The Member of Parliament for Tano North, Hon. Freda Prempeh, at the weekend called for a ‘legislative quota seat’ system in our electoral laws to ensure gender parity in parliament and enhance the participation of women in decision-making.

The quota system would allocate a specific number of parliamentary seats to women to achieve a fair representation of women in the nation’s highest decision making institution.

ActionAid Ghana considers the proposal very laudable and would like to call for a more elaborate discussion of the merits of the quota system by government actors and concerned institutions in Ghana,to consolidate our young democracy. As a human rights-based organization which recognises the protection of the rights of women and girls as the surest way to achieve national development, ActionAid Ghana believes that a system that ensures fairness in gender representation at any level of decision-making, particularly in governance, is commendable. It is a pragmatic way to support and encourage the participation of women in national life.

Presently, women are underrepresented in the Ghanaian parliament and in many other important public institutions. It is regrettable that while females account for 52% of the country’s total population, there are only 30 women in the 275 member parliament. It is also worrying that out of the ten regional ministers in the country, only one is a woman. At the district and municipal levels of governance, the participation of women is even poorer.

As a result, women are excluded from most meaningful and profitable social and economic activities, and are denied participation in the determination of realistic policies and programmes that cater for the interests of women and the girl-child.Consequently, the culture of women’s dependence on men for survival and progress isperpetuated.

In many social and domestic settings in rural communities, there is a gender segregation of roles and responsibilities which overburden women with unpaid care work while men are favoured and encouraged to engage in profitable commercial ventures. Women small-holder farmers are denied access to land, asthey are culturally mandated to work in their husbands’ farms. In many communities in rural Ghana, women are still subjected to lots of abuses such as female genital mutilation, widowhood rites and many other forms of discrimination and injustice. These practices affect the confidence and dignity of women and delay their progress in life.

To encourage the participation of more women in public life and also stop these cultural abuses that exclude women from active public engagement, ActionAid Ghana has over the years developed programmes to train and build the capacities of women in many  communities, to enable them take up their place indecision-making processes. We provide technical and organisational support for the design of their campaign posters and assist with training in public speaking and other useful organizational skills,to encourage their successful participation in democratic governance. Through our engagements with municipal and district authorities, most assemblies have been motivated to increase the participation of women in local governance while a few have been appointed to leadtheir districts and constituencies.

In very poor rural communities where the education of girls are challenged by practices such as marriage by abduction, teenage pregnancies and a general lack of interest in the education of the girl-child, ActionAid Ghana has instituted girls’ clubs and girls’ camps, where girls of school-going age are groomed and motivated by women role models to boost their confidence and develop their potential. In communities that are deprived of schools and teachers, we have engaged volunteer teachers to address problems of teacher deployment and poor performance in examinations. 

While these interventions have significantly helped to reduce gender violence and discrimination in many of the 226 communities that ActionAid Ghana works in, there is still more to be done to improve the participation of women in local and national life.  To end poverty and injustice in Ghana and around the world, women should be the focus of our most important national decisions. Beyond promises of equitable allocation of resources and opportunities, government actors, civil society groups and other institutions should take proactive steps and bold initiatives to increase the involvement of women in decision-making at all levels of governance.

We would therefore like to pledge our support for the proposal of a quota seat system in the parliament of Ghana and other public institutions where women are underrepresented. If we want to defeat poverty and injustice in Ghana, the power lies in our women.