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Affirmative Action Policies can Support Women in Politics

For Release Upon Receipt - Monday, December 3, 2018


Legislation has been touted as a possible avenue to encourage greater participation of women in politics – even if not always successful.

Minister of Communications in the Republic of Ghana, Ursula Owusu-Ekuful, gave examples of such measures that could be pursued during her public lecture titled, Women and Political Leadership in Ghana. She delivered the 24th annual Caribbean Women: Catalysts for Change public lecture, which is a lecture series organised by the UWI Cave Hill Campus, Institute for Gender and Development: Nita Barrow Unit.

“In response to the gender disparity in politics, the Government of Ghana is pursuing a policy objective of increasing representation and participation of women in governance, positions of power and decision-making through the enactment of an Affirmative Action Law. The Bill seeks to identify and correct areas of social, cultural, economic and educational imbalance in Ghana, especially as they relate to discrimination against women, and to promote the full and active participation of women in public life by providing for a more equitable system of representation in electoral politics and governance,” she said.

Ekuful admitted that the bill was “slowly making its way through parliament” due to what she perceived as the lack of political will to push it through.

The lawyer also relayed the experience of attempting to institutionalise an affirmative action directive for female candidates in 2016 in the National Patriotic Party (NPP), of which she is a member. Under the directive, women candidates would only contest other women. While the NPP’s National Executive Committee successfully passed it, the initiative was otherwise unpopular.

“… The other political parties watched with glee as we were mauled in the media. Even the National Women’s Organiser of the NPP was against this directive and did nothing to assist with public education,” Ekuful recalled.

“We were targeted for special treatment and female MPs were left alone to defend this directive which some NEC members also started distancing themselves from. Ultimately, the party caved in and withdrew the directive.”

However, she reminded sisters across the Atlantic that they stood on the shoulders of giants who have charted the path they walked on.

“We have a history of trailblazing women who led armies, ruled kingdoms and territories, launched military conquests, founded new states and resisted the encroachment of European powers,” she asserted.

Ekuful also highlighted the strides women in Africa had been making in the political sphere.

“Although women occupy only 24 per cent of parliamentary and ministerial seats across sub-Saharan Africa, this far outstrips the percentage of female representation in developed countries such as the United States, where women hold less than 20 per cent of congressional seats . . .,” the MP noted.

“Some African countries are recognised as trailblazers in the promotion of women’s leadership with Rwanda, for example boasting the highest female representation in the world with 61 per cent of its MPs currently being women.”

Caption: Minister of Communications in the Republic of Ghana, Ursula Owusu-Ekuful (right) takes questions from the audience after her lecture, as Head of IGDS: NBU Dr. Halimah DeShong looks on.


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