The Speaker of Parliament, Prof. Mike Oquaye, has underscored the importance of passing the Affirmative Action Bill (AAB) into law to promote women's leadership,their participation in political process and enhance the effectiveness of gender equality as stimuli for national development.
Prof. Oquaye explained that it had become necessary for all to support the passage of the bill because the United Nations Women’s report ranked Ghana 140th out of 160 countries in Africa with as low as 35 women parliamentarians out of 275 constituencies which was not a positive political representation of the country.
He pointed out that Rwanda ranked first with the highest representation of 61.3 per cent women parliamentarians, with Senegal and South Africa having representations of 42.7 per cent and 42.0 per cent respectively.
The Speaker stated this at a stakeholders’ meeting in Accra last Tuesday to discuss the passage of the AAB into law this year.
The meeting, organised by the Ministry for Gender, Children and Social Protection, brought together parliamentarians, ministers, partners and officials, including a former First Lady, Nana Konadu Agyemang Rawlings, to discuss the way forward for the AAB.
"Ghana is in a poor show so far as women’s representation in political decision making is concerned," the speaker said, noting that the AAB must be a social tool for national development and must be holistic to guide Ghanaians to action.
"Ghana is running around with one leg tied and unless the other leg is untied, Ghana cannot progress," he advised.
The Speaker added that Ghana prided itself as a beacon of democracy but until women were given the rightful position in the country’s decision making process, there would be no need to hold on to that pride.
Affirmative Action Law
The Minister of Gender, Children and Social Protection (MoGGCSP), Madam Otiko Afisah Djaba,noted that while efforts geared towards improving the participation and representation of women in decision making since independence had made positive gains, achieving gender equality still remained a challenge as women still lacked the critical mass to effect change in governance and decision making processes.
The approval of the AAB, she said was, therefore, a bold step at creating the space being demanded as women in politics, education and in the areas of low representation of women for various reasons which may be attributed to culture and tradition.
In a presentation, a member of the AAB Committee, Mrs Hilary Gbedemah, said the bill had been developed in accordance with international protocols that Ghana had ratified to guide the government and its institutions in promoting women’s participation in governance structures and decision making roles throughout the society.
She noted that the provisions of the Affirmative Action Bill required government institutions and agencies to ensure a minimum of 40 per cent of women are recruited at any given time.
Mrs Gbedemah said it was imperative that the government, stakeholders and the general public committed and supported the formulation and implementation of an effective Affirmative Action Policy to improve and sustain the process of increasing women’s participation and representation in governance.
Sustainable Development Goal
The Assistant Country Director of Programme, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Mr Louis Kuukpenb said Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) Five recognised the continuous imbalance in the female-male ratio and had set out to achieve gender equality by empowering women and girls before the year 2030.
One of the measures is to “ensure women's full and effective participation and equal opportunities for leadership at all levels of decision making in political, economic and public life," he said.