Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Politics in Ghana: Female political phobia, male resistance?

Politics in Ghana: Female political phobia, male resistance?

Daily Graphic, Tuesday, April 29, 2008. Page 11 (Women’s World)

Nana Oye Lithur (Women and the Law)

I was disappointed when Prof. John Evans Atta Mills did not select Mrs. Betty Mould-Iddrisu as his running mate for the 2008 presidential elections in Ghana.

I have personally and publicly endorsed three women leaders for the 2008 elections; Mrs. Betty Mould-Iddrisu, Hajia Alima Mahama, as running maters for Prof Atta Mills and Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo respectively, and Gloria Ofori Boadu to contest on the ticket of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) for the Abuakwa South Constituency.

I have endorsed them because they have a lot to offer Ghana in terms of their leadership skills, values, vision and commitment to working to build a better Ghana. Failing to include them in out political leadership at the topmost level will be a missed opportunity for Ghana.

Notwithstanding my disappointment after Prof. Mill’s failure ton nominate Aunty Betty, as we all call her, I believe she has taken the Ghana women movement’s call for greater voice and a more visible participation of women in Ghana politics a notch higher by her campaign and bid for the running mate slot of the National Democratic Congress (NDC).

With the demise of Hawa Yakubu, who would have been a perfect presidential candidate for the NPP, I thought all was lost, but Betty Mould-Iddrisu proved that all was not lost. I also agree with Doris Dartey that we Ghanaian women should aspire to greater heights the mundane running mates of ‘male presidential candidates.’

I am sure the current situation of female political phobia, male and or society’s resistance to seeing a female presidential candidate or running mate has occasioned the frequently asked question as whether Ghanaians are ready to vote for a female president. I will not provide an answer; I would like you to provide your own answers.

I, for my part, have been interrogating the statement by Elizabeth Stanton in 1848, adopted at the Weslyan Chapel, Seneca falls, about the truth of men and women being created equal.

I have also debunked the social liberalism theory of citizenship in liberal democracies that says equal and full citizenship for all adults exists within a territory and that with the disappearance of feudalism and slavery, and the inclusion of all adults in suffrage, political inequality has been eliminated.

I will repeat what W. Brown said, that ‘more than any other kind of human activity, politics has historically borne an explicitly masculine identity, and has been more exclusively limited to men than any realm of endeavour.’

With the prevalence of neo-patrimonial rule in Africa, Ghana included, and the opening up of political space in Ghana, I wonder why the Ghana Women’s Movement has not been assertive at claiming their portion of the political space. Our women’s movement has failed to provide one strong voice to call for inclusion of women in our political structures across party lines.

Despite the fact that those women’s groups are independent and have not been politicised, or constrained by government, we have failed to take advantage of our political context to demand policy changes and fight for greater political equality.

We succeeded in adopting the Women’s Manifesto and have been given our support to the Ministry of Women and Children Affairs but have stopped short at the door of Ghanaian politics, and have decided to remain apolitical; we have marginalised our leadership and voice preferring to focus on the ‘more family oriented’ issues of family planning, domestic violence, abortion, health, child care, etc. Why have we done so?

Women’s interest in politics has obviously increased. This is evident in the numbers that stood for local government elections, and that number s that have filed nominations to be selected as parliamentary candidates for the various political parties.

The challenge is that all these prospective female candidates need the strong wave of a unified women’s movement to push them forward. The women’s movement should be mobilising for political reform in Ghana, to create that voice and visibility on our political landscape for us.

We have a huge women’s movement in the church, and the mosques, they have focused heavily on religion, especially the Christian Women’s Movement preferring to pray and seek God’s intervention, they have successfully prayed for oil, prayed for restoration of electricity and are praying and fasting for good leaders.

They are good leaders and we want them on board. I am praying that Jesus speaks to them and they see the political light soon and the need to participate in politics.

Are there biblical teachings against participation of women in politics? Why are Christian Women groups failing to interrogate our politicians, and why do they stick to prayers and family matters? Jesus Christ is the most political anti-establishment personality I have read about, so were Mary Magdalene and Mary, the Virgin Mother. They used their religion and faith to make the world better, what about our Ghanaian Christian and Moslem sisters?

