More than half of Ghanaians are women, but currently women hold only 19 seats in the country’s parliament, representing less than 10% of all members. Recently, this issue has become a topic of public debate. Within this framework, the Ministry of Women’s and Children’s Affairs has started planning an affirmative action bill that aims to improve women’s participation in politics.
The bill is a step towards a positive change. Together with a Ghanaian NGO, Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) and the European Democracy Foundation EPD, Demo Finland is supporting this change in Ghanaian politics. On the 18th of October, the IEA organized a discussion forum in Accra to get all stakeholders together to share their views on the forthcoming bill. The forum had representation from all the parliamentary parties as wells as academia and other citizen groups.
In general, political parties were seen to play a key role in delivering this change to action. Also, quotas for women were seen as an effective means to increase the number of women representatives in decision-making, but not a complete solution. Several speakers stressed that staring at the numbers instead of the real causes of the problem would be misleading.
The discussions also addressed the added value of women in politics and legislative work. In a male dominated culture, women were considered to be better in understanding issues such as homes and families. Otiko Afisah Djaba of the NPP warned that women should not consider themselves as representatives of soft values only. “The most important thing is to break the traditional cultural patterns, which limit female participation. This is only possible with a new initiative in which all political parties engage to”, summed up Mary Ankomah Boakye of the CPP.
The goal of Demo Finland’s, EPD’s and IEA’s project is to double the number of women MPs in the 2012 parliamentary elections. The project is partly funded by the European Commission.