from the land but not before the encroacher made an alternative land offer which ISAG obviously refused.
ISAG’s advocacy initiative paid off with the passage of the Revised Immigration Law with provision for Indefinite Residence for Foreign Spouses. The first batch of indefinite residence permits for foreign spouses was issued in 2003.
ISAG named a Building Committee with 6 members including the President. The first task of the Committee was to oversee the regularization of the land documents and to produce a building plan to the Executive Council. A building plan was eventually produced by volunteer friends of the Association.
1 April 2007
After the ISAG Executive Council approved the laying of the building foundation in February 2007, the cornerstone-laying ceremony was held. The ceremony, attended by about 40 members and their families, was also an occasion to launch the fund-raising to campaign that would generate the resources to complete the dream ISAG Centre. The first target, however, was to build the ISAG office which was more achievable and will serve the need for centralizing ISAG management as well as housing ISAG’s files and assets.
Also in 2007, the process of Constitutional review started made necessary by apparent difficulties in implementing the operational demands and the “withering away” of regional branches.
The Annual General Meeting approved the Constitutional Amendments that reflect a more inclusive though looser structure. Membership is now defined to include not only foreign spouses but Ghanaian spouses and children of these marriages.
In May 2013, the ISAG Committee on NID (National ID) Registration has started advocacy work to obtain an exemption for foreign spouses from the $120 fee charged to all foreigners living in Ghana to register under the National Identity Registry Act, 2008 (Act 750) and the National Identity Regulations, 2012 (L.I. 2111). So far the Committee, made up of both Ghanaian and foreign spouses, had made representations with the management of the National Identification Authority, the Minister for Private-Public Partnership and the Minister for Development Authorities.
ISAG advocacy that started in the early 2000, for a more equitable investment requirement from foreign spouses finally bore fruit. The Ghana Investment Promotion Centre Bill, 2013, which was passed by Parliament in the Third Reading on 18 July 2013 includes Section 27 (6) that exempts Foreign Spouses from the minimum foreign capital investment required of all other foreigners.