Ghana has identified Africa’s patriarchal structure as a bane to women empowerment and has therefore called for practical steps to transform the system, classified as sensitive traditional practice.
“In Africa, for us we need to address the patriarchal society where the man is supreme, over and above, and the head of the household, and the one who takes major decisions.
“How do we transform the structure without antagonising the men, and without antagonising the society as the underlining factor is gender equality,” Nana Oye Lithur, Minister of Gender, Children and Social Protection stated at New York on the sidelines of the 60th session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (CSW60).
The side event was organised by the Permanent Mission of Sri Lanka to the UN in collaboration with the NGO Committee on Sustainable Development on the theme: “Domestic Violence against Women and Girls; a major obstacle to women’s empowerment”.
Nana Oye Lithur noted that: “Men and women are players and work together in the same team; we are partners complementing each other to achieve the same goal
“…so gender activities need to adopt innovative way of addressing the patriarchal system. But sometimes we need to be antagonistic to be able to get what we want but most often we have to be innovative”.
Patriarchal is a social structural phenomenon in which males have the privilege of dominance over females, both visibly and subliminally.
This phenomenon is manifested in the values, attitudes, customs, expectations, and institutions of the society, and it is maintained through the process of socialization.
Females and children, along with any individuals with a nontraditional gender identity, suffer from subordination to men.
Nana Oye Lithur commended the NGO Committee on Sustainable Development for recognising that in other for governments to achieve goal number five of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) “we need to unpack, stop, prevent, and institute measures and interventions to end gender based violence”.
The Gender Minister noted: “We cannot sustain our growth as a globe if we don’t prevent the stagnation of women…we know the impact of gender based violence.
“We in Ghana were happy to work with UN declarations on violence against women to be able to get a comprehensive legal framework in 2007, the Domestic Violence Act, even with that it was a struggle.
“Violence against women has impact on their health. It has economic consequences and it has physiological consequences – women suffer in silence”.
Nana Oye Lithur explained that to address gender based violence and its impact the underlining issues is to address gender inequality; “in Ghana we have our constitution which talks about non-discrimination, equality before the law.
The Gender Minister said: “What we have done is sustain engagement with traditional and community leaders who are the gatekeepers so that they appreciate and understand how it is beneficial for the society to adhere to the tenets of the law and ensure that there is equality between the sexes.
“We have also created a legal and policy framework; we have an affirmative action bill which is being considered by Cabinet, when passed it will ensure that we have a minimum of 40 per cent women representation in security services, and public service and across board.
“We have also criminalise certain acts that constitute gender based violence, FGM is a crime, harmful widowhood practices, but then because these are traditional and cultural, it is very difficult to use the law to prosecute, to convict and to deter people from committing it”.
Nana Oye Lithur stressed on the need to address all these cultural underpinnings of gender based violence, and “we need to factor and integrate these entire social-cultural context in interventions that we designing and adopt to address gender based violence”.
“Another key issue is research and data, as gender advocates we can go on and campaign and advocate for ending gender based violence if we do not have the evidence, then that is a problem, and not just reading out figures of the number of women who have reported of cases of gender based violence.
She said Ghana has adopted as policy to ensure that health care sector has a gender policy and has policy addressing how they would address gender based violence cases.
The country is being supported by DFID to come up with comprehensive study on gender based violence, the drivers of gender based violence.
In terms of strengthening the legal and policy framework, Ghana has adopted a child and family welfare policy, affirmative action bill, and national gender policy.
Institutional strengthening was also very important, whilst gender mainstreaming was very critical Nana Oye Lithur said; noting that since 1998 the Ghana Police Service started setting up special unit called the Domestic Violence and Victim Support Unit.
The Judicial Service has also set up gender based courts.
Other speakers at the forum include: Ms Chandrani Bandara Jayasingha, Minister for Women and Child Affairs, Sri Lanka; Mrs Sicily K. Kariuki, Cabinet Secretary, Kenya; and Ms Carolyn B. Maloney, US Congressional Representative of New York District 12.
The rest are: Ms Lakshmi Puri, Assistant Secretary-General of the UN Deputy Executive Director of UN Women; and moderated by Ms Sonali Samarasinghe, Minister, Counsellor, Permanente Mission of Sri Lanka to the UN.
(By Francis Ameyibor, GNA Special Correspondent, UN, New York)