The calls for Ghana to pass an affirmative Action Law in order to facilitate gender equality and diversity in representation in political processes have become increasingly imperative.
Development debates including global economic frameworks like the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are placing the issue of equal participation in public life as a core concern in the struggle for social justice and economic sustainability.
With the country’s desire to institutionalise democratic political systems built on the principles of equality and inclusiveness, Ghana must include the immediate passage of an affirmative action law as an integral part of this conversation.
Ghana is counted as a success story, with an enviable background in conducting democratic elections. Nonetheless, in all these elections, Ghana has failed to achieve an environment for equal political engagement between women and men for genuine consensus-building.
Equal participation and sharing of power should engender engagement in policy-making affecting both women and men’s lives within the concept of equal citizenship and right to entitlements.
Immediately after Independence, there was a national acknowledgment that elections alone are not going to be the most viable vehicle for addressing the deeply entrenched marginalisation and gender inequalities existing in political participation and in national leadership.
The passage of the Affirmative Action “Peoples’ Act (1960)’ allowing 10 women to represent the regions of the country in the then legislature was in recognition that women’s political participation is a critical component of democratic dialogue and social cohesion.
However, the law intended to facilitate equal opportunities to participation was buried under the weight of the political upheavals that occurred in the intervening years in the country. Since then, the nation has made various commitments by signing to global declarations and protocols that call for increased women’s participation and representation in public life.
Through these instruments, Ghana has been mandated to institute measures, specifically affirmative action mechanisms as one of the means of bringing about diversity of experiences in ways that are democratic, define genuine ownership and guarantee equal citizenship.
Yet, 60 years after the Affirmative Action move of the 1960s, Ghana has failed to meet the minimum UN recommended threshold of 30 per cent women representation.
This is occurring against the desire to institutionalise political legitimacy and fulfil promises of good governance which require gender sensitivity in order to be equitable, sustainable and effective.
Continuous exclusion of the marginalised, especially women from formal political leadership and policy-making in particular, raises a number of specific concerns regarding the achievement of effective democratic transformation, in practice and in reality.
Gender inequality, exclusion and absence of balance in political decision-making has a negative impact on the entire process of democratisation and sustainable development.
There are global admissions that the failure to address the underlying causes of gender inequality, gender disparities and the inability to facilitate inclusive environments in governance contribute in very substantial ways to the failure to secure comprehensive improved conditions in countries like Ghana.
Exclusiveness and structural challenges within political institutions and the society as a whole makes it difficult for marginalised groups to exercise their rights, voice their concerns and add their perspectives on issues that impact directly on their lives.
To ensure inclusive political participation, especially that of women, specific equality mechanisms are required to overcome the barriers of long entrenched gender discrimination and inequalities that are reinforced by socio-cultural traditional prejudices, beliefs and perceptions.
Attempts have been made since 1998 starting with the Affirmative Action Policy Guidelines to promulgate an Affirmative Action Law but without concrete results.
Currently, Ghana has drafted an Affirmative Action Bill worked since 2011, in response to its mandate to promulgate an Affirmative Action Law (AAL) as called in Article 4 and 7 of the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW-1981).
The national urgency needed to direct the process to see this Draft Bill passed into law is agonisingly slow. Gender equality and social inclusion objectives will only be met if there is commitment and sufficient urgency.
In the meantime, due to inadequate representation and participation of the marginalised, especially women who form the majority, the nation is losing out on their constructive and positive energies for socio-economic development and sustainable progress.
The country has an obligation to prioritise inclusiveness in consonance with the 1992 Constitution to meet the demand for equal participation in governance processes. In addition, Ghana has to take into account the implementation of international, continental and regional commitments required of the country to promote gender equality.
An Affirmative Action Law is needed right now to open up opportunities for the marginalised to play an active and effective role in national discourse.
Source : ABANTU for Development