Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Five years after ‘Women’s Manifesto’

Five years after ‘Women’s Manifesto’
Daily Graphic, Tuesday, 1st September, 2009, Page 11, Gender and Children
Rebecca Quaicoe-Duho

Five years ago, a group of gender activists came together to compile a document which spelt out their concerns on the “insufficient attention given to critical issues affecting women” in relation to women in decision-making as well as socio-economic issues.

Known as the ‘Women’s Manifesto’ the document spells out issues that confront women in Ghana and makes demands on governments for addressing them, serves as a working document to the government.

The inauguration of the document on September 2, 2004, also gave birth to the formation on the ‘Women’s Manifesto Coalition,’ a group which seeks to monitor how the government addresses the needs fo women and also advocates the need for greater attention for women in all spheres of life.

As Ghana is a signatory to many international conventions and treaties, such as the Convention of the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), it behoves the government to ensure that it fulfills the mandates that it has assented in order to improve the lives of women in the country.

The Women’s Manifesto provides a platform of a common set of demands which are on ‘women’s economic empowerment,’ ‘women and land,’ ‘women, social policy and social development,’ ‘women in politics, decision-making and public life,’ ‘women, human rights and the law,’ ‘discriminatory cultural practices,’ ‘women, conflict and peace,’ ‘women with special needs,’ and ‘institutions with a mandate to promote women’s rights,’ all towards the achievement of gender equality and sustainable national development.

Initiate by ABANTU for Development, a non-governmental organisation, and supported by other gender-based non-governmental organizations and civil society groups, the manifesto aims at helping women to articulate their concerns during periods of election, provide information for people concerned about the need to achieve gender equity, and also to encourage political parties to be more accountable for respective needs of men and women as contained in their manifestoes.

Significant achievements made after the launch of the manifestos include the passage of the Domestic Violence Act, the Human Trafficking Act and the Disability Act. Furthermore the ministry of Women and Children’s Affairs (MOWAC) has set up a fund to support women who intend participating in local government elections.

A law has been passed to abolish Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), trokosi and other obnoxious cultural practices which are detrimental to the health and well-being of women.

However, according to the Convenor of the Women’s Manifesto, Mrs. Hamida Harrison, the biggest challenge currently facing the coalition in ensuring that gender equality and equity was achieved as spelt out in the manifesto, was in the area of women’s economic empowerment. She said although the Ghana Poverty Reduction Strategy II (GPRS II) factored in a bit of gender concerns, GPRS I did not, stressing that a number of women still encountered numerous challenges in their bid to access land and financial resources for viable projects.

She also said other socio-cultural factors made it impossible for the large number of women in the informal sector to compete with their male counterparts.

Through advocacy, some women have been able to break trough in the political arena but according to Mrs. Harrison, much still needed to be done through Affirmative Action (AA) to help ush more women into decision-making positions. She said as part of the celebration of the five years of the inauguration of the Women’s Manifesto, the coalition would intensify advocacy on AA to motivate political parties to initiate campaigns at the grassroots to field more women in areas considered safe seats.

She said the coalition was also in the process of reviewing the manifesto to ensure that it re-echoes some of the concerns which had not yet been addressed, as well as ensure that new demands were incorporated into the reviewed version, saying that the coalition, was “critical of the pace taken by authorities in promoting women’s rights and gender equality in the country.”

She expressed hope that as the government has indicated that there would be the need to review the 1992 Constitution, the process would be open, participatory, consultative and transparent so that ordinary people can also make inputs.

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