What at all did our President Akufo-Addo say wrong on gender parity?

BY: Kobby Asmah
President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo
President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo

Throughout last week, President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo has come under intense criticism for sharing his views at the ‘Women Deliver’ Conference 2019 in Vancouver, Canada.

The President, in his contribution at the conference on gender parity, said he was not seeing enough dynamism and activism on the part of those who were seeking gender equality.

“I am talking about dynamism where it matters…electing people to Parliament, controlling political parties because they are the instruments by which our societies make decisions. We are talking about decisions, not wishes and hopes; we are talking about decisions that are going to make the difference,” President Akufo-Addo told the international fora.

Contrasting comments

But since then a section of the society, especially women in political leadership from both the ruling New Patriotic Party (NPP) and the opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) have shared contrasting views on the President’s comments.

The women’s wing of the NDC, the Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA) and some female academics, have not been charitable at all with President Akufo-Addo’s comments while on stage with Canada’s Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, demanding an apology from him.

They contend that the President’s view is non-factual and does not give the real picture regarding women who have attained higher heights in the society.

In contrast, the NPP women’s wing has also mounted a strong and spirited defence in favour of the President.

Intriguingly, these are women groupings sharing diverse and entrenched view points on a gender dynamism debate, an issue on which they are supposed or expected to have a common position.

So, from these contrasting defence and opposition of the President’s comments from female gender advocates, whom do we trust?

What’s the fuss?

What at all did President Akufo-Addo say wrong on gender parity that has caused hell to break loose and divided the women’s front along those in support of his view and those against it.

Objectively, if the President meant that there was a need to do more to get our women into politics and leadership position, what was fundamentally wrong with that?

To evaluate what the President said, is it really the case that he spoke the bitter truth that we are all shying away from?

By urging for the advocacy bar to be raised higher for women to be given more leadership roles in society, what really is the fuss and crime the President committed in his comments? Or is it partisan politics as usual?

Yes, it is true that some of our women are active, dynamic and ready to step forward into front line politics or take up global leadership roles. But is it enough to make gender advocates (both female and males) complacent and go to sleep?

In any case, is it also true that as a people and society, we need to do more, step up the game plan and work collectively to ensure that more women are pushed to the front line of leadership?

Rather than bastardising the President for sharing his thoughts on a rather delicate subject, there is need to rise and fight the barriers, the impediments and the socio-cultural obstacles preventing our women folks from reaching the decision-making heights.

Women representation

Women representation has become a very pressing issue in the international domain for a very long time.

In Ghana, the situation is no different as women's representation in the House of the Legislature has not been impressive since the country returned to constitutional rule in 1993.

Indeed, female Members of Parliament (MPs) who form part of the 7th Parliament of Ghana's Fourth Republic have consistently been low.

The First Parliament of the Fourth Republic had 16 women out of the 200 MPs, and the Second, Third and Fourth parliaments saw a slight increase in the number of female parliamentarians.

Currently, there are 36 female MPs in the country’s 7th Parliament and this represents 12.75 per cent from both the majority and minority sides, a clear 30 per cent short of the representation set by the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU).

The legislative arm of Government has still not been able to reach the 30 per cent mark set by the United Nations, as the proportion of women in Ghana’s Parliament is still hovering around 10 per cent of the total membership of the House.

Though the figure is an increase by seven, as against the Election 2012 figure of 29, where 133 women contested 102 parliamentary seats, females are still underrepresented in Ghana's legislature, as it still falls short of the minimum UN-recommended threshold of 30 per cent that was deemed satisfactory by gender activists at the Beijing Conference of 1995.

Majoring in minors

Recently, the President also spoke about our bad attitude to filth and then again he came under bashing.

As a people and a nation, we seem to be wasting too much time majoring on minors. Filth, floods and poverty are killing us and yet we are only interested in the trivialities.

Ghana has serious bread and butter issues to deal with. We even have our young girls from Mamfe Senior High School excelling in a global robotics competition and yet very little is being done to celebrate them, much more have our political parties talk about them.

Rather, than engage in the politics of insults and disrespect, it is time to highlight the positives of women in society and learn to let our politics be clean.
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