By Centre for Policy Development
When he appeared before Parliament on Tuesday March 9, 2020 to deliver the State of the Nation Address 2021, President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo declared his commitment to seeing to the passage of the long-awaited Affirmative Action Bill.
“I am pleased to inform the House that, in the course of this session of Parliament, the new Minister for Gender, Children and Social Protection, Hon. Sara Adwoa Safo, MP for Dome Kwabenya, will resubmit to the House the Affirmative Action Bill,” the President said.
“Our mothers, wives, sisters and daughters are looking up to us on this…and I am appealing to the House, on both sides, to make one big effort to ensure its enactment,” he added.
This pledge, coming a day after the celebration of the International Women’s Day, is assuring. The President could not have said it any better when he succinctly put it that “it will make our society the richer”.
Women form an important part of our global society, even though they are mostly not appreciably recognized. There are tons of women out there that are suffering a great ordeal each and every day. Mostly, because of the fear of losing social status and the stigma of being discriminated against, most women live in silence. Among many ordeals women suffer in society are domestic and social abuse, political and economic oppressions and many others. The voice of women is not given a laudable ear in as much as they try hard to communicate to society and other governmental bodies and agencies the challenges they face.
The challenges notwithstanding, strong evidence shows that better use of the female population could increase economic growth, reduce poverty, enhance societal well-being, and help ensure sustainable development in all countries.
Attempts have been made to ensure that women are given the needed space. The recent ‘fight’ for gender parity is gaining some grounds. In 2013 women accounted for eight per cent of all national leaders and two per cent of all presidential posts. Statistics show that 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.
The figures do not look encouraging as women still largely remain at the backroom despite all the efforts. Globally, it is estimated that as of 2019, legal restrictions kept 2.7 billion women from accessing the same choice of jobs as men. Women representation still remain very low with less than 25 per cent in national-level parliaments with a prediction that gender parity in legislatures can only be achieved by 2047.
In Ghana, for instance the current Parliament (eighth parliament) has only 37 female MPs representing 12.75 per cent of the 275 Member-Parliament. This falls short of the United Nations recommended threshold of 30 per cent.
This is why there is an urgent need for Affirmative Action. According to the UN Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), majority of the countries that have more than 30 per cent female representation in the legislature achieved this through affirmative action programmes. Given the large shortfall of women representation, the global prediction of 2047 to achieve gender parity may elude us if deliberate and conscious efforts are not put in place.
Affirmative action has 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.
The object of Ghana’s Affirmative Action Bill, which has been in and out of parliament for several years, 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 on what can be done to improve women’s situation in the country through structural and policy changes.
Despite its importance, it is reported that affirmative action policies have benefited middle class people more at the detriment of the poor and working-class people. Documentary analysis of the Affirmative Action (Gender Equality) Bill, that was last laid in Parliament, suggests that while, the Bill, when passed could address the issue of representativeness in the bureaucracy, it has some serious defects.
National Women’s Summit
This is why we at Centre for policy Development, in supporting the President’s call, is also creating a platform that could advance solutions to problems affecting women, and present contributions of women to Parliament when the Committee on Gender begin to make inquiries on the Bill in accordance with Article 106(4) of Ghana’s 1992 Constitution. The “National Women’s Summit” is a national programme that seeks to bring together Ghanaian women from all walks of life with diverse backgrounds to one platform to analyze and discuss the various challenges women are facing in all aspects of life and come out with a policy document that will be made available to government’s departments and agencies, Parliament, local and international NGOs and other multinational institutions that are working to solve problems relating to women to further enhance interventions that are already undertaken and also to aid them in the planning processes as well as shape Ghana’s Affirmative Action Bill.