An Affirmative Action is the act of supporting or recommending a cause of action to remedy an imbalance.
An Affirmative Action is a temporary measure that is often instituted to redress the effects of past and current discrimination that is regarded as unfair and unjust.
Affirmative Action is therefore used to correct issues regarding discrimination in the political, social, economic and cultural lives of any people.
Ghana’s Affirmative Action Bill defines Affirmative Action as “A set of measures adopted by the Government, public and private institutions to address a history of systemic discrimination and exclusion of women and to encourage their efforts towards addressing political, social, cultural, economic and educational gender imbalance in the public and private sectors in accordance with clause (4) of article 17 of the Constitution”.
The Bill seeks to promote a progressive increase in active participation of women in public life from a minimum of 40% to a parity of 50% by 2030 in line with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Ghana’s Affirmative Action Bill when passed into Law, will ensure that a critical number of women are in key positions in governance and public life and in decision-making spaces that will improve the lives of women generally and will also lead to consequential changes in existing laws and policies to improve the lives of women.
Though various efforts have been made in Ghana to balance political representation and participation between women and men, these efforts have not yielded desired results, mainly due to the low commitment and the political will to back such initiatives.
Ghana began its quest for an Affirmative Action Law as far back as 1998, where guidelines on the Law were passed by the Cabinet. However, as at June 2020, the Bill has still not been passed.
This is due to the low commitment on the part of stakeholders towards pushing for the passage of the Bill into Law.
This low commitment has been realised because the purpose, relevance and benefits that we stand to gain as a country have not been clearly spelt out and disseminated to all citizens. This article therefore provides us insight into the basis for the passage of the Bill and the need for its passage.
Ghana is signatory to several international and national protocols and laws such as, the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), Beijing Platform for Action, Solemn Declaration for Gender Equality in Africa, which set out the need to push for gender equality and govern women’s equal participation.
However, despite the ratification of these protocols, equal representation of women and men, is yet to be realised in the country. There are currently only thirty-eight (38) women, representing, 13.8% in Ghana’s Parliament out of a total of two hundred and seventy-five (275) Members of Parliament.
At the ministerial and ambassadorial levels, women’s representation stands below 25%. In Ghana’s Local Governance system, the situation is worse, as women constitute less than 5% of the elected.
This low representation of women is in spite of the fact that women form 51.2% of Ghana’s total population. Therefore, there is an urgent need for the passage of an Affirmative Action Law to address these inequalities.
According to the United Nations, without the active participation of women and the incorporation of women’s perspective at all levels of decision-making, the goals of equality, development and peace cannot be achieved and development interventions and planning will not achieve sustainable results.
Women’s participation and representation will bring about sustainable development which will improve the lives of all citizens.
Furthermore, an Affirmative Action law in Ghana will promote equality in participation and representation in decision making processes which will enable women to protect and promote their rights and the country as a whole.
With gender equality in participation and decision making, women will bring on board alternative development, their experience, knowledge and expertise in key areas of governance, such as education, child care and health issues as well as improve the delivery of social services in remote areas.
Higher gender inequality in decision making is also associated with slower development of a country. Women account for approximately 50% of Ghana’s labour force and are found in almost all kinds of economic activities in the country.
When women are inadequately represented in decision making process, it is very unlikely, that that their needs and suggestions would be treated with priority which inadvertently affects the economic development of the country.
This is because women’s labour, experience, expertise, knowledge and best practices will not be considered in any decision relating to economic development. Thus, 50% of the population are likely to remain underdeveloped.
The Affirmative Action law will therefore guarantee for equal representation of women and men in decision making spaces which will result in gender balanced policy making at all levels of governance.
Research has shown that institutions and companies greatly benefit from increasing employment and leadership opportunities for women, which has shown to increase
organisational effectiveness and growth. With an Affirmative Action law in place, more women would have the opportunity to hold managerial positions, which will increase organisational performance.
An Affirmative Action Law will also increase women’s interest in public and political office and would make a valuable contribution through their participation in decision making and will address socio-cultural prejudices against women.
Finally, gender equality in decision making is a top priority, not only because equality between women and men is an important development goal, but also because women’s participation in decision making process is vital for growth, peace and national stability.
Having both men and women involved in decision-making broadens the perspectives, diversifies the pool of talents and competences, as well as improves the process of decision-making.
The absence of women from positions of leadership is at odds with the strategy of exploiting human resources to promote business and performance.
ABANTU for Development and the African Women’s Development Fund are therefore calling on the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection (MoGCSP) to expedite processes to get Ghana’s Affirmative Action Bill into Parliament.
We are also calling on Ghana’s Legislature to pass the Affirmative Action Bill with urgency in order to ensure an increased women’s representation in the 2020 General Elections.
Finally, we call on all stakeholders including civil society, political parties, traditional and religious leaders and all citizens to collectively increase the ongoing advocacy towards the passage of the Bill into Law.
This Article is produced by ABANTU for Development with support from the African Women’s Development Fund (AWDF)