Thursday, March 6, 2008

Women’s role in Ghana’s politics

Women’s role in Ghana’s politics

Daily Graphic, Thursday, March 6, 2008. Page 11 (Women’s World)

Salome Donkor

The role of women in politics and public office is one of the current burning governance issues because of the perceived and acknowledged potential and contribution of women to governance processes.

A recent study by Dr Beatrix Allah-Mensah of the Political Science Department of the University of Ghana, Legon, on Women in Politics and Public Life indicated that there was ample evidence to substantiate the indispensable role women played in the prelude to independence and immediately after.

The study said the role of women was evident in the support given to the main political party of the time, the Convention People’s Party (CPP), and it is on record that women traders were keen supporters of the CPP government and that the women also offered financial assistance and supportive services.

That was largely responsible for the development of women’s sections or wings of the party and also the organisation of the youth league.

The CPP leadership, therefore, took that initiative and effort seriously and institutionalised it by making constitutional provisions for a women’s league at branch and ward levels as the main organising framework for women in the party.

Other studies indicate that women were efficient organisers who could bring thousands of people together for a rally at the shortest possible notice.

It was, therefore, not surprising that the CPP gave credit to the women for the internal solidarity, cohesion and success of the party.

A paper written by Ms Joyce Rosalind Aryee, the Chief Executive Officer of the Ghana Chamber of Mines, on the Contributions of Women to Ghana’s Independence and Democratic Governance, dated March 2007 and quoted in the study by Dr Allah-Mensah, pointed out that Dr Kwame Nkrumah’s political success was based on the foundation set for women by the CPP.

The paper, however, observed that the contributions of women to Ghana’s independence struggle and democratic governance were trivially handled by historians and political scientists.

It said in 1949, many benevolent and mutual associations, credit unions and market women’s voluntary groups sprang up and became staunch supporters of Dr Nkrumah and the CPP. It said those associations, though they were not at the forefront of the independence struggle, were involved in activities which were politically significant.

The contribution of women to the political struggle caught the eyes of the leadership of the CPP and by May 1951 the party had appointed four women, namely, Letitia Quaye, Miss Sophia Doku, Hannah Cudjoe and Ama Nkrumah, as propaganda secretaries charged with the duty of organising women.

The paper also touched on the contribution of women to Ghanaian politics after independence and indicated that that became more prominent, resulting in the introduction of the Representation of the People (Women Members) Bill in 1960.

The bill was passed and it received the Governor-General’s assent on
June 16, 1960.
Through that act, 10 women were elected unopposed as Members of Parliament (MPs) in June 1960. They were Susana Al-Hassan, Ayanori Bukari and Victoria Nyarko, all representing the Northern Region, Sophia Doku and Mary Koranteng, Eastern Region, and Regina Asamany, Volta Region.

The rest were Grace Ayensu and Christiana Wilmot, Western Region, Comfort Asamoah, Ashanti Region, and Lucy Anim, Brong Ahafo.

In 1965, Dr Nkrumah appointed Madam Susan Al-Hassan as the Minister of Social Welfare and Community Development, while others were appointed as district commissioners.

In the Second Republic, there were two women MPs — Madam Akanbodiipo Lydia Azure, who stood on the ticket of the National Alliance of Liberals (NAL), won the Sandema seat, and Madam Tedam Catherine, who won the Chiana-Paga seat for the Progress Party (PP).

Again, in the Third Republic, five women served as MPs and in the first Parliament of the Fourth Republic, 16 women were elected as MPs, while in 1996 18 out of the 53 women contestants were elected. In 2000, 19 out of the 95 female contestants were elected, while in 2004, 25 out of the 104 contestants were elected.

Ms Aryee said since 1992, the number of women contestants in parliamentary elections had increased steadily, regardless of the fact that only a few won, while 42 women have been appointed as ministers of state under both the National Democratic Congress and New Patriotic Party Administrations.

She said there was ample proof of the willingness and preparedness of women to participate in the political process and that although the women found themselves in a male-dominated environment and that they did not hesitate in contributing to motions moved in the House for discussions.

When contacted to share her views on women’s participation in the country’s political history, Ms Aryee, who served as the Secretary (minister) for Information and Education during the Provisional National Defence Council (PNDC) regime, maintained that though women were not engaged in the struggles which were directly anti-colonial, their contributions were politically significant.

She stressed that the clarion call to women was to rise and shine and actively take part in vibrant political activities which would characterise all competitive elections in the country in the next 50 years.

Ms Aryee said politics should be looked at beyond the boundaries of political party activities and seen as the totality of organisations, both governmental and other institutions, pointing out that although not on a large scale, women had contributed in that respect.

She mentioned the role of Dr Mrs Letitia Obeng, an educationist, and other women who were nurses, broadcasters judges and lawyers who became part of the independence struggle.
She said there was the need to take a look at the playing field and address the difficulties that women encountered in campaigning to win competitive elections, while more women needed to encourage themselves to contest elections.

She said the state funding of political parties would go a long way to help, while women’s groups, individuals and churches should support women aspirants in their respective communities.

She, however, advised women to avoid self-censorship and offer themselves for political positions and also aspire to hold public offices.
Ms Aryee, who is the Executive Director of the Salt and Light Ministry, said there was the need for sustained education for men to appreciate the fact that God created women as equal partners in development, stressing that now was the time for all to recognise that life was lot better when both men and women worked together to attain sustainable national development.

No comments: