The Ghanaian society has been called upon to support the Affirmative Action (AA) Law that is expected to be enacted soon to help correct the long historical discrimination against women in Ghana.

Ms Sheila Minkah-Premo, a Lawyer and Gender Advocate, who made the appeal, said ?Historically, due to gendered cultural stereotypes about the role of women, they have not had adequate opportunity to play leadership roles in governance in Ghana and it is appropriate that steps are taken to put this right.?

?Women?s participating in governance therefore refers to the role women can play in all aspects of governance in Ghana including access to leadership roles.?

Speaking at a roundtable discussion in Accra, Ms Minkah-Premo said analysis from historical experience has shown that administrative processes and policies to support the AA had proved ineffective or inadequate; therefore legislation is the way to go, as suggested by Article 17(4) of 1992 Constitution.

The AA is the act of supporting, or recommending a course of action to remedy an imbalance. A draft AA law has been prepared after various consultations, and the draft Bill is still at the Attorney General?s Office. More consultations are being made until the Bill is finalised and laid in Parliament.

The discussion was held by the Commission for Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ) to mark International Women?s Day, which falls on March 8 and being observed worldwide on the United Nation?s theme: Equality for Women is Progress for all.?

The CHRAJ however chose the theme: ?Inspiring Change through Affirmative Action in Women?s Representation in Governance? to affirm the Commission?s view that affirmative action with respects to women representation has not been prioritised at the governance level as it should.

Ms Minkah-Premo, who spoke on the topic ?Affirmative Action and Women Participation in Governance in Ghana,? explained that in 2011, the then Ministry of Women and Children Affairs (MOWAC) put a multi-sectorial team together to prepare proposals for an AA law for Ghana, as a temporary measure intended to produce particular results against identified targets (women) within a certain time-frame.

She said after several workshops on the AA and strategies to improve women?s participation, stakeholders recommended legislation on AA as the best strategy to enforce good governance through equitable benefits and participation in national development.

She indicated that the AA, which is designed with the intention of eliminating discrimination suffered by one sex and promoting equality, therefore cover social matters on women?s education, health, traditional leadership and economic issues like employment and agric as well as to address political imbalance.

She said the misconceptions that the AA was aimed at discriminating against the other sex was not true and that the AA covers a wide range of measures, all aimed at closing the gap created by current direct and indirect consequences of past discrimination and at creating new practices within the framework of existing gender-neutral legal instruments.

She said the AA has worldwide support in the various international human rights instruments as well as in the 1992 Constitution of Ghana.

Ms Premo disclosed that analysis have shown that women have largely been marginalised in politics and that no female President or Vice president has ever been elected in Ghana since independence. Also in ministerial positions, more men have always been appointed than women.

She said women representation in Parliament ranged from 9.6 per cent in 1960, peaked in 1965 to 18.2 per cent, dropped to 8.7 percent in 2008 and is currently at 9.2 per cent, made up of 29 MPs out of 275 with one female Speaker of Parliament since independence.

She said sections of the AA law deals with women in decision making and set quotas, considers models used by other countries to ensure parity and options including proportional representation, reserved seats, among others.

On the significance of women?s participation in governance, Ms Minkah-Premo explained that most women who gained access to leadership roles in public life have proved their capability and contributed their quota like their male counterparts did, and served as role models. They have also pushed for more girls to gain access to education.

?As we celebrate International Women?s Day and 57 years of independence, it is appropriate to consider where women stand as far as governance in Ghana is concerned? she added.

Ms Lauretta Vivian Lamptey, Commissioner of CHRAJ said the women?s day was significant for women because it offers the opportunity to not only remind the world of the continuous denial of women?s basic rights as human beings, but also, ?it helps us to reflect, pull each other up, draw inspiration and renew our strength for the battle ahead?.

She said for CHRAJ, equality for women to be in governance was not only a progress for all but a human rights issue.

She noted that despite Ghana?s success as a stable region, which rules under a constitution, that appears to promote women access to decision making position, there remain huge gaps between men and women in governance positions.

?Available statistics demonstrate that if any progress is being made, then it is very slow. For although women constitute more than 50 per cent of the population of this country, nowhere in the three arms of government do women representation up to 40 per cent?.

Ms Lamptey therefore called on society to make conscious efforts to bridge the yawning gap to ensure that both men and women get equal representation in decision making levels, including the Legislature, Judiciary and the Executive. GNA

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