The low level of women participation and representation in politics, stemming from economic, financial, and cultural barriers that hinge on their democratic rights, continues to be a worrying phenomenon.
The Affirmative Action Bill which seeks to address gaps in women participation in decision making is expected to give hope to women’s participation and gender equality.
Besides being a fundamental right provided in the 1992 constitution of Ghana, women’s enjoyment of their rights is part of their general development that facilitates peaceful coexistence and sustainable development which the SDG – five also advocates for gender balance in politics by pushing for participation of women.
Today women interest in politics is not only to rise above their subordinate positions but has long term interests to improve their situation, have access to gender equality to gain more opportunities and participation in decision making.
Over the years the election of women into politics and choice of women has been tough in achieving these objectives. In Ghana’s fourth Republic, the first parliament had 16 women out of 200 members, the second parliament had 18 and third 19 women in the parliament.
In 2004 and 2008, out of 230 parliamentarians, 25 and 20 were women respectively whilst in 2013 only 30 were voted into parliament and in 2016, 40 out of 275 members were women.
In 2016 regional representation for women was not good and for the Upper East Region alone, the trend was abysmal with Gabiana Agbanina Abugre, Bawku Central constituency, Naomi Abugah, Chiana a/Paga constituency and Zalia Ibrahim for Bawku Central constituency, all losing to their male contestants while in 2020, only two out of the six women that contested won seats to Parliament.
In Ghana population census shows that women are slightly more than men but get little or no support when it comes to elections that would enable them to participate in decision making for the country. Why women are not supported to fully enjoy their fundamental rights just as men is a loaded question with varying answers that need to be considered bearing in mind the roles women play in society, reproduction, and community development roles.
Speaking with a former Director of the National Commission on Civic Education, Mr Pontius Pilate Appabey , he said “ if we have a country as democratic as any country and democracy is meant to benefit the majority of all citizens and all the laws are meant to protect citizens then , it is reason why women have to enjoy their fundamental human rights , freedoms and obligations .
However, women from the afore mentioned have not been given their due and discrimination and biases have blurred these rights, allowing women to be elbowed out through various strategies some of which are just biases.
Mr Appabey reiterated that election is an element of good governance, and so the very laws that are to protect all citizens include women who are the majority and therefore should fully be enjoying their rights in elections and should be given their due.
The statistics over time indicate that women involvement in politics is still low and need to be improved at both local level elections and national elections and therefore women must be given the opportunity to take their stand, campaign to get elected and for them to decide for themselves.
“If we are to go by the principle of majority rules or majority decisions in parliament then increased numbers of women in parliament will benefit all as they will push for an agenda that benefits women, children and general wellbeing of all,” he noted.
Without money, no one is regarded, and this challenge has had repercussions on different political aspirants during elections, among which include making visits to their constituencies to consult and solicit for votes.
Just over a night some people can change their perceptions about candidates as a result of some influences including exchange of cash for votes and this has become challenging for not only women but the general election process in Ghana.
The Code of conduct for political parties spell out that there should be no vote for sale but prevailing scenarios among electorates is an eye sore which show that when contestants have no money, they are not even regarded and people are voted based on what they have and some parliamentarians go to parliament not to represent their people but recoup what they lost in the campaign.
Some electorates interviewed on these perceptions have expressed bitterness about the trend because their parliamentarians or representatives in parliament, whom they voted for do not consult them on issues and decisions are taken in parliament without consulting them whilst some do not even visit home.
Some other biases inherited as a society, is stereotyping women who want to aspire to be politicians especially when they are not natives of the communities they want to represent. Since women join their husbands after marriage, they become part of their husbands’ family and community, but many do not count that when it comes to politics.
The former NCCE Director said by virtue of marriage the woman lives in the community bringing up children and of course contributing to the development of the place, and the fact that the woman is in the community serving her reproductive role, bringing forth children, farming and working to contribute to development of the area, and have capabilities to serve her people, she could be sponsored to participate in any democratic role.
There are critical issues discussed and approved in parliament without recourse to electorates, but women have shown some level of consideration and compassion to issues and therefore pushing for more women will change the way things are done in politics.
These are biases we have inherited and should be stopped and worse still having women campaigning against their fellow women contestants, dishing out abusive language to frustrate them which is a cheap tool by populist Politicians who try to wedge women out.
Mr Yaw Peprah, in charge of the Bolgatanga Municipal Office of Electoral Commission in an interview urged women to be steadfast and seek needed information.
According to him men have taken the lead to visit the EC asking for information about the district level elections and picking forms.
However, only two women have so far picked forms to participate in the district level elections in the Municipality.
He encouraged women to pick forms and participate.
Women are no more a separate social group whose place in society is just childbearing and should remain at home, and to this end many laws and conventions have changed the scenario and face of women. Sadly, women themselves mount campaign platforms and send insults to their own counterparts.
GIVING WOMEN A LEVERAGE IN POLITICS
There are financial implications and so the need to support and give leverage to women who have the capacity to bring development to their electoral areas.
Organizations supporting women in politics should increase support for platforms for women aspirants, to campaign especially during the forthcoming district level elections and soon into the 2024 general election.
“Some women are fizzling out because of the tagging, the insults and the biases attached to women going out on their campaign trail and experience has shown that campaign goes deep into the night. That should not let people think that a woman who is working towards a successful election is out doing immoral things.
“Women are compassionate and will not want to lie and will not pledge what they cannot do for the electorates unlike those who will promise heaven when they know things are not within their ambit.
If a woman is a worker in a community and is an enterprising woman who has the capacity, there should be support her by voting for her.
“It is a missed opportunity if one does not win but the name goes into the annals of history and will be consulted each time the need arises “, words of encouragement by the former NCCE Director.