Low participation of women in politics: What is holding them back?
Mrs Nana Konadu Agyeman Rawlings, the presidential candidate of the National Democratic Party(Right) and • Ms Brigitte Dzogbenuku, the running mate to the presidential candidate of the Progressive People’s Party

Low participation of women in politics: What is holding them back?

According to figures released by the European Union Election Observation Mission (EU-EOM) after the December 7 presidential and parliamentary elections, there were 138 females out of the total number of 1,158 candidates who came out to be elected, constituting 11.8 per cent.

They comprised one female presidential candidate, Mrs Nana Konadu Agyeman Rawlings, one female running mate, Ms Brigitte Dzogbenuku, and 136 parliamentary candidates.

In the Upper West Region (UWR) for instance, the incumbent and only female parliamentary candidate who held the seat for one term in the Sissala-East Constituency lost it to a male contender.

Currently, there are 29 female MPs, representing 10.5 per cent of the 275-member parliament and this will increase to 37 in the next parliament.

The EU-EOM monitoring team also recorded that women were noticeably under-represented in the campaign coverage of the media. This is from the national figures of females making over 52 per cent of the total population of 25.8 million recorded during the last population census.

Various factors

Women over the years have shied away from the political scene, and various factors have been attributed to their low performance by various schools of thought.

Some attribute it to what they term as “hostile political terrain” that results in mudslinging, name-calling and the virtual outpouring of foul language on political opponents during political campaigns.

 Instead of contestants dwelling on issues, they rather resort to the use of hot words at various levels to attack each other, and most women cannot stand such acrimonious attacks and therefore decide to stay away.

Another factor pulling them back is our culture. From outmoded cultural practices, women have been thought that their place is in the kitchen. In politics, where operations have no true barriers, it is only the very daring type  who venture into the area, and some are given names and labels.

Economic strength could be another factor. How many women have the economic ability to invest in such an exercise? This is coupled with the fact that women tend to use their money more judiciously than men. Why is it that most economic empowerment packages are women centred? They will think of their homes and children first before anything else.

Some notable women

All these do not mean that women could not or cannot be good politicians or hold offices of trust when they come out of their shells. Some women such as Mrs Golda Meir of Israel, Mrs Angela Merkel of Germany, Liberia’s Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Mrs Joyce Banda of Malawi just to mention a few, have been very good heads of state.

Even in Ghana here, women have shown their worth since independence in 1957. Ghana had a female Speaker of Parliament in the person of Mrs Justice Joyce Bamford Addo and currently a female Chief Justice, Mrs Justice Georgina Theodora Wood. Those occupying these notable two positions are ‘shadow Heads of State’ under our 1992 Constitutional dispensation in the sense that they can become heads of state whenever the President and the Vice-President are unable to perform their duties.

It is notable that apart from the female Chief Justice, there are other three female Supreme Court judges among the 10 judges. Also of note is the Chairperson of the Electoral Commission, Mrs Charlotte Osei, who has just executed a world-acclaimed electioneering process. Six out of the 19 government ministers, including the Minister of Justice and Attorney-General, Mrs Marietta Brew Appiah Opong, and the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration, Ms Hanna S. Tetteh, are women.

Contributions to development

In other public life, the Director of the School of Communication Studies at the University of Ghana, Legon, Prof. Audrey Gadzekpo, Ms Elizabeth Ohene, Professor Akua Kuenyehia, Prof. Ama Ata Aidoo, Prof. Henrietta Mensa-Bonsu, are all eminent Ghanaian women who are contributing immensely towards national development and peaceful coexistence.

 From all indications, they can do a lot, since they are capable of doing everything to ensure that the atmosphere is conducive for habitation.

In the just-ended general election, the EC organised sensitisation events for potential female MPs and a number of initiatives around the country which sought to whip up their interest and promote support for effective participation.

However, despite a requirement for affirmative action in the 1992 Constitution and yet to be passed Affirmative Action Bill promoting a 40 per cent quota of women in governance and decision-making positions, the overall number and profile of women in politics and public life remains limited. What then is holding them back?

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