The International Women’s Day (IWD), a day set aside as one of the most important dates on the United Nations’ calendar, is here again. This important day, first marked in 1911 and celebrated annually on March 8, affords the world the opportunity to raise awareness on women’s equality, achievements and challenges, as well as lobby for accelerated gender parity.
The day has been used, since its inception, to raise issues that bother on women development. Women form an important part of our global society. However, the efforts of women have still not got to the point where it is appreciated and recognized fully by society.
Women over the years have moved from when they were only seen to be good for the kitchen to the point where they are now serving as CEOs and business managers. Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala recently emerged as the first woman and an African to lead the World Trade Organization as Director-General. Kamala Harris was recently elected as the first woman to take up the Vice-President position in the USA and the second most powerful person in the free world. Others such as Chimamanda Adichie of Nigeria, who has been described by Forbes as a woman who has been able to dissect, shape and create social dialogues across the globe, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the first woman president in Liberia, among others, are also doing their best.
A long way to go
Notwithstanding the development, the fight for gender parity is still far from being won. Global statistics, as of 2019, indicated that legal restrictions had kept 2.7 billion women from accessing the same choice of jobs as men, while less than 25 per cent of parliamentarians were women. A recent report published by a civil society organisation, Kandifo Institute, disclosed that as of October 2019, the global participation rate of women in national-level parliaments was 24.5 per cent, and in 2013 women accounted for eight per cent of all national leaders and two per cent of all presidential posts.
Also, 75 per cent of all female prime ministers and presidents have taken office in the past two decades, while 87 per cent of global mid-market companies had at least one woman in a senior management role in 2020. There are 33.1 per cent of women who are senior managers, 30.0 per cent executive managers, 30.2 per cent key management personnel and 17.1 per cent of CEOs or heads of businesses.
There are still tons of women out there that are suffering great ordeals each and every day in society in every human endeavour that is mostly not spoken about and also not given the necessary attention. Mostly, because of the fear of losing social status and the stigma of being discriminated against, most women live in silence.
To deal with the question of inequality, Affirmative Action was introduced in response to demands by activists for measures to deal with persistent inequalities. The feminist dictionary (1985) defines the term affirmative action as “any institutional policy designed to open up white male dominated fields to larger number of women, blacks and other minority persons”. Affirmative action has also been defined as concrete steps that are taken not only to eliminate discrimination – whether in employment, education, or contracting – but also to attempt to redress the effects of past discrimination. The underlying motive for affirmative action is the Constitutional principle of equal opportunity, which holds that all persons have the right to equal access to self-development.
Ghana’s quest for equality led to the attempt to pass a law to promote equality in the country (Affirmative Action Bill). The bill has been in and out of Parliament for several years without any progress. Documentary analysis of the Affirmative Action (Gender Equality) Bill suggests that while the Bill may have some defects, when passed, it could address the issue of representativeness in the bureaucracy.
The object of the bill is to ensure the achievement of gender equality in political, social, economic, educational and cultural spheres in society. The bill contains 45 clauses dealing specifically with the issue of what can be done to improve women’s situation in the country through structural and policy changes.
The Minister of Gender, Children and Social Protection, Sara Adwoa Safo, when she appeared before the Appointment Committee of Parliament, indicated her willingness to re-lay the bill before Parliament for immediate action.
While acknowledging the fact that the Akufo-Addo government has been a government that is women-centric, and has developed policies that go to the heart of women development, I believe our party will achieve the most if we are able to bring this to fruition. As a party credited with the repeal of the Criminal Libel Law, passage and establishment of the Office of the Special Prosecutors Act and office, passage of the Right to Information Act, among other ground breaking laws, passing the Affirmative Action bill will cement out position as the true party with the interest of the people at heart.
As the National Women’s Organiser, I pledge my full support to the Gender Minister to ensure that this goes through, and I urge the MPs from our side to also support this effort.