Reading a publication by Ali Mari Tripp on women and politics in Uganda, it is obvious that the Uganda women’s movement was able to assert itself because of the autonomy of the women’s organisations.

They benefited from a populist government that encouraged women’s participation. They also built a movement across ethnicity, religion and class. What have we, in the movement in Ghana done with our autonomy?

Male and societal resistance against a greater voice for women in political in Ghana will exist, but can be dismantled. The greater challenge for us is rather female phobia for politics, which the women’s movement in Ghana has to confront and address. Politics is not dirty, a critical voice in politics for women will help lift Africa and indeed Ghana out of the crisis we find ourselves.

The challenge is being thrown to the Women’s Movement in Ghana to stand up to the challenge, and to support our courageous women who have offered themselves to serve Ghana.

Anyway, where is and who is the Women’s Movement?

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Ghana RPC Photography Workshop

Friday 25th to Sunday 27th April, 2008

Under the Tutelage
Tessa Lewin,
Anna Kari
Guilhem Alandry

Monday, April 21, 2008

‘Protect the Rights of Women in Informal Sector’

‘Protect the Rights of Women in Informal Sector’

Daily Graphic, Monday, April 21, 2008. Page 55 (News)

Jasmine Afari-Mintah

The increasing drift from the formal sector by public servants threatens the economic and social rights of women, a senior research fellow of the Institute of Statistical, Social and Economic Research (ISSER), Ms Dzodzi Tsikata, has observed.

“This situation is a threat to women’s right to decent employment and social security,” she stressed. Ms Tsikata, therefore, advocated the enactment of policies to protect the rights of women in the informal sector.

She made the observation at the 12 United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD XII) civil society forum, held by the Network for Women’s Rights in Ghana (NETRIGHT) to deliberate on the forces of globalisation and policies of international trade that reduce gender inequalities.

The forum was on the theme- Women and Globalisation: Issues and Challenges for Advocacy today.

Ms Tsikata said whilst employment opportunities had been crested under globalisation processes, most of these jobs were informal and did not qualify as decent by the International Labour Organisation.

“What concerns us is the growing information of labour relations across economies of the world, particularly, Sub-Saharan Africa.” She added that, “This was a fallout of economic globalisation and underpinned the global inequalities in incomes and living conditions that we face today.”

She noted that the informal economy had been a place where gender inequalities were visible, adding that, “the majority of women in urban areas make a living there, mostly in self-employment, with the result that their participation in the informal economy was higher than their share in the total labour force.”

A Social and Development Policy Analyst from South Africa, Ms Lebohang Pheko, said the fight against injustice against women should not be the responsibility of women alone but collectively for both men and women. She said there was the need to provide a forum to discuss gender inequality, work and sharing of ideas that concerned women and children.

She said it was equally important for government in Sub-Saharan African countries to ratify international conventions and agreement that would aim at advancing women’s rights.

She said that women’s livelihood in Sub-Saharan Africa was rural and based on traditional technologies. “Livelihood in most of Africa are rural, agrarian, household-based and employs traditional technologies. However, the rapid growth of the urban informal economy underscores its increasing importance,” she noted.

Ms Pheko further explained hat the women should be empowered economically to enable them to earn income through viable venture to reduce the level of poverty among women. “Our vision is for African women to live in a world in which there is social justice, equality and respect for women’s human rights,” she stated.

The Convenor of Manifesto Coalition of NETRIGHT, Mrs. Hamida Harrison, said what was needed was a global consensus to make trade policy-making to be informed by human rights commitment , rather than use human rights as an imposed condition in trade relations.

She said UNCTAD was the best forum to address the critical intersection of trade and development that dealt with women. She said available reports showed that rural women in Africa were responsible for half the world’s food production, noting that “women’s agricultural work includes farming, food processing and selling in the markets.”

