Panellists and participants at an inter-generational dialogue on the need for an Affirmative Action (AA) Law to increase women’s participation in decision making positions in the country have threatened that if the bill is not passed by 2023, women and women’s groups will not participate in the 2024 elections.
According to them, the women’s movement for gender equality and equity was the longest-running movement in the country but the issue is consistently ignored by the people in power who do not have the political will to ensure equal participation of women in decision making positions.
The dialogue which was organised by the AA (Gender Equality) Bill coalition with support from Fredrich Ebert Stiftung brought together representatives from civil society groups and women’s right organisations, among others.
Affirmative Action is a temporary mechanism aimed at removing discrimination and improving the rights of marginalised groups who have been historically disadvantaged.
Ghana’s Affirmative Action Law seeks to remove the historical low representation of women in all decision-making spaces while promoting democracy and development through effective participation of all citizens.
In addition, it seeks to promote women’s representation to a minimum of 40 per cent in all policy making spaces.
The drafting of Ghana’s Affirmative Action Law began as far back as the year 2011. However, till date, the Bill has still not been passed.
Elizabeth Akpalu, a panellist who gave a historical background on AA in Ghana, recounted the role that Ghana’s first President, Dr Kwame Nkrumah, played in ensuring that women participated in decision making during his era.
According to her, in the south of the Sahara, Ghana was the first to start AA, saying it was a legislation which should have been followed by successive governments but was not.
This, she said, had led to a situation where women continued to have low representation in all sectors of the country.
Mrs Akpalu said the major challenge that the women's movement in the country was facing was the lack of political will on the part of men in responsible positions to give the needed push to AA.
She called on women to come together collectively and support the passage of the Bill into law, saying “fragmentation and politics should not divide us when it comes to the passage of bills like this”, adding that there was the need to galvanise and restrategise to get the bill passed into law by 2013.
Kinna Likimani, Director of Special Programme at Odekro, a parliamentary monitoring organisation, was of the view that patriarchy was what was inhibiting women from inheriting their rightful positions in the country, saying, “we cannot wait for time to get rid of patriarchy” and therefore the need for legislation to fight the system.
According to her, people do not understand the role of power in systems and that there were issues for which only well-funded interventions were put in place.
Ms Likimani said women over the years had been made invisible in the decision-making process of the country and called on young women to admit that there was patriarchy in the system and help fight it through legislation.
She said “if young women who are dynamic and ambitious do not get involved, they will be doomed”.
Bernice Sam, a lawyer and gender activist who spoke on how to strategise to get the support of all to get the bill passed into law, said, “our society and the way it is structured has to be consciously changed”.
She said elections in the country had become monetised, a situation which she said was pushing away most women who hitherto would have been interested.
Ooborr Kutgando, a PhD student and panel member at the dialogue session, in his submission called on the AA coalition to engage more of the youthful population to champion the course.
According to him, the youth through social mobilisation could make the issue of AA spread faster to attain the desired results.