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Feature Article of Friday, 7 December 2012

Columnist: Kwode, Paul Achonga

Election 2012; the rise of women activism in Ghanaian politics

By Paul Achonga
Kwode

Women participation in decision making in historical
times was not only disdain, absurd and forbidden but impossibility since it was
believed that the kitchen was the preserve of women. Gone were days when women
were thrown into hiding just because the household and the elders were to make
decisions. In the contemporary era thinking, such believes and thinking could only
be an irony since the role of women have superseded all spheres of life from
championing for their rights to actively involving and making decisions that
makes us all who we are as human sapiens. Women are globally found in all
fields and professions and are active competitors to their opposite sex and
here in Ghana the rise of women in active politics has come of age especially
in 2012 elections.
As the whistle blows towards the forthcoming
polls, women activism in the Ghanaian politics has regained renewed recognition
becoming keen competitors and deciders in many of the political decisions that
has to be taken in various platforms. The contribution of women is also reckon
as one of the historic in African politics seeing women in Ghana vying for the
top acolyte as the flagbearer or presidential candidates of some political
parties threatening the hitherto ‘no go area for women’. The number of women
having presidential and parliamentary ambitions has outpaced expectations
indicating that our democracy has not only grown but a remarkable piece for
study and adoption even by the Western World.
One
of the notable figures that would remain in the history books in Ghanaian women
politicking is the well known and renowned flagbearer of the National
Democratic Party (NDP) Nana Konadu Agyeman Rawlings who after resigning from
her erstwhile National Democratic Congress (NDC), emerged unanimously as the
presidential candidate of the new arrivals in Ghanaian politics-the NDP. Her
dream of becoming the presidential candidate and consequently the President of
the Republic probably did not start today. Many political watchers had
predicted her dream a decade before that she was being nurtured to take after
her life-time partner-former President JJ Rawlings. Even though she might have
been crashed out of the race, the courage, the ambition and enthusiasms in
making her intentions known are remarkable to assure women that they can go
higher places.
‘Naanaa’,
as she is affectionately called by the husband, was born November 17, 1948 and
schooled at Achimota School and later to the Kwame Nkrumah University of
Science and Technology where she read Art specializing in Textile. She became a
public figure after getting married to the former president in 1977. Those who
taught the name president was yet to be conferred on Nana Konadu Agyeman
Rawlings must wait a minute because she became the President of the 31st December
Movement in 1982 and still holds that position. She cannot be
forgotten as the key contender to the late President Mills when she challenged
him in Sunyani in July 2011 in the NDC Congress. Even though she was woefully
defeated in that congress, she was unperturbed and this time around, had
grabbed the ticket to face the sitting President of the NDC as well as other
contenders for the slot in the December polls but luck eluded her as she was
faced out last minute by some technicalities.
A striking story stole the headlines of
newspapers and media outlets all across Ghana when Samia Nkrumah, the daughter
of the nation’s founding father, Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, became the first female
chairperson of a political party in the country’s history, the Conventions
People’s Party. The event was lauded as a giant leap forward in women’s
political participation within Ghana and was rich in symbolism.
Another
women who expressed the presidential ambition but fell out is 58-year a farmer
from the Ashanti Region; Madam Akua
Donkor of the Ghana Freedom Party who was certified by the Electoral Commission
to contest the coming elections despite her incapacities in the English
Language, but like Nana Konadu, she failed to return nomination forms to the EC.
Besides these
indefatigable women, the Conventions Peoples Party (CPP) and the Progressive
Peoples Party (PPP) have equally picked women as their Vice Presidential
candidates for the 2012 elections. The PPP picked Madam Eva Lokko while the CPP
picked Nana Akosua Frimpomaa II, the Dwantoahemaa of the Dormaa Traditional Council.
The People’s National Convention (PNC) was not left out as they chose a woman;
Madam Helen Sanorita Dzatugbe Matrevi, Communication specialists as a running
mate. These are positive indications of how far women have come from the days
when they were placed as second fiddles to men. These are some of the
revolutions in Ghanaian politics that is worth emulating.
Some
protagonists might have thought that women’s participation in Ghana’s politics
should have been the leading case study in Africa since women had actively
participated in politics from the days of independence; however some countries
in the continent seem to have surpassed us. While Ghana is yet struggling to
get a woman president, Liberia and Malawi have had theirs. Mrs. Joyce Hilda
Banda, President of Malawi and Johnston Sirleaf, President of Liberia are the
only women presidents in Africa joining others in the globe and robbing
shoulders among other male pals. One cannot leave out a historical achievement chalked
by a Ugandan Proscovia Oromait, the 19-year female who was voted as a lawmaker.
She does not only join the congress but sit among elderly people to make
decisions concerning the farewell of Uganda. Has the time therefore come for a
female President in Ghana?
In
the parliamentary scene, the number of women contesting in the upcoming
December parliamentary elections has increased by 30 per cent as compared to
that of the 2008 and 2004 elections. About 133 women out of 1,332 men have
filed their nominations with the Electoral Commission to contest as
parliamentarians in the December polls. This is an increase from the 2008
figure of 103 women who contested with 20 of them winning and the 2004 election
which saw 104 women contesting with 25 winning. According to the
Inter-Parliamentary Union, in Africa, Ghana, with 8.3 per cent female
representation in parliament ranks higher than Botswana which has 7.9 per cent
female representation, followed by Gambia with 7.5 per cent, Congo with 7.4,
Nigeria 6.8 and Egypt 2.0 percent. On the global scale, Ghana ranks 122 out of
190 countries according to the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) while Rwanda
ranked first ahead of the US which ranked fourth.
Despite these outstanding developments, Madam
Adwoa Kluvitse, the Country Director of ActionAid Ghana has downplayed the
nomination of some women by some political parties as their running mates
saying “it is not an achievement to choose women as running mates…what we want
is the passage of affirmative action law”. According to her, Ghana has not yet
reached the minimum acceptable levels at which the country could pat itself at
the back of giving level playing field for women in politics. She indicated
that women must be given 30 percent representation at all levels of decision
making in the country stressing that women constituted more than 51 percent of
the population and must be equally represented.
“We
want the passage of affirmative action law that will tackle problems relating
to women, children and the vulnerable in society and when that is achieved, we
can then jubilate”, she said. She enumerated some of the reasons militating
against women in active participation in politics saying that the negative
perception of Ghanaians about women, social and cultural barriers, and unequal
political level playing fields as still impedes women. Madam Kluvitse whose
organization has been championing and advocating for women and the vulnerables’
interest said good structures and foundation must be put in place to make more
women confident in participation in politics. She
called for a quota of women in the District Assembly, the building of capacities
of women and urged society to reflect positively about the role of women.
The
preceding analysis indicates leaping developments in women fraternity but still
appears far from average. Is the country therefore ready now for a woman
President and would the running mates women bring any votes to the table, well
time will tell. It is the hope of democracy that people’s political rights and
political participation were respected including women. It will not be out of
place therefore for the country to open more chances and opportunities for
women to actively take part in the building of our politics. Such opportunity given
to women will reduce the politics of personality attacks and violence and
encourage politics of ideas and wisdom. It is my humble opinion that with
active involvement of women, corruption would be minimized to give development
its right meaning.
END

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