Thursday, July 16, 2009

Appropriate Action needed for Gender Equality

Appropriate Action needed for Gender Equality
Daily Graphic, Thursday, July 16, 2009 (Gender and Children) Page 11
Rebecca Quaicoe-Duho

The Programme Coordinator of Fredrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES) in Ghana, Mr Danaa Nantogmah, has said that affirmative action which translates into real increase in female participation in politics and decision-making does not happen by chance. He said, “Appropriate policies and laws have must be in place; strategies and action plans developed but, more importantly commitment and the political will to implement these plans to achieve gender equity in out political social and economic life is paramount.”

Mr. Nantogmah said this at the opening of a two-day workshop in Accra on validating an affirmative action strategy document which was aimed at helping to increase women’s participation in politics and decision-making as well as in all aspects of life.
Organized by the ABANTU for Development, a women’s right group, and Women in Broadcasting (WIB), in partnership with FES, the workshop was aimed at improving on the gains of the Women’s Manifesto by deepening implementation on some of the concrete demands on women’s participation in politics and decision-making, particularly on affirmative action.

He said most women who participated in the 2008 parliamentary elections faced a lot of challenges such as limited finances, intimidation, religious and cultural beliefs and a lack of support from other women.

He pointed out that political parties were critical to the successful implementation of affirmative action, and commended the Inter-Party Advisory Committee (IPAC) and the Electoral Commission (EC) for proposing that five percent of the Political Parties Support Fund (PPSF), when established, should be earmarked for political parties that would promote and support the increase of women’s participation in politics and decision-making by filing more parliamentary candidates.

The affirmative action document, which was prepared by Dr Dzodzi Tsikata on the topic “Affirmative Action and Gender Equity in Representation in Politics in Ghana: Justification, Prospects, Challenges and an Agenda for Action,” argues that while affirmative action has been used in Ghana since independence to address imbalances in access to education, health, work and political representation, its success have been variable.

It pointed out that affirmative action as a measure to improve political representation has never been commensurate with the serious nature of the inequalities being addressed. It further states that commitment to affirmative action has been at best ‘half-hearted,’ a situation which, according to Dr. Tsikata, was worsened by the fact that the baisis for affirmative action was not shared or properly understood and its beneficiaries were often seen as “recipients of charity rather than citizens whose wrongs have to be righted.” This situation, according to Dr. Tsikata, has created fatigue and resistance among the political and bureaucratic classes and the general population towards affirmative action programmes.

The paper mentioned some affirmative action policies taken in the country to include the reservation of 10 seats in Parliament for women, measures to promote participation of women in certain professions, scholarship schemes for the three northern regions, fee-free education among other in the 1970s and recently, girls’ education policies as well as lower cut-off point for girls in tertiary education, reserved places for deprived districts, science clinics for girls and school feeding programmes.

According to the paper, although affirmative action has chalked up some successes in the country, it also faces challenges such as limitation of such policies to local government and executive appointments and also how to establish in the public mind that while affirmative action is necessary, it is not sufficient to achieve gender equity in political representation.

She proposed that women, through coalitions such as the Women’s Manifesto Coalition, can present an agenda for constitutional and electoral reforms when the need arises, and this she said, would involve changing the political system to one of proportional representation. Dr. Tsikata further affirmed earlier demands on political parties to use quota systems to increase women’s participation in elections, saying that this will be more effective than a voluntary quota system as is presently being used.

She also recommended that with regard to political party financing, parties which expected to enjoy public financing should be made to adhere to a mandatory quota system.

It further called on women groups to consider setting up a fund as well as establishing a League of Women Voters to promote gender consciousness among women voters as a strategy for making women voters count.

According to Dr. Tsikata, a programme of action, which will help put affirmative action on the public agenda, should include analysing the opposition to the affirmative action in order to identify different forces and their concerns, engaging with the media to generate public dialogue, engaging with political parties, the Electoral Commission, the Commission, the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ) and the National Commission on Civic Education (NCCE) to organise public consultations and hearing, drawing up a programme with clear realizable demands and a strategy for implementation and finally strengthening the capacities of civil society groups to wage successful campaign for affirmative action and monitor the implementation of affirmative action provisions.