Parliament of Ghana
Parliament of Ghana

The Affirmative Action Bill (II)

As previously mentioned in Part I, there is yet another attempt to pass an affirmative action bill. In Part I, I highlighted, among other things, that Ghanaians have positive normative beliefs about gender and women’s rights issues. They also strongly support equal rights or opportunities for women. 

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In Part II, I look at some of the key strategies the legislation proposes for the achievement of gender equality in Ghana. I also look at the governance framework for implementation should the bill become law by highlighting the role of the Gender Equality Committee.

Strategies for achieving gender equality

The purpose of the bill is described as “to effectively redress social, cultural, economic and gender imbalance in the country, based on historical discrimination against women emanating from persistent patriarchal socio-cultural systems and norms in spite of de jure equality of men and women.” Here are some key highlights of how the bill proposes to do that.

1. The use of quotas. The use of quotas is one strategy affirmative action efforts around the world attempt to address gender imbalances. Although in certain jurisdictions these have become a source of political contention resulting in the need for judicial review, they continue to be used. In this bill, quotas is one of the key identified strategies to close the gender gaps in the public sector. The legislation expects that a) seats will be reserved for women in cases of appointments to specified bodies in the public service; b) a percentage of the Ghana Education Trust Fund and District Assemblies Common Fund will be set aside to promote girl child education; and c) political parties will work to ensure reservation of safe seats for women parliamentarians.

2. Policy directives. In clauses 16-18 “Affirmative Action and Gender Equality and Equity in Governance Institutions”, the bill issues several directives to public sector institutions, essentially urging gender considerations in making appointments selection of individuals for employment. In addition, there are directives to ensure that women do not suffer discrimination in governance institutions. Also, political parties, who in my opinion are critical players in Ghana’s democratic space, are expected to ensure adequate representation of women in various aspects of their activities. The last policy directive sets targets for the achievement of gender parity by the year 2030. The pace is quite aggressive as these institutions have six years to meet 50 per cent of all gender equality targets. Hopefully, adhering to these policy directives will result in narrowing or closing gender gaps in our governance institutions. 

3. Fiscal tools. The bill is unique in its inclusion of fiscal tools to promote and achieve gender equality. There is a requirement for Ministries, Departments and Agencies of Government as well as Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies (MMDAs) to undertake gender-responsive budgeting. This requires MMDAs to set aside resources in their respective budgets to address gender specific issues. The other fiscal tool offers private sector employers tax incentives for rapidly achieving the gender equality targets set in the bill. Both tools are excellent ideas as it ensures that- a) resource allocation in the public sector is aligned with the priority being placed on achieving gender equality; and b) the private sector is incentivised enough to commit to also achieving gender equality.

Governance framework

It is quite instructive that although there is a gender ministry, the legislation creates an administrative committee responsible for the implementation and oversight of the bill should it become law. The legislation must be commended though for proposing a committee with broad-based representation from both public institutions and private sector organisations. The functions of the committee are many.

However, the key point to note about the prescribed functions is the regulatory burden it creates for the committee as it is expected to a) be the receiver and reviewer of all the annual gender equality reports from the public and private sector; b) issue certificates of compliance; c) receive and resolve complaints of non-compliance with the act; and d) compile an annual gender equality report disaggregated by sector for the minister to be submitted to parliament. 

The bill provides for a secretariat to support the work of the committee which greatly helps to manage this potential regulatory burden. The capacity (systems and processes) of the secretariat and committee will be critical to successful monitoring and compliance. Also, to further ease the regulatory burden, the committee can explore the benefits of using strategies such as peer review in determining compliance and issuing certificates of compliance to public sector agencies and private employers. 

In the next and final analysis (Part III), I will examine the prospects of the bill becoming law and the implications for all the public and private actors who will be required to take specific actions in furtherance of achieving gender equality in Ghana.

 The writer is Executive Director, Democracy Project

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