Today, the world over, women are being celebrated. Celebrated for their immense and invaluable contributions to their societies and countries economically, politically and socially. It is also a day set aside to reflect on some of these achievements and progress made. In view of this, I wonder exactly what we are celebrating today as Ghanaians and whether this day is worth celebrating or not. Let me tell you why. 

After almost 63 years of independence, Ghana still struggles to achieve a balanced representation of both sexes in areas of leadership and governance. At the last general elections in 2016, only 36 out of the 275 Members of Parliament were women representing 13 per cent. This is not an encouraging figure compared to other African countries like South Africa and Ethiopia. 

The Nkrumah led Convention People’s Party (CPP) in 1959 introduced a quota for female representation in Parliament. This was known as the Representation of the People Act. This Act allowed the nomination and election of ten females to Parliament; a move to acknowledge the instrumental role women played in our quest for independence.

Sadly, however, this Act was not enforced by successive governments after the end of Nkrumah’s administration. The number of women in leadership and governance has since fluctuated till date, with the lowest being in 1969 where there was only one female out of 140 members of Parliament, representing one per cent. Former President Rawlings’ military regime also had some laws implemented in favour of women and his wife, Nana Konadu Agyemang Rawlings also established the 31st December Women’s movement with the goal of empowering women in all areas. 

A number of Gender aligned Civil society organisations (CSOs) and Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) today like the African Women’s Development Fund, the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, Plan Ghana, Star Ghana, Cluster on Decentralisation, FDA-Ghana, Alliance for Women in Média, ABANTU for Development among others have been very forceful in their advocacy to push more women towards decision-making spaces in society.

The Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection, however, does not have any strong policies regarding this matter. Most of the advocacy is done by individuals and other organizations and have been quite successful in that regard as they have been able to build a common platform for women who wish to enter politics to get mentoring, training and sometimes finances to be able to run for office. 

The Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 5 focuses on achieving Gender Equality by the year 2030. Countries like Rwanda have made immense progress in this regard by implementing a number of policies to narrow the gender gap. However, the Affirmative Action Bill which when passed will ensure among other things that there is an equitable representation of women across all levels of leadership has sadly not received much attention over the years. The goal of having 30 per cent participation of women in public appointments may only remain a dream if the Affirmative Action Bill is still kept in abeyance as has been the case over the years. 

Achieving the goal of equal representation of sexes in leadership needs to be tackled first in our minds and in our Ghanaian culture. The patriarchal Ghanaian society where women are ascribed to domestic roles and childbearing duties while the men are encouraged to pursue education and acquire wealth and lead is extremely worrying.

This has resulted in many of our women and girls in rural areas, shying away from taking up leadership roles and cowering at the thought of pursuing higher education. Many individuals and organizations have led the charge over the years for the passage of the Affirmative Action Bill. The Bill, when passed, will ensure and promote female participation in all levels of leadership and governance in accordance with Article 35(6) of the constitution as well as promoting inclusion of other marginalized groups like persons living with a disability (PWD’s). 

Twenty-five years since the adoption of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action—a progressive roadmap for gender equality—it’s time to take stock of progress and bridge the gaps that remain through bold, decisive actions.  

The efforts made to achieve gender parity in Ghana is commendable but until the Affirmative Action Bill is passed, we may not achieve equitable representation of men and women in leadership. Until then, Ghana will still be lagging behind its counterparts like Rwanda and Ethiopia who have already taken the lead in championing women and girls.

The onus now falls on our institutions of state and all of us to collectively make decisions that bring women to a desirable status. 

This year’s theme for IWD is #EachForEqual, a slogan galvanizing us to make individual decisions to actively choose to challenge stereotypes, fight bias, broaden perceptions, improve situations and celebrate women’s achievements. 

Do what you can to truly make a positive difference for women everywhere. 

The writer is a final year student of the Ghana Institue of Journalism and Speaker of the Institute’s SRC Parliament.