GNA Feature by Francis Ameyibor
A comprehensive approach is needed to increase women’s participation in power and decision-making. Greater efforts are needed to support women’s political participation through capacity building, training and dedicated gender equality structures.
In the spirit of Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, Ghanaian Women have set reinvigorated targets for the next 15 years, to ensure that women occupy their rightful positions in power and decision-making of the country. Women have now put forward a gender check list to serve as the benchmark for measuring results by 2030.
Women must occupy 60 per cent of Ministerial portfolios, especially Finance, Energy, Education and Health. Ghana Agenda 2030 which emanated from UN Women Agenda 2030, also calls for measures to ensure that 50 per cent Vice Chancellors and University Professors must be women. Women also take about 60 per cent of the positions of State Corporation Chief Executive Officers; Ghana Club 100 Chief Executive Officers and Bank Chief Executive Officers.
The Ghana Women 2030 reinvigorated Beijing Declaration was christened at the 59 session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women at New York by Mrs Charlotte Ama Osei, Chairperson of the National Commission for Civic Education (NCCE) at Ghana’s side event.
The Ghana Women 2030 target also aims at 60 per cent of Parliamentary seats, 60 per cent of Metropolitan, Municipal and District Chief Executives post; and 60 per cent of Assembly and Unit Committee members. Ghana must have a female President or Vice President by 2030.
Nana Oye Lithur, Minister of Gender, Children and Social Protection officially affixed the stamp of authority with a call on all state institutions, governmental and non-governmental bodies to give the baby Agenda 2030 the necessary support.
She said Agenda 2030 was not a fight against men, or a struggle to dislodged men from any position, “the importance of women’s equal participation in decision-making as a means of achieving transparent and accountable government and administration for sustainable development.
Nana Oye Lithur, a Gender Advocate, noted that Agenda 2030 acknowledges that despite the steady increase in women’s political representation and participation in parliaments, women remain significantly under-represented at the highest levels of political participation, as well as across the public and private sectors.
The Gender Minister explained that the persistence of discrimination, gender bias, and the threat of violence, harassment, and intimidation in political institutions, contribute to the low level of women’s political participation.
Accelerating women’s participation in decision-making requires a comprehensive approach; the implementation of temporary special measures to achieve a gender balance in decision-making bodies, and capacity building and training initiatives to support women’s political participation at the local and national levels.
She said the UN Women Agenda is therefore calling on governments to take measures to ensure women's equal access to, and full participation in, power structures and decision-making and increase women's capacity to participate in decision-making and leadership.
Global trends A survey conducted by the United Nations on the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, revealed that Women’s representation in national parliaments has been steadily increasing over the past 20 years. Globally, in 2014, women occupied 23 per cent of the seats in single or lower houses of parliament, up from 12 per cent in 1995. While acknowledging this important progress, it is nevertheless striking that eight out of every 10 parliamentarians in the world are men.
In 2014, Latin America and the Caribbean had the highest proportion of women in parliament at 26.4 per cent (compared with 12.5 per cent in 1995), while Oceania had the lowest, at only 3 per cent. The most substantial progress between 1995 and 2014 was made in sub-Saharan Africa, where women’s representation increased from 9.7 per cent to 24 per cent. Over the same period, women’s representation in parliaments in the Middle East and North Africa increased from 3.6 per cent to 16.8 per cent.
South Asia saw the least progress, from 6.5 per cent in 1995 to 10.6 per cent in 2014. The survey also revealed that women are significantly underrepresented at the highest levels of political participation, as speakers of parliament, heads of government and heads of State and as government ministers. Women holding the most senior parliamentary positions continue to be quite rare: in 2014, 40 women (14.8per cent) were speakers of parliament, an increase from 24 women (10.5 per cent) in 1995.
Fewer still are in most senior positions of government. For instance, in 2014, 18 countries (9.3 per cent) had women heads of State or government, up from 12 countries (6.4 per cent) in 1995. In 2014, women held 17 per cent of ministerial positions, an increase from 15 per cent in 2000. In general, women ministers tend to be in charge of social sectors, and are less likely to hold portfolios on the economy or foreign affairs. Of the 1,096 ministerial posts held by women in 2014, 187 of those portfolios were related to social affairs and services for the family, children, youth, elderly and disabled persons, compared to 45 in foreign affairs and 24 in budget/finance.
The disparities are largest in the Middle East and North Africa, where the gender gap is over 80 percentage points in all countries. Central and Eastern Europe and Central Asia, the developed countries and Latin America and the Caribbean have smaller gender gaps in this respect, with between a quarter and a half of such positions being held by women. Inequality in the public sphere often starts with unequal power relations within the private sphere.
Household surveys show that, globally, 37 per cent of married or co-habiting women have no say in household decisions on large purchases. Only 15 per cent are able to make such decisions on their own, with 44 per cent making those decisions jointly with their partners. There are many factors that affect women’s decision-making in the household, including age at marriage and age gaps between partners, women’s access to income and resources and engagement with community-based organizations. What actions are States taking?
• Implementing temporary special measures to increase women’s participation, such as through the adoption of quotas and through constitutional and legal reforms which implement explicit provisions to ensure women’s equal access to and full participation in political institutions and decision-making bodies.
• Addressing gender bias in political institutions and supporting women’s political participation, through implementing capacity-building initiatives to support women’s political participation at the local and national levels.
Promoting networking for women politicians and providing training for political parties; dedicated gender equality structures, such as cross-party women’s caucuses; awareness-raising campaigns in the effort to eliminate the threat of violence and intimidation and annual national reports and monitoring to effectively measure progress made in women’s participation. Supporting women’s participation and leadership more broadly, including the private sector.
Priorities for future action and accelerated implementation A comprehensive approach is needed to increase women’s participation in power and decision-making. Greater efforts are needed to support women’s political participation through capacity building, training and dedicated gender equality structures. The implementation of temporary special measures provides a proven strategy for increasing women’s representation in national and local politics, as well as on corporate boards.
Political will on the part of leaders in public and private institutions, including political parties, is needed to ensure their effective implementation, and bring about further and faster progress. Other measures such as public financing of political parties, including incentives to advance gender equality and increase women’s representation can also make a difference. Violence against women in politics must also be addressed as an urgent priority through the implementation and enforcement of appropriate legislations.
Efforts are needed to increase women’s agency and voice starting from the household level, to community and local levels, and to national, regional and global levels. Importantly, mechanisms should be promoted to facilitate relationships between women’s organizations and women representatives to advance gender equality policies. In order to further galvanize progress on women’s representation beyond national parliaments, more and better quality data is needed.