The Convenor of NETRIGHT, Dr. Rose Mensah-Kutin, said conservative social practices and religious extremism were identifies as the main causes of gender inequalities. She noted that women were being pushed out of formal employment and were forced to find employment in the informal sector, saying that “this meeting taking place in the shadow of UNCTAD XII is an opportunity to raise the question of information of work as one of the challenges of globalisation.”

NETRIGHT is an NGO that strives to build a strong coalition of groups and individuals committed to women’s rights issues in the country. It also provides national advocacy platform for civil society organisations around national and international processes.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Coalition monitors implementation of DV Bill

Coalition monitors implementation of DV Bill

Daily Graphic, Saturday, April 19, 2008, Page 17 (Women’s World)

Rebecca Quaicoe Duho

After making contributions successfully agitating for five years for the passage of the Domestic Violence Law (DV Law), gender activists in the country have not relented their efforts to ensure peace in the domestic setting. The activists who formed the DV Coalition, constitute a pressure group still monitoring the implementation procedures of the law and are calling for a speedy implementation of a National Plan of Action (NPA) to make the law effective.

The DV Law which was passed by parliament in February last year after a lot of consultations and education had been done by both government and gender activists, offers protection to people in the domestic setting.

The law, among other things, provides for setting up of a management board to see to its enforcement, calls for the establishment of a fund for victims of domestic violence and the provision of temporal shelters for them.

After the passage of the law which makes the Ministry of Women and Children’s Affairs the implementing ministry, a series of consultations had been organized by the ministry which brought on board members of the DV Coalition and other stakeholders, including the police. The consultative meetings were aimed at drafting a plan of action and that was finalized during the last meeting held earlier this year.

To ensure that provisions made in the law are implemented, members of the DV Coalition on Thursday organised a luncheon where they invited the Minister of Women and Children’s Affairs, Hajia Alima Mahama and some officials from her ministry to brief them on the progress so far made with the drafting of the NPA for the implementation of the DV Law.

The luncheon was sponsored by the Ark Foundation, a member of the DV Coalition and the National Advocacy Project (NAP), a project put together by the Ark Foundation aimed at bringing together relevant stakeholders in the government and non-governmental agencies for the provision of a holistic and effective response to violence against women and children and domestic violence in general.

The meeting was attended by the minister and her Chief Director, Mr. Valentine Kuuzumi, the acting Director of the Department of Women, Mrs. Francesca Phobee-Hayford, Mrs. Marian Tackie, a Chief Director of the ministry and Mr. Emmson Daniel Kattah, Director of Policy, Plan, Monitoring and Evaluation. They were quizzed by members of the coalition on how far the ministry had initiated a plan of action and the establishment of a management board as prescribed by the law.

They also wanted to know how much money had been allocated into the implementation of the DV Law by the ministry as well as how much donor support the ministry had received with regard to the implementation of the DV Law. The Chief Director introduced the action Executive Co-ordinator of the DV Secretariat, Ms Christina Ankamah, who has been appointed by the ministry to oversee the management of the DV Secretariat.

Touching on some of the issues raised by members of the coalition, the Chief Director assured the coalition the management board had been formed and assured them that they were awaiting the President’s nomination to serve on the board for it to be inaugurated.

On the issue of funds, Mrs. Phobee-Hayford said an amount of GH¢ 1.7 m has been earmarked for the implementation of some provisions of the DV Law this year, saying that the ministry has allotted an amount of GH¢ 1,226,00 to the secretariat while the Netherlands Embassy has pledge a three year fund of 1.2 million Euros to support the law.

She said the ministry was still in the process of mobilizing funds and that the United Nations Development fund (UNDP) and the United Nations Fund for Population Activities (UNFPA) were also getting on board. She said for this year, the ministry has drawn up 50 activities that would be undertaken with regard to the implementation of the DV Law.

