Amma Oduro-Dankwah, a Senior Program Officer at Amend’s Ghana office, shares her experiences traveling to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia for a worldwide road safety NGO conference:
I joined the Amend family in February 2017 and I was privileged to attend the biannual Global Meeting of Nongovernmental Organizations Advocating for Road Safety and Road Victims, which took place in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia in April 2017. This meeting involved 200 road safety NGOs and stakeholders from over 70 countries.
I attended pre-meeting workshops on NGO partnerships with multilateral banks, child-centered road safety education, addressing gender and risk in road safety and safe school journeys. I learned about so many issues that are usually overlooked when considering road safety. For instance, with respect to gender issues, women in certain cultures find it difficult to position themselves properly on motorcycles due to the nature of their traditional clothing. As such many women sit sideways on motorcycles, preventing them from having a firmer grip while the motorcycle is in motion. Although it may seem trivial, this increases the risk of injuries.
One experience that was life-changing for me was meeting road crash victims and family members of people who lost their lives in crashes. During the meeting, I befriended a road crash victim. He was involved in a hit-and-run incident in 1997 in India. He is a software specialist by profession, and at that time, he had dreams of traveling abroad and had an exciting life ahead of him. While he was being rescued from the scene, he was mishandled and this damaged his legs. He also suffered a severe spinal injury which has left him paralyzed from the waist down. This made me think about the repercussions of road crashes – they have weighty costs that have a rippling effect on several generations. Apart from economic costs such as vehicle repairs and hospital bills, dreams are shattered. In my opinion, we all have a responsibility to respect road safety regulations, so that we can give our fellow human beings the opportunity to live their lives to the fullest.
Malaysia has done a great job in promoting road safety and it was an apt venue for the meeting. There are various lessons for Amend’s work in Africa from Malaysians and their zeal for safer roads. One thing I was impressed by was the provision of motorcycle lanes on highways and expressways. It is commendable that vehicles on Malaysian roads have been segregated by type, to minimize collisions. The Malaysian Institute of Road Safety Research (MIROS) has also taken the United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goal to halve the number of global deaths and injuries from road traffic crashes by 2020 very seriously. As part of their long-term goal, MIROS has introduced road safety education as part of the regular school curriculum, such that, future leaders, road engineers, drivers and road users are being trained to constantly have road safety in mind. Hopefully, all this can someday be replicated in Ghana, my home country.
On a much lighter note, I had the chance to meet Amend staff from Mozambique and Tanzania for the first time and we had a wonderful time together. As part of the meeting, there was a poster exhibition which gave all the NGOs the opportunity to present what they do, where they work, and how they contribute to the global aim of halving road crashes by 2020. All in all, the Fifth Global Meeting of Road Safety NGOs was a spectacular program, and it has provided me with clearer insights into road safety issues and solutions from various countries.