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The reality of the low levels of women’s participation in political decision making in Ghana is often overshadowed by the many goodwill messages about Ghana’s evolving democratic credentials as we are often seen as exemplifying the consolidation of democracy in Africa. Although this is true to an extent, it hides the truth about the low levels of women’s participation and representation in political decision making processes and other spaces. This state of affairs contributes in a large measure to limiting the contribution of women to development, poverty reduction and to the achievement of women’s human rights and gender equality. Although some work has been done to by government, Political Parties and Civil Society which has contributed to increasing the momentum around the issues of women’s political participation, women in Ghana have fallen short of the critical mass needed to be able to make any meaningful impact politically. Women’s representation in local and national level political life is low. For example, within the policy space, successive governments come up with Affirmative Action guidelines in 1998, established a Ministry of Women and Children’s Affairs which has now evolved into the Ministry of Gender Children and Social Protection, developed a National Gender Policy, training for women MP and Assembly Member aspirants among others.
Political parties have created a semblance of enabling environment for example in the recently held general elections, almost all of the active political parties adopted affirmative action measures by reducing by half the nomination fees which in the end allowed more women to file nominations to contest various positions. Political parties have also over the last couple of years expanded their electoral colleges which allowed more women to vote at their congresses. Civil Society continues to advocate for legislation reforms and inclusion, building capacity of women aspirants and women’s rights NGOs, community mobilization and sensitization around women’s political participation.
The above efforts notwithstanding, currently, women account for only 30 out of the 270 positions in the Parliament – 8.7% and only 6.5% of district chief executives within local government structures. The NDC government has made a commitment to introduce gender policy and legislative reforms, aiming for at least 40% representation of women in government, providing a real opportunity to rectify women’s exclusion
This Women’s Participation in Democratic Governance, Peace and Security program is therefore designed to contribute to promoting and increasing the participation and representation of women in political and public decision making spaces, peace and security platforms to achieve gender equality.
The Women’ Participation in Democratic Governance Peace and Security program relies on a range of strategies including Research, Policy Advocacy, Community Mobilization and Rural Response Mechanisms through the use of the Coalition of Women in Governance (CoWIG) model, Strategic Behavioral Change Communication, Partnership development and collaborations to achieve its objectives. Crosscutting in all the strategies are capacity building through training and the development of agency of women, creating of spaces for them and role modelling. Over the last couple of years, advocacy has been tailored towards ensuring Affirmative Action measures, working with Political Parties, Parliament and other state agencies to increase the number of women appointed and elected into political positions. Advocacy actions also focus on influencing the post 2015 Development framework and plugging into the national and international peace and security agenda.
Key projects being implemented under the governance Program include:
Good governance through increasing women’s participation on political and decision making processes also known as “We Know Politics” is a specific project designed to strengthen women’s participation and increase their representation in democratic governance processes. In particular it seeks to create space for women’s interaction with governance mechanisms to trigger timely and targeted multi-actor and multi-dimensional actions to eliminate discrimination against women in political governance. It has been operational since 2008 and has among other things established 28 coalitions of women in governance across the country comprising of over 500 members representing persons with disabilities, traditional leaders, community based organizations, traders, teachers, People Living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA) and District Assembly Members (Local Government) representatives. It has also engaged political parties and their presidential candidates in the last two general elections under the umbrella of Women’s Dialogue with Presidential Candidates to ensure that Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment concerns are given the necessary attention in their political party manifestoes and in government. The Project has thus far contributed to influencing policy on inclusiveness and participation in the political process, increased participation and representation of women in Parliament; District Assemblies; Ministerial and Ambassadorial positions, representation on Public Boards among others. The project has also contributed to increased women’s capacity to contribute to debates and become more effective in their political engagements.
This project is designed to specifically address the issue of inadequate representation of women in political decision making positions. The main strategy being relied on is advocacy for the passage of an Affirmative Action and Gender Equality Legislation. This project is engaging the Ministry of Gender Children and Social Protection, Political Parties, Traditional Leaders, and other relevant stakeholders to support an Affirmative Action Law to back the appointment and elections of women into political and decision making structures. WiLDAF Ghana is represented on the Affirmative Action Gender Equality Legislation drafting Committee set up by government. The project has largely contributed to an increased momentum and debate on Affirmative Action for women’s political participation and representation.
As the Millennium Development Goals were phased out in 2015, the United Nation (UN) has developed a new global overarching framework – the Sustainable Development Goals which replaced the MDGs. In view of this, WiLDAF with support from its partners including WomanKind Worldwide embarked on a national advocacy to among others push for a standalone goal on gender equality in the new Sustainable Development Goals. WiLDAF Ghana engaged the Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Gender through letters, petitions, and meetings and galvanized their support on a standalone goal on Gender Equality and Women’s Rights in the new Development Framework. Going forward the work in this area will seek to plug into the various processes currently ongoing around the Sustainable Development Goals.