The Minister said the ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) have been sensitised to the issue of gender budgeting and that the ministry would ensure that MDAs adhered to the directive which she said had been adopted as a national policy.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Saturday, April 12, 2008

No Woman Should be a running mate

There has been much debate, numerous discussions in the media by politicians, socio-political commentators and analysts about the issue of the running mates of the various flag-bearers being female. There are ethnic and religious implications in these discussions as well. Various women groups and individuals have also expressed their stance, most of which are advocating for female running mates. Doris Dartey fiercely goes against the tide in her article below:

No Woman Should be a running mate

The Spectator, Saturday, April 12, 2008, Page 24

Doris Dartey-The WatchWoman

True: you can enter a house either through the main/front door, if you are bold; or out of cowardice, sneak in through the side/back door or the window. In the matter of women and the presidency of Ghana, it appears that the entry point this year is shaping out to be the window or the side/back door; the running mate route. This sneaky strategy amounts to cheating the system by taking undue advantage of one’s gender, clearly, a non-occupational characteristic.

For that reason, no women should be running mate of any political party’s flag-bearer for election 2008! If no female was ready to run for president, then by extension, Ghana is not ready for a female vice president. The presidency of the country is too important to allow a member of any minority group, including women, to sneak in through the affirmative action door/window. Please hear me out because even a broken clock is right twice a day. I am pro-women, pro-man and especially, pro-human.

Without a doubt, there are women of substance in this country who are qualified, capable and visible to be President. Granted, there are very few of such but we do have some. However, in the past two years when flag-bearership campaigns gathered wild storm, females were no-shows. This country when through a period of high national drama of competitive bidding for the highest office of the land and women were conspicuously absent. We dodged, sat on the sidelines, chickened out.

Suddenly, after the fact, after the rough-and-tumble thunder and slashing lightning, after the hard-hitting tropical rain-after the competition has long died down-women a re now posturing and/or being courted as possible running mates of flag-bearers. It is as if we so badly need a goddess to decorate the presidency by giving it a touch of femininity. What kind of message does this strategy send to young women for whom our senior female leaders are role models? “Don’t aspire to the highest. Just wait around and you gender will earn you pity and opportunities,” we seem to be saying. This implies that good things will be delivered to females on a silver platter, just because…… For how long will this era of tokenism last?

Names including Oboshie Sai-Cofie, Hajia Alima Mahama and Agnes Chigabatia continue to float onto the surface foe consideration as running mates. Betty Mould-Iddrisu just lost her highly-publicized bid. Where were these women during the competitive flag-bearership campaigns?

The highest level of affirmative action arguments suggests that we are better off if we select a female Muslim from the north. On a lower level of interpretation, this implies that anyone in skirt who prays ‘Assalamu alaikum’ (peace be unto you) and who, through sheer accident of birth was born to parents from anywhere above the Ashanti Region qualifies the most to be vice president. Ridiculous! The pool to draw from in this category is rather small.

So by this warped logic of selection, Hajia Alima Mahama, a female Muslim from Walewale qualifies superbly! By virtue of her position as the Minister of Women and Children (perfecto), she is the recipient of lots of media mentions. This makes her a ready-made candidate for Vice-Presidents? Yea, right! Again, non-occupational characteristics seem to give her additional weighing.

Some of these women may be superbly (or even more) qualified like/than the male flag-bearers they are postured to mate-run with. Yet, the women seem to prefer to take the ‘lungu-lungu’ route to presidency by simply latching on to a man who has sweated for election as flag-bearer. If care is not taken, we would trivializes the vice-presidential candidacy at the glorious altar of estrogen via tired uterus and fully developed breasts.

Meanwhile, the lack of clarity in the functional role of the vice president in our body politic continues to rage on, unresolved. Why therefore would any women want to be a running mate and become a vice president? Ceremonial privileges?

I am for affirmative action that is aimed at encouraging females, regional minorities, physically challenged as well as other minorities and the disenfranchised in society to become all they can be. But I do not consider the position of the second highest office of the land as an affirmative action preserve. If we insist on extending this logic, then there are also people of substance in wheel chairs who could be running mate candidates. Shouldn’t we then argue for balance in physical handicap representation?

Such estrogen-laden logic pretends as if wee need a female running mate for the same reason a president needs a wife (or concubine!). If this is the way we desire to carry on, then the wife of the president-his mate (or concubine!) might just as well play the role of vice president. By default, woe unto us if anything (death) knocks on the door of the President. This country could by default end up in the tender bosoms and laps of a female president who is not material for the presidency and has never desired or even distantly dreamt of becoming a president.

