Now more than ever than the decades before the 2000’s, the concepts or thoughts grounded on women’s participation in developmental activities and critical policy or decision making processes have come under serious scrutiny. In particular, it has engendered international discourse, policies and, advanced interest on women studies and women related issues.
Women’s participation in politics at the highest level has once again come under the spotlight, following the announcement by John Mahama, flag-bearer of the largest opposition part, NDC, of Prof. Naana Jane Opoku-Agyemang as his running mate for the 2020 December Election.
Arguably, there are nerve-racking challenges limiting women’s participation in these political activities and these have also not been spared of public criticisms. These among many others consist of the lack of/limited access to information, financial constraints, gender stereotypes, limited family support/ family demands and unfriendly working/political spaces (eg male dominated positions, political gimmicks, etc). While a few woman may be seen in political spaces, many others with similar interest cannot cross these barriers or challenges, hence further widening the gap.
Despite, the ‘numerous’ efforts to ensure the inclusion of women in the arena of political and developmental activities across national and international cultures and context, these problems have been insurmountable in many cases or across women’s spatial participation in decision-making. Notably, these are evident in the adoption of gender insensitive polices i.e resource allocations and development agendas. Similarly although contestable, key actors of policy or decision making processes have only offered a lip-serve on ensuring women’s inclusion despite their actions and/or statements of political will and/or commitments to ensuring gender mainstreaming especially during international platforms or discourses.
Worth noting, at every historical juncture of Ghana’s independence and political life, women are undeniably considered by political actors as agents whose participation are not negotiable to winning power. This is premised on the fact that, women mobilize themselves and resources to support their various political agendas since Nkrumah’s regime to date. In comparison to their male counterparts, women form the greater population in many countries of which Ghana is no exception.
Pursuant to recent debates and claims by some prominent figures of Ghana’s society, women have not mobilized enough to engineer their inclusion into developmental spaces, especially higher positions of critical decision making. It is not out of place to assume then that , such submissions are made out of direct or indirect admission of the societal subjections women face or the patriarchal practices of society; public and private institutions inclusive. Also, women are being blamed for their ‘failure’ to support themselves (fellow women) to positions of power, maximize existing opportunities coupled with limited data on the effects of women’s participation. Hence, they are consistently asked to justify their inclusion; are women’s participation a matter of mere numbers or a matter of outcome? This has become an unending debate amongst people even elites or enlightened groups or individuals.
Since, the Beijing Platform for Action, Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) etcetera, women’s capacities are being built to occupy previously male dominated jurisdictions and ensuring their participatory contributions for the common good of society. This is reflective in the advocacy for the urgent adoption and implementation of Affirmative Action Policies. In Ghana, the policy is over a decade long in Ghana’s Parliament and equally lacking the appropriate attention in the “intensive care units” of government (Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection and the Cabinet) irrespective of the recognized and immeasurable efforts made by some women movements, civil society and other NGOs on the Passage of the Bill. It is of interest to note that, this policy nonetheless is always re-emerging every 4-years in the manifestos of Ghana’s political parties especially, the two political stakeholders of elections (NDC and NPP or NPP and NDC).
Election 2020 is on a marathon journey despite agitations on its electioneering procedures. The good thing about the choice of Prof. Naana Jane Opoku-Agyemang is the opportunity it presents for a further dialogue on this subject. From the time under the 4th republic, Kwabena Darko, the first Presidential candidate chose a woman running mate to Nduom’s consecutive choice of women running mates and now Mahama’s. These actions have shown that, we can be progressive in our thinking. But thought without action to translate the text of the affirmative action bill into law, at best exposes our pretense and lip-service to a progressive and inclusive development.
Put differently, the question of interest herein is, whether Naana Jane Opoku-Agyemang’s nomination as a running mate could be a ‘test-kit’, a test drive or testing ground to assess women’s ability to mobilize for their inclusion in political spaces and higher decision making processes, independent of women’s political ideologies or political party affiliations as well as the NDC’s ability to “market” her? In addition, would it also be an opportunity to realizing the Affirmative Action Bill?
Authored by Eva Abugabe.