Groups in Ghana are working to draft an affirmative action bill to put more women in government positions. The bill is aimed to help Ghana reach Millennium Development Goals by 2015. Although a draft has been submitted to the Attorney General, workshops are still being held to tweak the bill for Parliament.

A two-day validation workshop was being held in Koforidua, and 21 public servants and representatives of political parties worked, and continue to work, to improve the legislation. The bill is supported by the Ministry for Gender, Children and Social Protection.

Presently, only 10.9 percent of Parliament consists of female representatives. The affirmative action bill would call for quotas on women representatives. This is not the first time an African country has used this tactic to increase the amount of women in leadership positions.

Liberia recommended that political parties in the 2005 election choose 30 percent female nominees. While not law, the parties that did follow the recommendation had the largest numbers of women in the Legislature for that election. The Legislature consisted of 14 women out of 94 positions, but this number dropped to only nine when the quota was not enforced in 2011.

In Nigeria, the current administration has promised a 35 percent representation of women in government. This has yet to be reached, and at the national convention of the All Progressives Congress, only eight out of 46 positions on the national executive council fell to women. All of these positions involved the title of “women leader.”

Why do women leaders in these countries feel that affirmative action quotas are necessary to put more women in leadership roles?

Bernice Sam, a Ghanaian women’s activist, spoke at the national forum on gender equality and women’s rights, held by the Gender Studies and Human Rights Documentation Centre in Accra. She believes empowered women are necessary for growth, and that Ghana needs to work to empower women in these roles. She mentions the challenges faced by female politicians, despite legislation designed to allow them to run for office.

Women often do not have as much money as their male opponents, which is a major barrier. They also have higher levels of illiteracy, tied to less educational attainment and opportunity. Sam encourages all women to attain skills for civic leadership. These include public speaking, networking and the ability and confidence to motivate and mobilize others. To find this confidence, women also need more support from their spouses, along with faith in their own abilities.

They also just need knowledge. In Kenya, a large portion of women in rural areas do not know that the government requires 30 percent of all procurement in public service to be reserved for them. Rachel Ruto, the wife of the Deputy President of Kenya, called on women to pass along knowledge of their rights and powers to other women.

There is also an “old boys” network of political connections that impede women from entering the political sphere. Women tend to be ignored by incumbent male leadership.

Another issue is that women are required to balance their home and political lives. They are expected to take care of their families while also trying to run an underfunded, under-supported campaign.

Across Africa, there is a call for power structures to enable women to step into leadership positions. Simultaneously, there is a call for women to assert themselves into these positions. Despite these movements, parties are not encouraging women to run. Consequently, many women are taught that they are incompetent and unlikely to succeed in government.

Ghanaian leaders believe the affirmative action bill will provide a balance of allowing competent women to fill leadership positions, while  assuring others that  that they too can succeed. Minister of Gender, Children and Social Protection, Nana Oye Lithur, assures that the bill does not aim to make women compete with men, but to ensure they have equal opportunity to pursue positions.

To Lithur, the bill is designed to give women and other minorities in the country a voice. It works in tandem with legislation to ban early and forced marriage, witchcraft and genital mutilation to empower women in Ghana.

The bill aims to help women and therefore, the country.

-Monica Roth

Sources: Ghana Web 1, Ghana Web 2, Ghana Web 3, KBC, Leadership, All Africa
Photo: InformGhana