Supporters of NPP, NDC in jubilant mood
Supporters of NPP, NDC in jubilant mood

Boosting women's parliamentary representation in Ghana? Part 1

Ghana's current female parliamentary representation of 40, that is 14.5 per cent out of 275 Members of Parliament (MPs), which is lower than the global average of 26.7 per cent and the sub-Saharan African average of 27.1 per cent, is likely to fall further.


What is alarming is that analysis of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) and National Democratic Congress (NDC) party primaries shows that the already underrepresented female MPs might drop further in the December elections if parties take things for granted. 

This is because some female incumbents have lost their electorally safe seats in the primaries mainly to male in-party contestants. 

Seats lost

In the NPP for instance, Freda Prempeh (Tano North) lost her nomination to Dr Gideon Boako, Sarah Adwoa Safo (Dome Kwabenya) lost hers to Mike Oquaye Jnr, and Ama Pomaa Boateng (Juaben) to Francis Owusu-Akyaw. Others are Gifty Twum Ampofo (Abuakwa North) who lost her seat to Nana Ampaw Addo-Frempong and Tina Naa Ayerley Mensah (Weija-Gbawe) who lost to Jerry Ahmed. Again, the seat of Francisca Oteng (Kwabre East) who voluntarily decided not to contest went to Onyina-Acheampong Akwasi Gyamfi. These constituencies are traditionally strongholds of the NPP where the party has consistently won from at least 2004. This means that the MPs could easily return to parliament in 2025. 

It must be pointed out, however, that there are few places where female parliamentary candidates (PCs) won the seats from their male counterparts or took the seats of those who decided not to go back to parliament. Examples are Lauretie Korkor Asante who will be contesting the Atiwa West seat in place of Kwasi Amoako-Attah while Shirley Kyei will contest the Afigya Kwabre South seat in place of William Owuraku Aidoo and Nana Akua Owusu Afriyieh who won Sheila Bartels’ Ablekuma North seat. These outcomes do not alter the fact that female MPs have suffered a net lost that will affect their numbers in 2025. 

A similar trend though on a lesser scale took place in the NDC parliamentary primaries. For example, Dela Sowah (Kpando) lost to a male in-party contestant, Sebastian Fred Deh; Angela Alorwu-Tay (Afadzato South) lost to Frank Afriyie; and Sophia Karen Edem (Ayawaso Central) also lost to in-party male contestant Abdul Rauf Tongym Tubazu. Although Hajia Nasira Afrah won the Sekyere Afram Plains primaries against Dr Alex Adomako Mensah and Joana Gyan Cudjoe also won the Amenfi Central primaries against Peter Yaw Kwakye Ackah. Like the NPP, NDC female MPs who are already underrepresented suffered an overall net loss of seats to in-party male counterparts.

Gender quota

Although Ghana was one of the first sub-Saharan African countries to introduce a gender quota under the Convention People’s Party (CPP) to advance women's parliamentary representation, little progress has been made since then. Both the 2004 Women’s Manifesto for Ghana’s demand of 30 per cent female representation by 2008 and the yet-to-be-passed Affirmative Action Bill of 2011, which calls for 50:50 female-male representation, remain on the wish list. 

Though the NDC attempted to reserve some of its safe seats for women parliamentary candidates in 2008, the party executives backed off when the men argued that the policy was discriminatory against them. 

If implemented, their opponents would sponsor strong male contestants to take those seats from the women. In 2016, the NPP decided not to allow male PCs to contest incumbent female PCs; this decision was withdrawn when there was a protest from some men. These issues partly account for why the few female MPs from both parties have lost their primaries in their strongholds to their male counterparts because their positions are not protected.

Consequently, women’s representation in Ghana remains poor due to several barriers, particularly institutional barriers. A likely drop in female representation is worrying and every effort should be made to help boost female representation in parliament.  

EC initiative

For Ghana to boost its female representation, determined efforts must be made by policymakers and political parties. This is why the Electoral Commission’s decision not to increase the 2020 filing fees for the 2024 election but to reduce the figure for female PCs is a welcome idea.     

To boost female representation, it is recommended that first, the NPP and the NDC keenly deploy all available tactical, financial and other relevant resources in support of the few female PCs contesting the 2024 election to try to ensure their victory.  

Second, the male-dominated parliament should pass into law with alacrity the Affirmative Action Bill, which has been before parliament since 2011, to ensure that women who constitute about 51 per cent of the population according to the 2021 census receive fair representation. 

Third, political parties should engineer strategic ways of boosting women's representation such as reserving seats in their strongholds for women and deploying all their party machinery to ensure they win those seats.

Fourth, as Ghana is currently exploring constitutional reforms, it is recommended that proportional representation and gender-quotas, which are more women-friendly, should be considered. 
Additionally, a Second Chamber that is broadly representative of Ghanaian society and encompasses a diverse range of expertise, experience, personal distinction, and the ability to take a long-term view on national issues should be established. This will ensure that outstanding women are not left out.

Finally, at least 30 per cent of all appointments to public offices should be reserved for women.

The writer is a Political Scientist  

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