Abantu for Development, a women’s right advocacy organization has organized a consultative forum meant to re-strategize to advocate for the passage of an Affirmative Action Law in Ghana.
The Forum, which was supported by the African Women’s Development Fund (AWDF) sought to enable CSOs to ascertain the status of the Draft Affirmative Action Bill and Government’s commitment to the process of the passage of the Bill into Law.
It also aimed to enable participants discuss and design strategies and plans that will enhance advocacy for the immediate passage of the Bill into Law as well as mobilize a broader diversity of stakeholders in influencing Government and other stakeholders to ensure the passage of the Affirmative Action Bill.
The Forum was part of a project being implemented by Abantu under the tittle, ‘Strengthening Advocacy for the Passage of the Affirmative Action Bill into Law in Ghana.’
The meeting brought together representatives from the Ministry of Gender Children and Social Protection, Assembly members from various electoral areas, Political parties, Civil Society groups, the media and other key stakeholders.
Ghana legislated an Affirmative Action Act in the middle of 1960 which allowed 10 women members unopposed to represent regions of the country in the then legislature. The Law recognizes that women’s political participation is a critical component of democratic dialogue and social cohesion.
However the law was lost under the weight of political upheavals that occurred in the intervening years in the country. Since then, Ghana has made various commitments by signing global declaration and protocols that call that call for increased women’s participation and representation in public life.
Ghana has been mandated to institute measures, specifically affirmative Action mechanism as one of the means of addressing the problem of exclusion of the marginalized, especially women.
Addressing participants at the opening of the Forum, Madam Grace Ampoma Afrifa, Programmes Officer, ABANTU for Development, noted that an Affirmative Action Law as an important tool that could help correct the inequities and imbalances in public life.
Madam Afrifa said the law was urgently needed to address the existing gaping disparity to ensure the integration of the marginalized, especially women, both as participants in planning and policy-making, and as beneficiaries.
In her remarks, Ms Hamida Harrison, Programmes Manager, ABANTU for Development, noted that a national urgency was required to direct the process to see the Draft Affirmative Action Bill passed into Law.
Ms Harrison said the Affirmation Action Bill was in response to Ghana’s mandate to promulgate an Affirmative Action Law as demanded by Articles 4 and 7 of the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) of 1981 which Ghana ratified in 1986.
In a presentation on The Status of the Affirmative Action Bill and the Way Forward, Ms Joana Opare, a Gender and Development Consultant, recalled efforts to promote Affirmative Action when, in 1960, Ghana legislated an Affirmative Action Act which allowed 10 women to represent the ten regions f Ghana in the then Legislature.
Ms Opare noted that 58 years after the Affirmative Action legislation, Ghana had failed to meet the United Nations recommended threshold of a 30 percent women representation in Parliament.
She noted that since 1998, Ghana had made attempts at reviving efforts to promote Affirmative Action by developing Affirmative Action Policy Guidelines for the promulgation of an Affirmative Action Law in Ghana as a remedial mechanism for improving the rights and socio-political progress of non-dominant groups who are historically disadvantaged.
Furthermore, she said, in 2010/2011 fresh efforts of developing an Affirmative Action Law began, when stakeholders identified the need for a law that specifically promoted women’s rights and gender equality.
Ms Opare expressed regrets that the attempts since 1998 failed to produce concrete results while the processes since 2010, leading to the passage of the Affirmative Action Law, were also extremely slow.
She, therefore, stressed the need to redouble efforts to have the Affirmative Action Bill Passed into Law by effectively participating in the forum to support the development of an advocacy strategy for the immediate passage of the Affirmative Action Bill into Law, adding that an Affirmative Action Law was a Constitutional right.
Article 17 of the 1992 Constitution of Ghana provides that each citizen shares equal rights to self-development and that women with equal abilities should have equal opportunities regardless of gender.
Articles 36 and 37 of the 1992 Republican Constitution of Ghana also provide that the state shall direct its policy towards ensuring that every citizen has equal rights, obligations and opportunities before the law and ensure the full integration of women into the mainstream of the economic development of Ghana.