The Member of Parliament (MP) for Weija, Shirley Ayorkor Botchway, on Monday expressed grave concern over the declining number of women participation and representation in the country’s Legislative House, arguing that she foresees danger looming, since the number may further drop in 2012.
“Today, in Ghana’s Parliament, we do have 19 women. In the last Parliament, the number was 25, and so we’ve gone down. I shudder to think what is going to happen in post-2012, when we come back, because already, a number of our colleagues will not be seeking re-election,” noted Madam Botchway in her contribution to a statement delivered by the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration, on the occasion of the Commonwealth Day celebration.
The celebration was under the theme “Women as Agents of Change.”
According to the Weija Legislature, women are an untapped resource, and it was time to accord them their rightful position in society, by involving them in decision making.
“For all the nations under the Commonwealth to make progress, to develop, to accelerate their social and economic progress, women should be part of this change. We are doing well, but there is still a lot more that has to be done. If you take the MDGs, each and every one of them has to do with women. And, until such time that women are accorded their rightful places in society; until such time they are given the same opportunities, I do not think that African nations would be able to achieve the MDGs that has been set for ourselves,” she said.
Women constitute over 51% of Ghana’s total population, but occupy a few seats in Parliament.
In spite of the several UN Charters and Conventions signed and ratified by Ghana, which emphasise women’s political participation and representation at all levels of power, this milestone has not been realised.
The Beijing Platform for Action, which sets a target of 30% representation of women in all decision making positions at all levels, has also not been realised.
In the Second Republic, there were two women members of parliament (MPs), whilst in the Third Republic, the number rose to five.
In the First Parliament of the Fourth Republic (1992), sixteen women were elected as MPs, while in 1996, 18 out of the 53 women contestants were elected.
In 2000, nineteen out of the 95 female contestants were elected. The number, however, dropped from 25 in 2004 to 20 in 2008. The Legislative House suffered another big blow with the sudden demise of Madam Doris Seidu, MP for Chereponi in 2009, bringing the number further down to 19, representing 8% of the total number of seats.
The increase of women participation and representation in the August House looks uncertain, especially, with the announcement of two stalwart women MPs from the Minority side, Ms. Cecilia Abena Dapaah of Bantama and Mrs. Akosua Frema Osei-Opare of Ayawaso West Wuogon, that they would not be contesting in 2012
The decision by the aforementioned MPs not to contest for the 2012 parliamentary elections, according to Madam Botchway, was worrying, looking at the impediments surrounding women who go into politics.
To this end, the Weija MP appealed to Ghanaians to vote massively for any woman who her party would choose to represent the people, in order to get the desired changes the country has been yearning for over the years.
Among the issues militating against Ghanaian women who want to go into politics are traditional norms, low self esteem and self confidence, and multiple burdens.
Other key factors that complicate women’s entry into Parliament are lack of Affirmative Action Legislation and lack of party support.
Professor Mike Oquaye, MP for Dome-Kwabenya, in his contribution to Alhaji Mohammed Mumuni’s contribution, called for the Affirmative Action Law to address issues militating against women.
Affirmative action is a policy purposely designed to create equal opportunity to groups which have not only benefitted from existing processes and structures, but are affected negatively because of the situation.
Its objective is to provide a means to address a problem which has been consistent over a long period of time, such as the low representation of women in politics and public positions.
The Deputy Minority Chief Whip and MP for Tarkwa-Nsuaem, Mrs. Gifty Eugenia Kusi, in her contribution, pleaded with various political party chairmen to reserve safe seats for women. This, she believes, would enable more women to gain entry into the Legislative House.
Alhaji Mohammed Mumuni, in his address, underscored the need for continued investment in women and girls to accelerate the socio-economic and political progress of the country.
He said Ghana would continue to strengthen her efforts to mainstream gender perspective into the decision making process.
Already, he said, the government had accepted the objectives of the 2004 Women’s Manifesto for Ghana, while the Ministry of Women and Children’s Affairs (MOWAC) was working with the sponsors of the manifesto and other stakeholders, to enable its key demands to be incorporated in a revised “Affirmative Action for Women”, which is expected to be finalised by the end of this year.