Can political parties move from rhetoric to action in women’s political representation?

By Esther Tawiah

After the Beijing conference, one of the actions recommended to state parties to increase women political participation was through appointments, this they believed would address the historical deficit of women’s leadership in both political and public spaces.  Article 9 of the Maputo protocol states that,State parties shall take specific positive action to promote inclusive governance and the equal participation of women in the political life of their countries through affirmative action, enabling national legislation and other measures to ensure that: Women are represented equally at all levels with men in all electoral processes.” 2. “State Parties shall ensure increased and effective representation and participation of women at all levels of decision-making.”

During the Universal Declaration on Democracy in September 1997, the Parliaments of the world represented in the Inter-Parliamentary Union stated that one of the founding principles of democracy should be a genuine partnership between men and women in the conduct of the affairs of society in which they work in equality and complimentarity, drawing mutual enrichment from their differences. The actions were agreed to by state governments, interestingly state governments are created out of democratic institutions such as political parties. Political parties are very strategic partners as they present candidates to the electoral commission to conduct elections and form government.

The Convention Peoples Party (CPP) and the first president of Ghana, long before the Beijing conference, in the 1960s had an affirmative action, where one woman from each region was appointed to parliament. So we had 10 women members of parliament in his era until the coup d’états that disrupted our young democracy after colonial rule. Ghana returned to democratic rule in 1992 under the 4th republic, since then we have had stability for the past 25 years.

From 1992 to date, the two main political parties that have benefited from these democratic gains all have a women’s organizer, who isn’t independent but works under the national organizer to mobilize women.  In almost all their political campaigns they have always made promises of appointing more women into public life, interestingly they mention quotas of 40%, others promise 30% but when they assume office their actions are different.

So I ask myself when will we move from rhetoric to action when it comes to women’s political leadership? Then it struck me to think of the operational and organisational culture of this political parties.

Within the parties they have some elected positions of which we all know women find it difficult to be elected due to many factors we know and some we need to discuss later. The national leadership of the New Patriotic party (NPP) is made up of ten leaders. Women find it difficult to be there so we only have two women, your guess is as good as mine one will definitely be the women’s organiser and we were lucky to have another woman win the first chairman slot.

The party also have appointed positions such as communication director and deputies, director of elections, international affairs, I.T, Protocol and other deputy national officers.

With the recent IRI multiparty conference in Ghana, we held meetings with the women’s leadership within the various political parties and the leadership of political parties agreed to work on improving women’s participation. So with this rhetoric one would think more women will be appointed, but it was business as usual.

The NPP on the 19th of September, 2018 released a list of national officers and executives who would head the various directorates in the party. These executives were appointed at a joint national Council and National Executive Council (NEC) meeting.  Out of a total of 27 appointments made, 20 men representing 74% were appointed as against a total of 7 women representing 26%.

The director positions of communications, research & elections, finance & administration, international affairs, protocols and senior political adviser, are all headed by men. In the area of deputy national officers, the positions of deputy general secretaries and deputy national organizers are male dominated. Apart from the two deputy national women’s organizer positions, women have representation in the deputy national youth organizer (1), one representation in the position of Nasara coordinator and three slots in the deputy communications directors position.

From this analysis, it is clear that much more effort must be made in improving women’s political participation since these numbers are not encouraging and not inclusive enough.

Political parties must step up efforts in ensuring that party structures are much more inclusive of women. Furthermore, political parties must also appoint women to head critical areas of party affairs through affirmative action policies and not relegate them only to the national women’s organizer positions. If development will be seen then democracies must adequately cater to women’s issues and concerns since they form majority of the national population. Our development will be doomed if the talents and capabilities in this large pool remain untapped due to low political participation.

As a gender advocate and Executive Director of the Gender Centre for Empowering Development, I believe we need to start working seriously with the political parties by strengthening their capacity on gender issues and on the issues of gender equality if we want to really achieve SDG5. But most importantly the operational and organizational culture of political parties must also be looked at. With this, it will be strange for them to not commit to the promises they make to women political leadership during their campaigns.

2019-03-27T12:56:59+00:00November 13th, 2018|Blog|0 Comments

About the Author:

Esther Tawiah
Esther Tawiah is the founder and Executive Director of Gender Centre for Empowering Development (GenCED) in Ghana. Her interest as a gender expert spans from democracy, governance, elections and Peace and Security. This has made her worked on widening the civic space, participation and representation of women in Ghana and West Africa. With of the focus improving the lives of women and their involvement in decision making space.

Leave A Comment