The Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection has been urged to as a matter of priority lay the Affirmative Action Bill (AABill) before Parliament to ensure its quick passage into law.
Though some gender advocates are questioning the robustness of the currentdraft bill, others, particularly, the Affirmative Action Bill Coalition believes that the Bill can be find tuned when it is laid in Parliament.
Speaking at a sensitization workshop for members of the Affirmative Action Coalition in Accra on Tuesday, Sheila Minkah- Premo, Convener of the Coalition, emphasized the urgent need for the bill to be passed as it has the potential to increase equitable female political participation in the country.
She said, “The proposal is for the Ministry of Gender Children and Social Protection to lay the bill before Parliament despite the problematic areas since they will be fine-tuned by Parliament. The Ministry is urged to get approval from cabinet to lay the bill in Parliament”
The workshop was organized by Abantu for Development in collaboration with the Affirmative Action Bill Coalition and Action aid.
The Affirmative Action Bill seeks a 50/50 percent representation and participation of both women and men in governance, public positions of power and all decision-making spaces of the country. It also requires all sectors to reserve a percentage of their employment for women,while Political parties are also to be encouraged to adopt voluntary party quotas to promote women’s participation in party politics.
Again, the Bill mandates all public institutions to adopt gender policies, including recruitment policies, aimed at achieving a balanced structuring of those institutions in terms of gender.
Taking participants through some provision of the Bill, Madam Minkah- Premo explained that the Bill proposes that anyone who insults a woman just because she is vying for public office should be liable for prosecution.
According to her, Clause 38 of the draft bill provides that, a person who victimises, obstructs or exerts undue influence and submits a female politician to verbal attack, among others, commits an offence.
She added, “The passage of the Affirmative Action Bill is critical to women’s participation and representation because, it also provides for sanctions for non-compliance and its provisions transcend to the private sector as well.”
The Law, she stressed has proven to be most effective as it has worked in various countries and has enhanced the development of those countries as a result of women’s inclusion and participation.
Rwanda and South Africa are currently the leading democracies in Africa in terms of women’s political empowerment. Both countries have used laws and political innovations to make tremendous gains in empowering women politically.
On her part, Professor Takyiwaa Manuh,a former Director of the Social Development Policy Division of the United Nations (UN) Economic Commission for Africa,noted that Ghana a, like many democracies, faces the challenge of identifying and implementing strategies for leveling the equal representation of women and men in public decision-making.
“We want women to be equally represented in all sectors of the economy,” Prof Manuh stated.
Prof. Manuh admitted that the current draft bill is a complex one; as there are so many overlays, insisting that “we need to strengthen the argument as to why we need an affirmative Action law. A lot of provisions apply to the formal sector.”
Ghana has signed on to various protocols and conventions to ensure women’s equal participation in decision making spaces. Ghana is signatory to the Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) which provides that, Parties must take all appropriate measures to eliminate discrimination against women in the political and public life of the country. In particular, women are to be promoted on equal terms with men, have the right to participate in the formulation of government policy and the implementation thereof and to hold public office and perform all public functions at all levels of government. The Beijing Declaration also calls on member states to ensure equal participation of women and men in decision-making. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) also state that gender equality is not only a fundamental human right, but a necessary foundation for a peaceful, prosperous and sustainable world.
The 1992 Constitution of Ghana, in Article 35(6) states that, “the State shall take appropriate measures to achieve reasonable gender balance in the recruitment and appointment to public offices.” Article 17 adds that no citizen shall be discriminated against on the basis of gender, race or religion. These provisions therefore mandate Ghana to ensure women’s active participation in governance and decision making spaces.