The motives for campaigning for women as running mates are manipulative (but then politics is manipulative!). I just don’t want the female gender to be placed at the centre of this manipulative campaign because it weakens the cause of women by belittling us. It is as if some people are saying: ‘The presidency will look pretty with a lush touch of lipstick!’ I’ve heard comments like “oh, at least it will be a start for women to move up.”

Let the truth be told: One of the motives for desperately pushing women to the surface as running mates is clearly to win the votes of women and pro-women men. But then, who says as a woman, I’ll cast my vote for a certain political party in sheer estrogen solidarity? This argument is an insult to the intelligence of women and all those who loves us.

When Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf of Liberia wanted to be president, she campaigned for it. And now, Hilary Clinton is on her feet, day and night, campaigning and competing with men for the presidency of USA. Other women throughout history had risen to lead. In Ghana’s own history of yesteryears, Yaa Asantewaa emerged to lead men into war and her exemplary story is woven into the beautiful tapestry of Ghana’s history. These women used the main/front door. So come in Ghana 2008, some women want to sneak into presidency through the back/side door?

2012 and 2016 are just round the corner. Qualified women should brace themselves up with the firmest braziers, step high on some classy high-heeled shoes and spot fashionable kaba/slit to life up the female gender in Ghana by running for President. Women don’t have to wait on the sidelines so gender mainstreaming would get us into presidency of Ghana. I pray that a woman becomes the president of Ghana in my lifetime. But she must enter through the front door and not through a sorry affirmative action back/side door!

Monday, April 7, 2008

Women trained in Advocacy and Networking

Women trained in Advocacy and Networking

Daily Graphic, Monday, April 7, 2008. Page 38 (News)

Representatives of 135 Women’s credit and Savings Associations operating in the catchment areas of Bawjiase programme zone of Plan Ghana and the Bawjiase Area Rural Bank, have benefited from a two-day intensive training on concepts of advocacy, networking and leadership skills.

It was jointly organised by Plan Ghana and the bank, to improve the operational capabilities of the beneficiary Credit and Saving Associations so that they could attract more hardworking women in their fold.

Topic treated by the resource persons led by Mr. Kofi Adade Debrah, Livelihood Advisor to Plan Ghana, included the concepts of advocacy and networking, the qualities of a good leader, child protection, and record keeping. The rest were drawing of action plan, drawing of constitution, lobbying for leadership positions, child abuse and trafficking.

Addressing the participants, Mrs. Amelia Allen, Southern Sector Manager of Plan Ghana, said the course was designed to equip participants with the adequate knowledge and skills to enable them play effective advocacy and leaders roles in their homes, communities and the nation as a whole. They should therefore go back to their respective associations and make their impact deeply felt. She reminded the women that it was their responsibility to use whatever they had to effectively network, as well as advocate, on issues that concerned children in their communities and protect them against all forms of abuse.

Mrs. Allen, who stood in for the Country Director of Plan Ghana, renewed the organisation’s commitment to improving the lot of children in deprived areas and advised members of the various Women’s Credit and Saving Associations in its catchment areas to make good use of financial interventions extended to them by Plan Ghana through the Awutu-Bawjiase Area Rural Bank.

She was happy that the scheme, which Plan Ghana started with the bank seven year ago, had assisted some industrious and hardworking women in the area to own houses. Mrs. Allen further counselled members of credit and savings associations who had failed to make headway in their economic pursuit after securing financial assistance from Plan Ghana, to learn from their colleagues. She said this was the time women must aspire for higher leadership position to enable them impact positively on their communities and society as a whole.

Mr. Kofi Adade Debrah was optimistic that knowledge and skills gained at the workshop would empower participants to lead their credit and savings groups to interact regularly with financial institutions and district and municipal assemblies in their areas for necessary support. It would also help them make useful suggestions and contributions towards the socio-economic development and cultural transformation of the country. Mr. Adade Debrah told participants that the act of advocacy could take place in individual homes through fruitful discussions with family and not in broader societies alone.-GNA